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.