Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The weekend and Harrogate

It was certainly interesting this weekend. I went to Harrogate by train, just under two hours each way and a lovely journey because it wasn't raining as it was supposed to do. I had been to the needlework show there once before, several years ago when I was still young and foolish about the world of needlework design. I was supposed to deliver a sample kit of one of my designs to a distributor, who was going to give me a final decision on carrying some of my designs. It was a nerve-wracking experience, our car wasn't really up to the trip, the JE was just a year and a half old which bodes ill for wheeling through a throng at a needlework show, we could barely afford the trip let alone the materials for the kit, and one color wasn't available locally so I had to buy it there at the show, crouch in a less-busy corner, measure and cut the thread for the kit, and then find the distributor to hand it over. It was such a draining experience that I think handing over the JE at that moment would have been emotionally less painful. Turns out, the relationship didn't develop in any sort of positive way, the comments passed on about the designs they'd raved about were destructive enough to make me consider never designing again and I still have stock I'd invested in to provide them with the heap of kits they'd planned on selling hand over fist.

Was I foolish? Yes. Were they unfair? Who knows? I think yes sometimes and no sometimes. I wish that things had been less clouded with some of the emotions I was given the chance to develop. I was so proud of those designs, I redid one against my better judgment but they said it would be more 'commercial'. To this day I hate that design, the model's now stuck behind the sofa. I don't design at all right now, but I hope to get back into it sometime. Would my stuff have sold better with someone else? To be honest, I don't know but I would like to think that if I'd had the confidence in my work to promote it and keep promoting it maybe yes. It's soul-destroying sometimes to put your heart into something that you think is great to have the stitching public fall asleep in excitement over your work. Designers can have so many good things working around inside them but never let them see the light of day simply because they feel the ideas aren't 'commercial'. Should everything appeal to the middle ground? Should unique or quirky work be dropped by the wayside because the majority of people really do want to stitch cute animals or pastoral scenes or reproductions of great paintings? Or is it the same as many other forms of entertainment or art, do the people who control the industry at large refuse to produce or promote anything that's not sellable in thousands, even if it's almost impossible to distinguish between variations on a theme of thatched cottages?

I'm not ranting or angry, just puzzled. Harrogate's show is a very odd place to go. The artists' galleries are full of unique, individual, striking and yes ... occasionally... uninspiring work. But it's so strong and independent. It's so unlike the market halls where there are shops and shops and walls and walls full of the same thing.

Once in a while there were designs that I did stop and look at and admire. I saw some great work, but most of it was not in the big stalls full of brand-name kits, there were individual designers out there who were perhaps not 'commercial' enough to suit the buyers of the 'big' shops, or they preferred to sell individually. It's hard to say, but there certainly seemed to me that the individuals showed more variety and panache than elsewhere.

Yes, I know it's an industry. Yes, I know that profit is vital. But why is it that the unique usually gets rubbed out by the big eraser of 'not commercial'?

I had a great chat with a few people there, had the pleasure of seeing Linn Skinner's 'Doors of Kew' on display (and heard a lot of positive comments about them and several about Linn herself, all of them good and very accurate. :-D ) and surprisingly enough managed to escape the show with no purchases other than back issues of a few magazines. I did have to resist strongly at the booths of people such as Oliver Twists and Stef Francis. I love all those dyed threads but there's NO way I can have one more skein of thread in this boat until the last work is done to sort out and find all my stuff. That will include one very humbling task, sorting out the cones of floss purchased to kit up designs that are no longer being sold. If you ever want to give yourself a wake-up call, try shifting three storage boxes of ambition. I have some to get rid of.

As for Harrogate itself, it's a balm for the soul. Who can stay morose after tea at Betty's? And who can feel pointless when they carry home a bag with four 'Fat Rascals' for the boys? Plus, the euphoria of a result in rugby that is still making HWP glow. And I thought _I_ was the one who liked rugby most, but that's just for the way those guys look in shorts.