I may seem like a lucky jerk for being able to work from home. Sure, I know that I am very fortunate to be there for my kids, day in and day out. I’m raising them while working, and I’m so thankful for that. But I really don’t see ‘makers’ talk about the ugly side of this ‘industry’, the sometimes depressing side of it: the roadblocks, the cynicism, the doubts, the time invested, the rip-offs. You see our nicely finished, hand-made item being held by a freshly-bathed babe on a beautiful antique quilt and you think “their life is so perfect, I hate them.”
Am I wrong? I don’t think I am because I am guilty of thinking the same about other makers.
But it’s far from perfect. Maybe in always putting our best foot forward, we kind of lost that personal connection with others. Maybe we’ve become un-relatable, though we are probably the most laid back, easy-to-get-along-with people.
So yeah, this line of work can be a big bummer at times. Have you ever worked for two years on a design, shown a sneak peek and said “coming soon!” as if you were going to have a stinking parade for yourself, then you find out a few days later that you are finally pregnant and you get sick? Like dead almost. I mean the kind where you lose 30 lbs in a month and are in and out of the hospital to get your fluids replenished because everything made you sick—crackers, water, air, Kleenex, you name it. And then that new pattern you should’ve had done before Valentine’s day is still in limbo come April because you haven’t been able to eat food for two months, much less count stitches.
When you are a ‘maker’ for a living, life can really put a hiatus on things.
And, when you’re finally able to eat, you demolish half a bag of tortilla chips with salsa and stare at a half-knitted doll dress and think “What am I doing with my life? I’m thirty-one, I should be knitting trendy chunky blankets or neon pink speckled shawls or something.” But the truth is, I don’t want to make either of those. I want to make dolls and knit sweet little baby sweaters and bonnets. But, I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I have questioned what I’m doing. Ask my mom, she has about 1,743 text from me of half-finished projects and I’m asking, “is this stupid??”
Then, when you decide that the dolls you spent months making actually look stupid, and ‘who is gonna want that rabbit/grasshopper hybrid…’ (don’t even judge the fabric pile in the corner and the paint-swatch walls. That wall has since been painted and all that fabric has since been hidden from my husband)…
…and you toss that junk into a basket full of others, destined for the Island of Misfit Toys along with those dolls that only have hair stitched on half of their head; the ones who look like they should be named Olga and have a face that only your child will love:
And as if I wasn’t enough of a hindrance to myself, I get the ridiculous emails. You wouldn’t believe the kind of emails from people wanting us to make a whole pattern from an item we made 11 years ago so that they too can make it. Like we can just pull all that from memory… Or people who request a complimentary 1” bear for their blind aunt, I kid you not. Would she tell the difference from the bear and a piece of lint?? Or the emails from people that don’t even care about the product you made but instead ask where they can buy the tea set in the background of your photo. The constant emails alone are enough to make me grey—you don’t earn a dime for your time dealing with that stuff.
I wish that was the worst of it. I think the worst is creating something from nothing, not earning nearly enough for your time, then seeing your design duplicated by someone who is making money off your idea, hand-over-fist.
You may see the perfection of the finished item, but boy does it take a long path to get there. I’m sure more venting will come.
Just know that if you’re a maker enduring these things, hang in there. You’re not alone.