Friday, September 20, 2013

Making and Letting Go

First Clip Teeswater, unwashed

I wonder if the Teeswater sheep who grow such long, lovely locks feel a sense of relief when they're sheared for the first time.  I can only imagine those foot-long locks are a bit of a burden, despite their beauty.  I wonder if the sheep bounce a little higher, play a little more, and run a little faster when they're free of all that gorgeous fleece they've carefully cultivated.  Are they glad to be rid of their wool?  I hope so.  I know I sure appreciate having it to play with!!!

Like most things fibery, this particular batch of raw locks has given me a lot to think about.  Making something, loving it dearly, and letting it go can be a very deep meditation. It's a lesson in generosity, a lesson in cycles and seasons, a lesson in impermanence, an lesson of abundance...  

And now, deep thoughts.  With BabesterArts.  ;-)

As I begin to wash and sort these locks, I'm using my time as an opportunity to sort and clean my fiber practice on an emotional and intellectual level, as well.  This year's theme has definitely been one of refining, editing and reorganizing!  I'm still working to distill my work down to an essential "kateness," and part of that process is giving away the things that don't suit or serve me anymore. Letting go of the things that, while lovely, are weighing me down a bit.

I predict more shift before the year's end...

Saturday, August 31, 2013


“You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself…the height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment.” 

– Leonardo da Vinci
I want to open my new shop now.  I want to spin more.  I want to buy all the things.  I want to have all the things.  I want them all right now.  I want to buy more yarn.  Have more fiber.  Talk to all the people about what they're doing and what's popular and what's trending and what's on the horizon.  I want to know how you do it, how they do it, how it is to be done.  I want everyone to think my work is awesome.  And I'm awesome.  And everything is right and perfect and...


Younger Self has this "gimme gimme!" mentality that is wholly opposed to anything resembling good, sane business practices.  Now for now's sake is NOT a good business strategy!  And it has been SO hard to not open the new shop just to have a shop again.  Just to be selling, a seller, a shopowner, a maker, an artist...  To tie my identity to the having of this visible, tangible thing that is supposed to represent me and reflect my worth.

Weighty things going on over here, folks!!!  And, if you'll excuse my terrible pun, they're all "waity" things.  Shop 2.0 requires breaking the mold shaped by BabesterArts.  It means building on what was good, gutting what wasn't, and evolving.  That is a practice, not a "POOF!" and it is HARD!!!  It's hard to tell Younger Self to slow the eff down and think about next year, and 5 years, and 10 years.  It's hard to corral that bouncy, bubbling creative energy and channel it toward legalese and structure and planning.  And it's really hard to set aside the cloak of "businesswoman" and just be Kate.

That last bit is about me, but it's probably not at all unique to me.  There's a part of my existence that is validated by being my own boss, and successful at what I do.  I get a great amount of fulfillment from running my own business, having an income, and sharing things I've created with others.  It helps me define "Kate" in a way I'm proud of.  I'm somebody, somewhere.  I have a job, and a purpose.  And it is SCARY to set that aside and think of myself without the labels.  It is work, and I have been quiet of late because I've been busy doing that work.  Like anything worth doing, good things have come of it.  My art is evolving, my business sense is becoming more refined, and my boundaries are shifting in ways I feel are very healthy.  Being open to change like that is not something that I find easy; it is not a natural state for me, but a conscious choice and commitment to myself.

This year, I really opened myself up to The Community.  Many people only know me because of that decision, and yet it feels like a mask.  In a lot of ways, I stepped beyond the boundaries of who I thought I was, and into a caricature of who I thought I was supposed to be.  Neither of those states represent the entirety of who I am.  And I found, in the mirrors held up by my peers (and some unexpected adversaries), new facets of my self I'd not yet met.  I expected paperwork, bookkeeping and taxes.  I expected inventories, purchase orders and continuing education.  I did not expect the sort of emotional tumult and soul-searching I've been invited to explore this year.  Nothing like a tumbling tower to shake away the delusions and reveal the realities! 

And the reality is this: I run my business, and my life, by my heart.  And that is some scary, downright dangerous business!  It leaves me vulnerable to criticism and self-doubt, and can result in my plans becoming derailed by my emotions.  The "easy" alternative, the quick fix, would be to sanitize the heart out of my business and run it by the books.  Not exactly sure whose books those would be...  Doesn't really matter.  Doing that, running my business in accordance with someone else's ideals and standards, equals running their business (whoever "they" are).   I'm not interested in that.

If I am going to have MY business, it will have to be mine.  Not just Yet Another Shop Selling Some Stuff, but something that is uniquely personal to me, and reflects both my aesthetics and my ethics.  That is surprisingly difficult to balance with a desire to understand the community framework that will, hopefully, support my business.  I've found it essentially impossible to participate in the community without having that participation influence my art.  That's not a bad thing, per se, but when I allow the opinions of others to dictate what is "right" and "good" and "the way things should be", I lose my ability to connect with the part of my art that is mine.  And then I'm no longer making art, I'm just making stuff.

Confused?  Me too!!! Unfortunately, I have to find my own peace with this situation.  That is taking time.  Time that will prove a sound investment in my business, and my self, but time it is often hard to make time for. 

