Friday, September 14, 2012

Textile Friday: Mastery Teaches You to Love

           “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God.”
             ~ King Solomon, the wisest man who lived on the meaning of life, Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

             So, hopefully you enjoyed last week's textile friday post. It comes to you courtesy of a friend who said that it's important to let people see you struggle. Me, I hate that level of honesty. I'd like people to think I was just naturally brilliant instead of hard-headed and human. Well, we'll see if this helps you, my readers. Ultimately this blog is for you. Anyways, so if last week's post didn't scare you, why do through that level of hell? (BTW, if you have the time you can always spread out the learning curve over a decade or two with less pain. That's perfectly respectable. Money and time always help cushion the blows.) The answer is a simple one word:
              There's something about doing something you love, that makes you wake up passionately ready to go in the morning that is just an unbeatable feeling. I think strongly that it's something everyone should do at least once. To do something I loved, every morning, every day....for almost three years now has been the greatest gift I think I've ever been given. I also feel that it has helped me fill up the cracks in my soul and years of insecurity. The wisest men of every generation from King Solomen forward to Henry Ford to the Beatles to Walt Disney have all advocated doing something you love. And eat well. Not like, but would be willing to spend the rest of your life paying someone to do for free. And it's not the same for everyone. It took me years of trial and error to find. But for me it's sewing. The physical aspect of sewing something on a machine and then seeing customers smile as they walk away or come back a year later with a story of how they wore what, then, with friends or family or loved ones that fills me up. I've never been good at telling people I love them or taken much stock in words as they're easy to manufacturer and mean little. Making them something that physically touches them every day, that seems incredibly real to me.
              For you, it may be something else. Woodworking. Or blacksmithing. Or crunching account numbers. I hope that whatever gets you up the morning to work you find. Even if you take a while to get there. Have a great week people. And for everyone local look forward to seeing you Sparkcon tomorrow. Next week, I'll be revealing our new fall collection: Beloved.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

50% Off Summer Collection for Sparkcon

                Hey guys! Welcome to the blog. This week we are dusting off the tables for SparkCon. We have two really great announcements. The first is that we are putting our Pearls of Wisdom summer collection on sale for 50% off in person this weekend. So if you missed out on getting the perfect hat or scarf this summer, nows your chance to pick up a really great last minute deal of the season.
      Because who doesn't love a sale? Check back tomorrow when we give you a taste of our new fall collection: Beloved which we will be unveiling at SparkCon. I'll give you a hint, lots of leather and lace.

Have a great day one and all.

PS- Please note this sale is only available in person for the show. It is not available online.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Textile Friday: The Tipping Point To Becoming A Master

                    " Is it better to be a jack of all trades, or to pursue mastery?" ~Jeff Goins

           What is mastery? This week, I thought I would share a wonderful writer I've been reading recently Jeff Goins. He's got a great blog that has really solidified a lot of things I've been turning over in my mind this year on what it means to be master in the crafts.
           In the trades, no one hands you a diploma when you become a master. It's not a title or a test you can take. It's a title earned over time by word of mouth by your peers. It's not a sort of imperfect perfection or an inability to be wrong. Experts are wrong ALL the time. Especially in fashion which is a marriage of art and commerce. You don't understand what a designer wants. What a customer wants. What the limits of a particular design or material are. You miss the season. Or fall in love with a concept that no one else gets. You practice every day. Being a master will not make you skinny, hot, popular, or well-loved.
            In textiles, they say that it takes 10 years to get established and 20 to 25 years to become a master is typical. It's a long game business where being over 50 is considered an asset, not a liability for a designer/manufacturer. Gaining mastery in this business is also something that involves A LOT of failure. I'm not talking about once or twice or even a hundred times. It's said that to master a particular motion or stroke takes 10,000 times of doing it. That's a lot of sewing and a lot of not right. It's one of the things that got me into production sewing, the average production sewer will do a particular process 600 to 1600 times a DAY, that means every few weeks you can master a particular element that I've seen local boutique sewers struggle with or develop workarounds instead of the actual skill necessary to pull off the ideal result. Being a home sewer most of my life and getting into this business late as an adult, making a few bags or shirts a week, I figured I'd never get there unless I got serious. This wasn't my first thought, or my first year's thought, but it's a thought that I wish I had realized a lot sooner. Perhaps it was more when I realized there was no way to avoid this level of commitment to pain.
            Because failing sucks. Your fingers bleed. Rip. You get scars from iron burns. And callouses in weird places. Your back hurts. And your right leg and knee cramp from the unfamiliar twists and turns of operating a knee-lift and foot petal at the same time. Your arms and shoulders distort themselves in thin ropes of fire. The first three months of working an assembly line in Charlotte were the type of hell I would never wish on anyone. The first three weeks, I didn't know if I would survive to the next day. I mean throw up in a trash can, get off and plow your way into a couch bone tired exhausted asleep. Food forgotten. I was homeless that summer, living out of my car and crashing at the studio in this odd state of confusion my family has left me in most of my life having burnt through my savings the past 6 months on a failed store front on 7th Street and helping my folks not lose their home that had all the right earmarks of success, but none of the actual measures of it.
           My mother's parting gift before she jetted off to "write her book" was the fact that she had me as a last ditch attempt to save her marriage. I'd always known she didn't want kids early on, that I wasn't her favorite. Hell, sometimes she hated me, but hearing you were created as a last minute bandaid for a failing relationship and coming to grips with the fact that 29, love and acceptance are something that are ever going to come from a flighty artist writer mother was both devastating and also stripped away any breaks on balance.
             I still have the dog from that summer, but not much else. I gave or sold away almost everything I owned. Burned through relationships and resources like candy. Unable to walk away from sewing. I have never in all my life met anything that rivaled the feeling of peace I get working with my hands creating tangible goods. It's like finding a zen moment suddenly in the middle of a noisy street. And I needed it desperately. Sometimes, you find what you need at the end of your rope. Sewing was that for me at that point.
             I've always been told I have good hands. I've been hunted by surgeons for medical procedures. Had a boss tell me that if he had my hands he could rule the world. The sad part, is most of the time, the praise didn't last beyond the moment. It never brought the peace that sewing and designing textiles has. Sometimes, I still can't believe people will actually pay me for what I make, that what I make changes the world. Some days I hate the machine and my crippled hands for not creating my vision fast enough or clean enough to truly serve those around me.
              There's moments that mark us, that we can't unsee or unlive. In many ways, finding my version of the family tailor trade has been incredibly healing. It has also included a lot of suffering. Most of it, my own doing. My name Dara means dwelling place of wisdom and compassion. Compassion is one of those nasty little words that means "with suffering." Yes, that's right....wisdom with suffering. Living with it. You give up a lot to master a trade. To learn a skill. And it's something that I think everyone struggles to decide if they truly want to do or not. There's plenty of things I wish I was better at or had more time for, but you only have so much time in the day and so many things you can do.
              But, if you want to be a master, then it's a deal you make. There's this point about a year or two in where you see people decide to throw in the towel or double-down and I've decided it's the early tipping point between success and failure. People may throw away that mastery or decide to pursue other things, but there's a moment you decide to go all in that really seems to make the difference between success and failure. Well, this post was a bit rambling...just my thoughts on masters in the trades. I wish you success in your travels too. And a warm thanks to Nash for putting up with all my single-minded determination and absentmindedness. Love you. Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Etsy Craft Party Recap: Photos and Instructables

