Money, Quality, Beauty
I have been spending long days at Vav Stuga the last couple of weeks doing preparation for my upcoming “Masters of Deflection” class. It has been a steep learning curve scrambling to translate all my weaving/warping and drafting skills into the Swedish mode. Total immersion or trial by fire – depending on how things are flowing.
In any case, I have been at the school, using the looms, winding warps on the porch overlooking the river and the Bridge of Flowers, watching Becky wrangle looms, and really observing the ebb and flow at Vav Stuga.
I have mentioned before that the environment at the school is hand weaving heaven in that it is a beautiful place in a beautiful place, filled with looms, tools and handwoven items in use at the school.
The rugs, wall hangings and table linens are woven by Becky, the bathroom towels, curtains, chair upholstery and blankets on the dorm beds are all woven by Becky. Upon closer scrutiny, the saved warps stored on extra warp beams are tied with woven bands . . . woven by Becky . . . everything is considered and thoughtful, effort is not spared, “easy” is not embraced.
Becky works tirelessly, creating this experience for the students. She has a smart, hard-working and committed staff who also work tirelessly and yet the school struggles to survive economically. This has been haunting me as I observe the aesthetic care and thought that had been expended on every detail. Vav Stuga is the kind of endeavor that we say we want. We say we are tired of “fast, cheap and easy” in our consumables and our lives. We long for things and experiences that are careful, thoughtful and even effortful because they feed our souls in some way that has been missing. This was all running through my mind as Iistened to a story (on my iPhone!) on NPR about how the consumption of breakfast cereal has been falling. I immediately thought it was because people were making healthier choices and taking time to cook breakfast . . . but instead it is because it TAKES TOO LONG and dirties a bowl, and people don’t have time for that. According to the story, people have 12 minutes to eat breakfast on average.
So, what I wanted to write about in this blog post is how what we need and want and say we want is often different from what we settle for in our busy, scrambling lives. And that is really the crux of why craftspeople and artists find it so hard to make a living, and why places like Vav Stuga which embodies everything we SAY we want, i.e. aesthetic care, quality, thought, effort has to fight hard for its economic survival while Walmart thrives.
Sorry if I sound preachy, and do not think for one minute that I always succeed in choosing well for myself and my family. Choosing well is the harder way with less instant gratification and more effort – which of course is why as I gaze tiredly into the fridge at my lovely array of fresh produce from the neighboring CSA (which needs to be washed and prepped and cooked) and my eyes fall on the dried-out slice of pizza curling at the edge. . . I reach for the pizza.
Anyway, I realize that now that I am associated with the school – my glowing praise will sound self-serving, but I am genuinely disturbed to see something of such quality not just thrive economically. Becky has been amazingly energetic and resourceful in keeping all the balls in the air for so many years, and she has redoubled her efforts lately and added a Webstore and more classes to the roster. So maybe, instead of thinking how unfair it is that quality isn’t always well rewarded, I should think how great it is that there are folks willing and able, despite the struggle, to choose well and folks willing to provide great choices.
Kim in SB
Wow, this is so beautiful, reminds me a lot of the Swedish school we visited a few years ago, Saterglantan, I think it was called. The dorms with all the handwoven spreads, the grounds, the weaving studio, all amazing. Vavstuga has been on my wish list for awhile and now it REALLY is! A bunch of us in our weaving class have been day dreaming about making a trek to Vavstuga , so maybe we can make that a reality!
Great photos, thanks for posting! Good luck with your class, I know it’ll be great!
I know Becky studied at a Swedish Folk School – I wonder if it is the same? I will ask . . .
and YES!! It would be so great if you and crew trekked east – Vav, WEBs, Harrisville, Jaggerspun . . . a long visit would be just the ticket . . .
You are so lucky to have vavstuga, but why is it that anything worth the effort and money are allways struggling to survive, and that cheap and made somewhere else are making heaps of money.
So frustrating isn’t it?
Cereal takes too long?! Excuse me while I adjust my expectations… I mean, I’m not at all a morning person and every extra minute in bed is important to me, but… cereal? I may actually have to go *back* to bed to recover from that!
Ha!! Now, I am going to think of my toast, juice, eggs and fruit as “a good fight” instead of just greediness. BTW . . . I absolutely love the Fresco series! Inspiring.
Thanks, Lisa! They are so much fun. Not quick to weave, but endlessly fascinating as they grow.
We’re a porridge people here. Fortunately for my bed-loving self, my other half is an excellent porridge chef.
I attended Vav Stuga this past year in January–for the beginner’s class. It was an amazing experience and you have captured the essence of its simplistic beauty out of demanding excellence and thoughtful detail. I believe I left with as many photos of the details–curtains, wall hooks, functional woven items that we used every day–as I did of my lessons there. I’m excited about the new website store–it was needed so that attendees and others can replenish supplies easily. Do check it out everyone!
Thanks for the comment, and I agree that the environment is almost as inspiring as the classes . . . almost:)
Thank you Lisa for this. It hurts to know how much of a struggle it is for them to keep going. It has always been a dream of mine to attend, and maybe, some day, I will be able to.
The thing that always sticks with me is what Alice Waters had to say about buying “cheap” products. We need to always remember that someone, somewhere, paid a very dear price ( incredibly low pay, long hours, and unthinkable work conditions.) for our “bargain”. I live in a small town, without many other sources, and there are times when I find myself buying from the large discount stores either due to budget issues or the inability to find what I need anywhere else. I do try to keep these purchases to an absolute minumum, keeping those things in mind.
I wish you so much luck with your clases at Vav Stuga.
Hi Laurie – thanks so much for the comment. Sorry I didn’t get to it sooner – weaving into the wee hours at Vav!
I love the the Alice Waters quote. She really seems to be an innovative thinker. I heard an interview with her in which she explained that she has two full-time chefs that each work half the year because she doesn’t believe that the super hard creative thinking that she wants them to do can be accomplished if they are turning out meals everyday all year. And just a note . . . there are scholarships available for Vav Basics . . . .I would love to chat in person:))
Hi, Lisa! My son is struggling with similar issues as General Director of Opera Delaware. Trying to keep that particular art form alive is, he says, the biggest challenge of his life. I should forward him this post.
By the way, I’m thrilled that I will get to meet you next June for the Kitchen Weaving class…do I bring the Bernina or the Featherweight?
So glad to hear from you – thanks for your comment. I’m impressed with your son’s commitment to quality and beauty in the face of a world full of cheap thrills. Tell him to keep up his good work from me.
Ooh a Featherweight 221? Those are so beautiful! I’ll let you know what kind of sewing we will be doing once the projects are finalized. I can’t wait – it’s going to be a ball!