Sunday, February 5, 2012

A little experiment

My very very least favourite thing about this little clothes-making biz of mine is, hands down, pricing my stuff. Has always been , probably always will be. I suspect that this results from the fact that I am constitutionally deficient in the skills needed to deal with the rigours of this shindig we call capitalism that is, unfortunately, running the show right now. I just feel icky about asking for money for something that, 9 times out of 10, I've had an absolute ball creating. Mind you, the pocket money always comes in handy, especially in the midst of the shit-fight we're engaged in at the moment, trying to fund our little house build. And of course I do so love the feeling I get when I realise that, by paying for my clothes, people are actually saying "Hey! I dig what you're doing over here!".
But still, I've been thinking of ways I could start to get around or at least play with the boundaries prescribed by the "I do something for you and you pay me what I tell you" rules of the open market. This experiment was, in a little way, inspired by a cafe I visited in Salt Lake City (of all places) that had no prices, instead requesting that customers make a donation, according to their capacity and their feelings about the meal, or, if they weren't able to pay, to contribute in some other way, such as doing the dishes or taking out the rubbish. I thought this was a pretty ace idea, made somewhat acer by the fact that the cafe had been in operation for 12 freakin' years or something!
I few weeks ago I got an email from Denise, in Denmark, WA, who was looking to extend her P&E collection. Denise, I know from our previous interactions, is a pretty cool lady, who has always seemed to be very respectful and appreciative of what I do. These qualities (teamed with the fact that she calls her cat her "fur husband", which appealed to the part of me that thought it was a good idea to get my cat, Bunn's name tattooed in a big red heart on my leg) led me to believe that Denise was a perfect candidate to invite on my little pricing experiment. So, when the question I dread came up - "How much do I owe you?" - I replied by suggesting that Denise set the price according to what she thought the clothes were worth, and what she could afford. Initially, Denise was apprehensive and uncomfortable about the suggestion, but (and this is the bit I love) she recognised that her discomfort was something worth interrogating and trying to work through, so we agreed that she would set the price as long as I promised to let her know if it wasn't enough. I was stoked with this arrangement, and set to work sewing her skirts and boleros, astoundingly happy and safe-feeling in the knowledge that, even if we weren't putting an end to capitalism, we were at least playing with it a little bit.
I asked Denise what it was she thought made her feel uncomfortable. She replied: "I think the uncomfortable feeling comes because I'm still learning how to receive graciously! Well, partly, anyway. Because essentially, letting the purchaser decide on a price to pay, is giving them a gift, putting the power in their hands." I love this insight, not least of all because it kind of mirrors my own feelings about the whole affair: Having someone value my work enough to part with their hard-earned cashola is a gift and a compliment, all in one - who doesn't like receiving one of those?
In all, I have been thrilled by the engagement, mutual trust and gift-giving that this experiment has generated, if for no other reason that it's so out of the ordinary in our daily, money-exchanging lives.
Now, onto the clothes.
Yes, you have seen this tablecloth before. How great that there are now 2 "Greetings West Australia" clothing items out there in the world? I especially like that the back of this is reminiscent of the emblems on the back of bikie jackets. But with a twist.
This purple floral skirt is a remake of a vintage dress Denise sent for me to work with. The fabric is absolutely divine - so soft! The dress was a gorgeous, home-made number with a little inset pocket at the side, and not a skerrick of overlocking to be found, which meant that all the inside seams are starting to fray a little, from millions of washes. My initial inclination was to actually re-do the skirt, including all the seams, so that they could be finished 'properly'. But then I thought about the actual provenance of the skirt (nee dress) and decided to leave them as a little historical reference point.
Denise actually requested an embellishment on this one, in the form of a patch or a pocket, but once I started on this skirt I was so in love with it that I wanted to stay as true to the original as I could. Denise, if you still want a pocket/patch, let me know and I can put one on, but I think it's beautiful as it is.
Yay for kitty-cat skirts! This wrap n go makes its pockets from a special tea-towel, which Denise sent along with the skirt, featuring the spitting image of her beloved Mr Topper. Of course, he needed to be on a pocket. Denise says the cats on the flowers reminds her of "seeing my furboy napping in the grass outside my window". Nothing much better than frolicking cats, except perhaps frolicking kittens...
And another bolero. Not much to say about this little baby other than that the fabric (formerly a tablecloth) is pretty unique, and Pearlie has requested a bolero for herself made out of the other half of said tablecloth, which just happens to be red. Oh, and Denise, I think it's gonna look great on you! Thank you so much for being my experiment-buddy! x

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