   Drum roll...the Etsy photos are now up on facebook. Thank you everyone who sent me photos especially Jill and Melanie. Thank you Scott Saxon of Techshop RDU plus the entire Techshop staff. Also, Ryan and Rob of Roth Brewing. You guys were awesome! And Mike Hinman. And Fabiola. Plus a bunch more people who I could probably fill up the rest of the post mentioning so I will just say thanks and stop while I'm ahead! Everyone rose to the occasion and had a great time. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! We are now in the process of posting up Instructables for anyone who missed the shin-dig! Great time everyone! You can check out Instructables for the crafts we did here:

Friendship Bracelet Making
Custom Cards From Craft Paper
Make Your Own Shop Apron
Painting Wood with Oil Paints
Design Your Own Beer Glasses

We also had several other stations with events such as knitting and beading, but I failed to get enough photos of those so we'll leave them for another time. I hope that this will help connect members of the group who because of personal reasons or scheduling conflicts could not make it. Look forward to seeing everyone come out for SparkCon next week! Whoot! So excited about that!

As reminder, our next big meeting for Acorn to Oak Handmade will be in October when we make custom 3D kites. I love how much is being done in this art recently. A mix of old and new at the same time. You can sign-up here.

Also, do not forget SPOON FLOWER IS GIVING AWAY FREE FAT QUARTERS IN CELEBRATION. Coupon code: EtsyParty12. Pick yours up online today. :-) Alright, I think that's all. Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beautiful Custom Clothing: Part Three Assembling The Elements

        Well, I tried to post this last week, but apparently the blog glitched. Human operated error I'm sure. So back to our awesome Two-Face Costume (Sorry anyone who wondered what was up last week). Once you have the pattern and mock-up, you start cutting in real fabric. I must say this was a little nerve-wracking as I both couldn't find white suit fabric and also, sprang for the really nice breathable suit material for this puppy so I've made Kevlar bullet proof vests for less than the supplies on this ran me. I ended up making Nash cut the fabric because my hands kept shaking. He did a great job which I really appreciated as he's turning out to be a great cutter. No surprise the man is good with a knife or a pair of scissors to anyone probably.

        One of the great things about costumes or one-offs (especially for stage or performance) is you can break the rules or change them as you like. I borrowed several elements from different fashion shows, especially British runway fashion for Spring 2013 which we will probably not see around here until 2015. We're so behind the times. Mostly I wanted to address some of my clients requests not to flash cleavage with traditional buttons and add some booty! Since it was a comic and the shirt pictures did not clearly have buttons, I used industrial velcro to close the front (Hey if it's good enough to stop mortar's good enough to use on the girl guns.). No flashing!
            My other big spring was using a fur clasp on the vest which was an insane indulgence. Thanks to my old boss I had a couple laying around. It's very Channel 1950s classic. The back had vented flaps so well. I love her style. Lastly, look at that color matching. The entire thing appears to match perfectly, but the black is actually slightly larger and the white slightly smaller to create a balanced optical illusion. So much work. I had to redo this 4 times and switching on the thread for this was a nightmare. Still, completely worth it.
          Ah well, I get to hear how this survived con in a few days and make any repairs/improvements necessary. I had one girlfriend who said the average actor rips his clothes within 7 hrs. of a performance so a 2 weeks show...everyone needs touch-ups. Can't wait! Love doing weird and wacky stuff like this.