Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I've been thinking lately about some issues...or better, so far I just can't find a definitive answer...

Some time ago, and precisely while doing market research at Bradford, I came across a handweaver who is based in Italy but sells around the world, in exclusive boutiques and shops. The products were not quite my taste (please note this it is only a personal opinion, and thankfully we all like different things!) but I kept an eye on this designer, wondering when I would have the chance to get across some of those items...

Then, while in London in October, I had the chance to see some of the handwovens and finally touch them, and pay attention to the details. I have to say I was very surprised.
A throw, woven in plain weave, with very nice colours (but nothing daring), horrible loose selvedges, and a very prickly wool. The price tag was high - of course - according to the type of shop I was in.

Questions, questions, and more questions...
If you sell an item, what is the level of quality you aim to propose? Selvedges are to be perfect? The quality of your yarn is important?

That blanket was the perfect example of what I would never sell - or buy -
then I thought ' if that throw is there there must be someone buying it'

Maybe selvedges are less then perfect and the wool is prickly because this is a way of saying "look! this is handwoven! it's not perfect - you can imagine the trembling hands of a weaver throwing the shuttle! ".

If it were perfect nobody woud recognize it - and think of the long hours spent dressing the loom, weaving, finishing, etc etc - and would not be prepared to spend such amount of money for it.

I know the work of many talented weavers, but their pieces are on a completely different level, screaming "I'm gorgeous" from every single fibre of their warps and wefts. Yet they don't command the same price level.

So what makes low quality so appealing? Is the public educated enough to recognise what is well woven or what is not? Brand name is enough? Compromise is necessary?

Why should I spend hours designing, getting the best yarn I can, striving not to make mistakes and keep my selvedges consistent?

Because I couldn't do otherwise - I want to be proud of what I make.

Interesting exhibition about Home Decorating in the 50's - with textiles by Lucienne Day and Jacqueline Groag at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture


Anonymous said...

Hello Doni, I am a fellow weaver from Down Under. I agree with your comments. But don't be disheartened. We wouldn't be happy if we wove to somebody else's standards which are different to our own. We may earn less money, but we make up for it in satisfaction. Take heart in knowing that your blog brings great joy to this weaver. Your weaving and your obvious talent in design is truly inspirational. Best wishes.

Donatella said...

Hi Aj, you are very kind - I suppose on this post I was just venting my frustration after a discussion with someone who wouldn't accept the fact that some people do want to stay true to themselves - I am very happy to know that there are people who share the same opinion!
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Greetings, Doni! What a thought provoking post.

I believe it all has to do with marketing and promoting one's work. Getting out there and selling your work to boutiques, etc.

Often the more solitary artist weaves away in the studio, and works toward achieving a high level of quality and does not take the time to promote her own work on the market.

The other type, whom you have described here -- rushes through the work, willy-nilly, is careless about quality, and spends the greater amount of time out promoting herself/herwork.

Finding that balance can be difficult. Your work is some of the most beautiful I've seen. You have an outstanding eye for color and design, and the care with which you weave is so apparent.

Certainly, there are shops that would be thrilled to carry your pieces. Go out there and find them! :)

Wishing you a bright and prosperous New Year!


Donatella said...

Hi Jane,
thank you for stopping by - and all the best for this 2009!
I agree with what you said: balance is a difficult exercise but it is also true that the satisfaction that you get from well performing your craft has got no price. We are fortunate to have found such a fantastic way to express our creativity!

Meg said...

I am so with you, Doni. But brand is so terribly difficult to combat, as is art critics, what they write, and reputation... Not that I'm weaving at that level, but it is like shouting against gale force wind.

And I'm not even getting in public conception/expectation of handwoven textiles!

So glad Cally put a link to your blog.

Tallguy said...

Just because someone "is from Italy" doesn't mean there is quality. But being a foreigner adds a lot of prestige. Therefore, her work demands a higher price, and people pay it, thinking it must be something special. It's all marketing.

You can demand high prices too, and you will find a different type of person will start to buy your work. When it is priced too low, it must be inferior! But a high price must mean it is top quality.

I take offence when you say that handwoven needs to be sloppy with mistakes to be considered made by hand. I demand perfection when made by hand; and shoddy workmanship is not to be sold. We have high standards in the guild sales, and it is up to us to maintain those standards.

I too have seen throws similar to those you describe. But because no one has shown the shop alternatives, they just don't know any better. It is up to us to educate the buying public. Until then, poor workmanship will continue to masquerade as artwork.

Donatella said...

Tallguy - I wholeheartedly agree on what you say.

Being from Italy doesn't mean a thing, if the quality is poor. What I find very weird is the fact that people willing to pay big amounts of money for a handcrafted item are not interested in getting to know more about it - and questioning its real quality.

Last weekend I had the chance to have a chat with a weaver who's got a studio in Sardinia.
She was telling me how difficult it is to "educate" the public and how easily her work is outdone by cheaper mass-produced items.
People just can't tell the difference.
True recognition only comes when they see her working on the loom - but alas - you can't have potential customers watching you all the time!

Thank you for sharing your opinion, it's nice to be in good company!