Monday, October 1, 2012
Artist vs. Seamstress
Saturday was an interesting day. It was a busy weekend all around, but Saturday is what I want to share here. After breakfast and the farmer's market, we went off to a craft show held at the local cemetery (rarely in use, except as a jogging track, yoga spot and picnic area). There was a wonderful variety of vendors and a great selection of stuff, very inspiring. I came home ready to do battle with the workroom and prep for my holiday craft show again this year. I have a few new ideas bubbling, but for the moment I just cut out half a dozen of the small travel/cosmetic size bags that always sell well, and I'm almost done with them.
I spoke to one of the craft vendors and she gave me an interesting perspective on her work. We were talking, and she commented on the jacket I was wearing, and she said, "Oh, are you a seamstress?" I said yes, because I don't generally care what you call me: sewist, sewer, seamstress, whatever. I'm a woman obsessed with her sewing machine.
She says, "I'm not. I'm an artist who sews. I'm no seamstress; have you looked at my seams?" And I had, some of her sewn pieces were uneven and unfinished and looked handmade. But because of her style and fabrics, it wasn't noticeable right off, and the people who were buying from her (she made 3 sales while we were talking) didn't seem to notice or care. But isn't that the way?
She also showed me something she was wearing that she made for herself, and the inside was freaking immaculate.
I thought about it all Saturday night until my head hurt. I grant that my craft show sewing is sometimes too complex for the item and the pricing. But I think the way to go is to simplify something in the construction so that it's not as much work for me, rather than do the same thing, but in a shoddy way that would embarrass me to show it.
Like the little bags I'm making. When I did them the past 2 years, they were made with a Chinese brocade exterior and a fully lined interior. The brocade was a nightmare to work with and the lining had to be hand sewn in along the zipper because the bags are just too small to get the lining sewn in by machine. That added a significant bit of time and profanity to the project.
So I found a middle ground between "seamstress" and "artist with a sewing machine." I found about a half yard of black pre-quilted lining fabric leftover from my black raspberry trench, and some good remnants with a decent weight, texture and color (but not the ability to shred when looked at). I cut the pieces out of both fabric and the quilted lining, zig-zagged all the pieces together, and then constructed the bags. They're still lined, and anyone who's buying a small pouch bag for under $20 is going to be happy that they're lined, even if it's a self-lining with neatly zigzagged edges inside.
I'm still producing a decent product and I don't feel like I'm cheating or trying to scam someone by calling myself an artist because I can't be bothered to do something properly if it's not for me.
So, what do you think? Do you use less care for your "art" than for your "sewing?" Do you use less care for others (who won't notice) than for yourself? If your business is hand sewn items, don't you think they should be made to the best of your ability, instead of passing yourself off as an "artist with a sewing machine" when it's perfectly clear that you sew very well when it's for something that matters to you?