12 November, 2010


Was out talking about sheep and wool and handspun with random strangers, and I got–yet again–the question, "Do you sell your handspun yarn?"

As you know, I don't.  I might sell my handspun someday, but for now the payoff comes from other aspects.

I find the question strange.  Is this an idle question?  They don't know me or my skill level.  I wonder about their motives, what they are seeking to get out of handspun yarn.  I was asked once by a re-enactor, and her request made sense.  She wanted to get yarn that looked authentic and non-commercial.  I need to start asking everyone else what they are looking for.

I feel unsettled when they ask.  Niggling self-doubt rises up.  Who am I to disoblige, to disregard the market demand implicit in their question.  My sybaritic pursuit of yarn for yarn's sake and my lodestone of a personal handspun wardrobe: these look small and selfish.  My delight in ephemeral spin-in-public demos, where nothing quantifiable is exchanged or transacted: this evaporates when I encounter someone who wants to talk cents.

I came across a quote about craft that makes me think of these handspun-seekers.  The passage describes New Zealand in the early 1970s:
Live pottery demonstrations, frequently staged as a low-tech type of tourist attraction, induced many audience members to sign up for evening classes.  Craft retail shops were represented in every small town the length of the country.  Many rural potters sold their wares direct from the kiln.  Sunday day-trippers from the cities could purchase direct from the maker and in so doing vicariously experience the 'back to the land' lifestyle and ethos.  
Richard Fahey, "'Colonial Shino': a case study of cultural importation translation and transaction" in Making Futures, Vol 1 (Plymouth College 2009)  http://makingfutures.plymouthart.ac.uk/journalvol1/papers/richard-fahey.pdf
The word "vicariously" bothers me.  I don't want people to experience handspun vicariously.  I want them signing up for the evening classes.  Not that I want to give evening classes myself either, but there are classes out there to take.  There's handspun out there to buy, too.

I'm disquietened by Fahey's description of the 1970s New Zealand commercial market for studio pottery because demand flared up spectacularly before burning out utterly.  I don't want handspun to be a thing, a craze that sells really well for a short time and never sells again.

1970s Canadian pottery

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