What it takes to make.

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.

Hugs,

Rhonda

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6 thoughts on “What it takes to make.

  1. Oh man… I feel you on every level here, Rhonda. I have at least three patterns 90% finished and waiting for publishing, but I have no time, ZERO energy or motivation (babies… amiright?). I’m really glad you spoke up and wrote exactly how you were feeling, because I’m pretty sure I’ve had plenty of jealous thoughts of my own while browsing your blog (those felted knitted bunnies are absolutely gorgeous. GIVE THEM TO ME!). Think of those loopy emails and crooked copycats as badges of honour. You have an audience, and your work and ideas are so phenomenal that people are sitting out there thinking of ways to imitate you (but they’ll never be able to get inside your wonderful mind). Keep trying, keep creating, keep failing, keep succeeding. The world needs more misfits and Olgas 😉

  2. Oh, the self-doubt. I hear you. I also chuckled about the chunky blankets and the speckle shawls. It’s so important to be true to yourself. That will take care of the siren song of the chunky blankets. For the self-doubt, I highly recommend a good friend. Sounds like your mother serves that purpose for you. My sister and I call each other and say “I need five minutes of therapy.” Keep creating. Your toys are delightful, even, especially, Olga.

  3. I’m glad you relate, Jennifer! I mean, we all know our kids deserve to be the good distractions from work, but it does become hard to balance! Especially when they’re all at different stages of neediness! But it really seems like it’s all the rest of it that gets tough. When I worked 9-to-5 jobs, clocked in and did my duties, it was so much easier! It is such a task to create something from virtually nothing, put yourself out there, hope that it sticks and it’s not time lost, you put up with critics and sometimes ridiculous requests, then hope that nobody takes credit for the weeks/months you put in. It was easier for me to design hats and mittens and such, they’re essentially flat. It is so much more difficult with characters who need shapes and facial features haha. I’m glad there are other folks like you who understand!! I’ll keep trucking along, because even the misfits and moments of misfortune have been a part of the learning (and patience-building!) process. Thanks for the kind words and support!
    Rhonda

  4. Amy, I couldn’t help but laugh at “the siren song of the chunky blankets” haha! I mean, I feel like making those would take a full-body workout, and that’s just not something I want to combine with my relaxing knitting!
    I agree–it is nice to have someone to confide in, in this genre of work. I’m especially thankful that my mom has been doing this for decades and is well-seasoned in all aspects of it; she always seems to have a level-headed answer for me. And I think what makes being a maker or designer really difficult is that you’re putting pieces of yourself out there in the wide open, up for anyone to judge the works of your hands. I’m learning, though, that it’s really more of the self-doubt that is a crutch more than the naysayers or anything else really. I’m thankful that you can relate! I’ll keep pushing forward and pushing those doubts and second-guesses behind. Thanks so much for the kind words!
    Rhonda

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