05 April 2009

recession hairpins

i have been spending quite a bit of time wrestling with myself lately over this idea of the economy, and my lack of place in it. this is nothing new. i have been flying under the radar forever; doing my own thing, not paying much attention, until lately when no one will allow me to leave it alone. it is no secret that my life is a world of feast or famine; i put on the best face that i can at all times. i am always working no matter what, so the so-called ravaged economy shouldn't make too much of a difference, but everyone is talking about it, asking about it buying into it. there was never any question in my mind that the idea of exponential growth and living on credit was totally unsustainable. so is the whole globalization model; i am all for doing as much local trade as possible, but there is a need and a use for international trade. where else would we get our coffee, tea (or the silk and ribbon) that we can't grow in our backyards. it is really a question of balance.

in my own little world, it is all anyone ever asks me anymore: "how is your business doing in this economy?" what does one say to this?

ACCESSORIES: accessories sales have been steadily rising since the economy has been going down.

WEDDINGS: weddings are always steady. i am lucky to have a line of timeless flowers and garters which have always been popular. no matter how many times i think that i will give weddings, i always have a few custom weddings each season. this year, i get to make dresses for friends.

SUPPLIES: the cost of supplies have been going up, with some materials being pared down or discontinued. one of my main suppliers discontinued three-quarters of their colours. this almost sent me into a panic. but then i had to remember that nothing i do is static; there will be new designs and product lines to replace the old ones.

HAGGLING: this has been an unfortunate aspect of my business since the get go, but it has been much more prevalent lately. i suppose i can just chalk this up to ignorance. this runs the gamut from being compared to big box stores or similar products that aren't similar. for instance, my flowers are fabricated completely by hand v. gluing a craft store flower to a pinback. i hand set my swarovski crystals, hand strip my feathers, and hand sew the beads. i have politely explained this way more than usual. there is much more to consider about the cost of an item beyond its price tag. how well is this made? how long will it last? can i fix it?

RISING PRICES: i have done everything in my power not to raise my prices as my costs have gone up. i am holding out as long as possible.

INSPIRATION: i have been more inspired lately to make more elaborate things. another thing i have been finding unsustainable is speed and immediacy. there once was a time when i would go home and check my answering machine for messages. now society and circumstance has me trained to have a panic attack if my phone is more than 3 feet away from my body or i go for more than a couple of hours without checking my email. my work is slow work. it is work of carefully designing garments, and making embellishments from scratch and hand-sewing them on. i like hand quilting and cooking elaborate food and knitting and walking to work and talking to people in person. these are not fast things. we have been taught to be impatient. waiting is a dirty word. in my journeyman phase of learning my craft, i have learned the importance of not skipping steps. it is those little details that make something fit properly, move properly, last a long time, and it is those little details that make things beautiful. but it is also those things that make the upfront cost expensive. but in the end what is more expensive? one thing that lasts a really long time or a lot of cheap things that you throw away after 6 months, because you didn't really like them that well, they fell apart and you couldn't repair them, because they never really fit properly?

so in this swirl of recession talk, i get asked if i have a recession product. and the answer is yes and no. yes, because i had thought that it was important for me to have some little bits available if you wanted to take something away, but couldn't afford that custom gown today. no, because i have always had some version of this for that very reason. we may have to lead somewhat austere existences due to financial circumstance, but that does not preclude us from little luxuries while we save our pennies for a rainy day. i have made hairpins here and there. it was just time to bring them back. i always make them every year. if you see me around town, it is rare that i am not wearing one. usually i end up making several sets for wedding parties, but i don't always have them available for sale. since there has been a demand or them, i am presenting them again. this one is a little rosette, about 1" in diameter. i could have made them cheaper if i didn't use the swarovski crystals in their centres, but they are so much prettier this way. wear one or several. a little spot of colour to make every day a special occasion.

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