There was an interesting idea that I encountered floating around at work and home that I thought really captured the reasons why we do what we do in the our slow making. Some of this came from listening to Libby’s recent episode and then falling down another YouTube rabbit hole* into the world of professional creativity, but it really got me to thinking about slow cloth, slow making, slow thinking.
*This has been a bit of a habit lately and I’ll tell you all about it later this month!
Why are we captivated by this idea of ‘slow’ and moving more slowly? What about it is interesting to us? My recent pair of handspun socks cost me $20CAD and I spent about 4 hours spinning the fibre into the yarn to knit the socks. To knit them start to finish, including the time to photograph them for my ongoing project journaling (ie. the blog), with you, I can estimate my time to be about 10 hours of work. If I value my time at minimum hourly wage, which is a whole other conversation for another time, then I earned $10.45CAD per hour. This is minimum wage in British Columbia as of 2016, right now. With some basic math, the socks are valued at $166.30CAD. Let’s say that I wanted to make a 20% profit* to make what I’m creating viable. This would pay for more fibre to spin more yarn to make more socks to sell more items. I would then list them for $199.56CAD.
*This was chosen completely randomly with no idea what people usually set as profit but it was a nice round number!
Did you see what happened there in that paragraph of thought? I immediately valued my items (socks, in this case) by giving them a dollar value. The dollar value in and of itself doesn’t matter at all but it’s how we value our work: By money. How many times have we each been asked Do you sell your stuff? You should.
Why? Why should I sell my stuff? So that I can attach a meaning to the items I make? Maybe. Is that the best way for me to gain value from what I do? Maybe. It certainly is for some and for some, it is simply how they value their work and they need to earn an income. That has value into and of itself, absolutely! But it doesn’t answer the Why? question for me. Money and dollar value isn’t enough to keep me coming back to my spinning wheel over and over and over again. So my socks are actually worth $199CAD … that’s kind of cool. It’s an interesting thing to know. I kind of like that, knowing they are quite expensive to produce and I get to jam them into my boots everyday, revelling in warm, cosy socks. That’s kind of fun. But … it still leaves me wanting a bit more …
When I think about and chat with others about ‘slow making’ and this idea of making for the sake of making, I am always reminded of this idea that there is meaning in that act of making. I have recently been catching up with Missing Spindle and some other resources that talk about cloth making in Medieval times. People spun for necessity. They absolutely had to if they wanted warm clothing or any clothing at all for that matter. Everybody spun in some way, shape or form. I do not want to go back and live in that time period to be able to experience that. I am not wishing for a world that will never be again. Personally, I love the modern spinning wheels, the technology that is used to make them and the fact that I don’t have to spin if I simply don’t want to. The kids will not freeze next winter if I don’t produce enough yarn to weave into warm wraps for them this summer. I don’t have to worry about spinning and knitting enough yarn for socks for my husband so that his feet don’t rot in his leather shoes as he walks miles everyday to find food, shelter and some work to bring in a little money to pay the Baron next month. And I definitely don’t want to talk about what it must have been like to be a woman in those times.
The meaning, for me, comes from the valuing of that work that was done for so many thousands of years. The men and women (and children) who worked to cloth themselves, survive and continue on, generation after generation. They created and invented as they went, improving upon and changing the models of spindles and looms they were using. They continued to push forward the idea (consciously or unconsciously) that there was a more efficient way to do things that would free them up, eventually, to spend hours as we do now on social media, texting, having coffee with friends and generating ideas, talking about culture and religion, and pushing our creative minds to invent and use technologies we are encountering now to do more for us in the future. We are inspired by one another. We comment, critique, ask questions and learn from one another through these outlets. There are not-so-good things about these outlets as well but the point is, we can use them for our betterment. Making slowly, sharing with one another and creating intentionally is the meaning. That’s the whole point because as we become more and more able to free our time up from productivity-driven time hoarders, we can keep creating, sharing, educating and inspiring one another. And it’ll change the world.