Deep breath. Here goes. Conflict is not me. Not my style and you are most likely to see me hightailing it for a far corner at the first sign of it. Unless you really get me worked up. Then I might say stop, that'll do. Especially if you're my kids fighting amongst themselves, working it all up into a high pitched whine and lather. But if you are more on the peripheries, if you haven't goaded me enough and I'm too worried to risk offending you, I'll likely let it ride.
There were a few things that worked me up this week. Things made me uptight becuse they had a piled up serving of conflict potential. Now, I have to take into account that my dog had died and emotions were sitting there right close to the surface. Dogs dying will do that. Especially really good dogs.
One of those things I did take care of, offering a big old "stop" in as kind a manner I managed to muster and walked away, washing my hands of it. That one I no longer owned.
And then the other. That one made for some huffing and puffing. Seeing a variation within our local community of a product that I had developed twisted me up. Yes, it was different but the likeness was unmistakable. I raised my eyebrow, cocked my head to the side, and thought, "boy, that does look familiar." I decided to take it that yes, the idea was a grand one, functional and beautiful and, of course, it was likely to draw copies. I didn't offer a stop or a halt. It was out there already. There was no decision to head off this feeling and to deal with it. After the initial pacing of my living room floor, roaring, it was done.
But seeing that pop up on my Instagram feed caused me to pause. The whole episode caused me to turn in and ask some questions. What is a good idea, my idea, my presentation of the idea, is now out there, copied, the function, the sizes, the prices. What is the essence that made what I was doing so important? Was or is it important? What exactly was it that made my product different? The seeing another maker doing something very similar was a great motivator for introspection and an opportunity for regrounding as a business.
I think it comes down to this thought. If your Instagram feed, or social media feed is anything like mine, it's a constant march of ideas and products. The ideas I don't mind so much. The products though seem to whirl by at a dizzying rate. There is no way I need all of that stuff. There is no way you need all of that stuff. I wish we could all just take a deep breath and call out or on each other to just stop. Stop buying for the sake of the next bauble.
And that means my stuff too. I honestly don't want you buying my stuff unless you've thought about it. Unless you are sure you can use it. Those two statements are probably the antithesis of good business practices right there. Any professor in any M. BA program could copy and paste them, present them to students and tell them to write a two thousand word paper on why that is a dumb thing to say.
My point is this, I don't want to contribute to mindlessness with my business. I want you to be mindful of what you are buying, whether it be food, clothes, artisan goods, whatever it is, including the bags, tea towels, soap, or whatever it might be that I'm making.
If I'm doing anything at all, it's this. I want to contribute to people slowing down, raising their eyes off the ground, looking up to see huge horizons, to breathe a little slower. Seeking connection between each other, making room for each other in our lives, stopping to realize this world is about so much more than just us people folk, are a few of the key points upon which I pivot. Sometimes I crash horribly on that point, where I get all wrapped up in myself, my insecurities, all of those fears coiled tightly in a Turkish head knot. I am human and that means I will lose my feet and tumble down. You likely will too, unless you are some automaton robot reading this.
But we can't continue to fill this world up with another pile of stuff. Or at least not stuff that hasn't been selected to be used honestly.
As a person, a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend and a community member, I can't be there constantly hawking my stuff. I have things that need doing here in my own physical world. There's a horse outside right now that I have to go bring into the barn, for instance. And there's toast to put in the toaster and then offered to my littlest one for her breakfast. And to be honest, I don't want to constantly be on the sell. And I'm pretty certain that I don't want you to be constantly on the buy. I want you to feel moments of connection, groundedness, where your inner core shakes each day with the vibrations of all that's around you. It feels shallow to me, I wince, when I post about product. I can't be that busy business person, constantly on, presenting goods to you to buy. I want you deciding my goods are right for you because they are right for you, they'll serve a purpose in your life.
The making here takes a long time. I am trying to stuff as much of the landscape as I can into my product. Whether it's the dyes that remind me of steely cold clouds promising sleet, or if it's a landscape riffed off of where we go wander for the day, that's in the product. The storage bags, the tea towels, the block prints, it's all tiny pieces of our home, way of life and landscape embodied in functional goods. And gathering all of those pieces takes time to sort through, collect, prepare and then cram into whatever it is that I'm making.
Don't get me wrong, I'm tempted to make things efficient. But I can't make my product fast. If I was, it wouldn't be mine. Time is required for the trees, seasons, sky and water to all steep themselves into what you bring into your home, if you bring it into your home. I need to be out there, snowshoeing, moving fence, feeding, gathering eggs, gardening, chasing kids, tending to animals, whatever it is. I crave the sunshine, cold gales storming out of the northwest, the rustle of trembling aspen leaves before it rains, the plantain stretching itself out flat underfoot, ravens flipping and looping in the sky. Without it, I'm a little off. Let's be honest, which my husband and kids will gladly join us, by waving their hands in the air saying, yes, uh-huh, a lot off. And without it, making doesn't happen. Making is a way for me to slip back to that stillness, or the hard work that makes my muscles sore, relive the glory of it. I put it into cloth, as best as I am able at the moment and present it to you.
It all spurs me to make my work better. To stretch for better. The stretching feels good doesn't it? An exercise in becoming aware of joints and tendons underlying muscle, a charged, tense movement hinting at what a body is capable of. And it makes me grateful for you, standing there across from me. For the times you're thinking, humming and hawing, mulling it over in your brain and then deciding that yes, that bag, or soap or whatever it may be is right for you. Without you, I wouldn't be able to get by.