Cultivating patience,


Friday, June 28, 2013

Tour de Fleece 2013 - TEAM NEVERMORE

Despite having eleventy other projects going on right now (one shop revamp, one shop in the making, hand card group discount event on the forum, bitty babester's first birthday, a life...kinda...), I have decided that I'm going to join the awesomeness that is le Tour de Fleece.  It's a spinning event timed with the Tour de France.  A handful of guidelines, no rules, and hopefully a whole lotta yarn (read: stashbusting)!  I've watched it on Ravelry for a couple years now, but haven't played along because reasons.

This year, the awesomeness has been taken to a whole 'nother level.  My friend Chris from ThreeRavens is hosting Tour de Fleece: Team Nevermore.  Pretty much anything Chris does is amazing, and she has a great group of spinners gathered for this year's TdF.  How could I not join in?!  I've got a small box of "gotta have its" that I'm hoping to spin into fun, funky, whimsical yarns.  After all, I do have a new shop to stock. ;-)

You should spin along with us!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Where I've Been

A fuzzy troll?  Nope.  Just a custom batt.  

Once again, I've succumbed to blog lag.  Bitty babester has gotten a LOT more mobile, which makes taking time to sit and write, or do anything else, a luxury I can only rarely afford.  Hi!  How are you?  I've been BUSY lately!  I thought that putting my shop on hiatus would free up some time.  Not so.  Between the Round Four carding cloth co-op, general business management workings, and a "working vacation" to The Mannings for their 45th Annual Spinning Seminar, I have been crazy busy.  I've even had a couple custom orders come in.  It's good, and I'm certainly not complaining!  Just explaining.

I've got some news to report: BabesterArts will no longer be my yarn and fiber shop.  Effective... sometime, all my spinning pursuits will transfer to a new shop.  BabesterArts will go dark for a bit, and then re-open on a date TBD with a new, kid-centric line of fibery fun!  That's right, I'll have TWO shops to juggle!  And I thought I was busy...

I love my little shop, but it's just not clicking the way I want it to. I'd hoped that this year's rebranding/revamp would put it right, but it wasn't sitting well with me.  It wants to be something else, so I'm going to go with that.  The new shop is so. awesome.  Seriously, you guys.  Srsly.  I can't wait to debut this new creature I've created.  I'm really proud of it, and I think it will be a great home for my work.  BabesterArts, and all the fibery fun you've come to associate with it, will stay around, but the new line isn't yarn/spinning-centric.  It's equally awesome, but I'll probably wait to reveal more about it until the new fiber shop is up and running.  

Such a tease, right?  

Friday, May 24, 2013

You Only Know What You Know

"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals." ~Goethe
One of the long-term projects I'm putting on my plate is the Certificate of Excellence in Handspinning offered by the Handweavers Guild of America. Why?  That is an excellent question! Let's start at the beginning.

Backstory (includes a whole herd of teal deer): 

There was this Ravelry thread, and it was soulsucking and awful and angrymaking.  It made me want to throw things at multiple people, gave me fits, and left me desperately wondering what sort of people raised those people. Because, seriously, who does that?!  It took a big, steaming dump on the idea of "community" that I love and hold dear and, for a while, made me want to drop out of the fiber arts entirely.  

But.  But but but.   

There's this thing I've learned to do when I find myself getting all fitty.  I've learned that things that get me riled up are usually poking at things I don't like about myself.  Because it's all about me.  Always.  So I've been sitting with this ugly, mean-spirited mess of a thread (which has, in fairness, evolved into something useful toward the latter few pages), and really looking at why it's upsetting to me.  I found a few things.

While I disagree with the snark and the smugness and the stomping of hopes and dreams, I agree with some of the points made in that thread.  And I didn't like that about me, mostly because it didn't feel "nice".  I try, I really try, to be inclusive and accepting and open to other perspectives.  I have a "your beliefs are just as believable as my beliefs" mentality and tend to be respectful of different ideas, often to my own detriment.  I am a self-titled Professional Noob, and I want all the noobs to feel welcome to join in and participate.  Then I do this thing where I think "Yeah, but this is business..." and that's when the signal goes to static and I start feeling really confuzzled.  The online fiber marketplace is essentially a free-for-all.  There are no clearly-defined quality standards to be met before one can sell hand-dyed/handspun yarn or fiber or...  There is no universal regulatory/governing body responsible for overseeing the fiber arts.  There are no community-wide Certificates of Awesomeness.  There are no real boundaries. So the marketplace is the community is the marketplace, and that's something pretty unique.  And awkward.  And somewhat problematic.  Can business and community coexist?  What are the ethics of this sort of business? 

One of the recurring themes in the Thread of Suck was a shrill harping about how noobs had no right to sell noobcraft (offered with a side of "get off my lawn!").  The time-honored "this is why we can't have nice things" argument was raised, and a heap of blame for poor market performance was placed on the noobs (theory being the market saturation created by the mass influx of noobspun destroyed the ease with which "experts" could sell their wares).  A few posts acknowledged that the market would sort the mess itself (eventually).  There was a lot of "you cannot has" thrown down, and without any sort of real authority to enforce that kind of exclusive access to, and control over, the market. 

This implication that only Ferraris belong on the road is some nonsense.  No one would believe for a second that the vast number of available Civics somehow diminishes the worth of a Bentley (most would probably claim the opposite is true).  A Prius is not a Porsche.  Duh.  This is easy to put into car terms because those values are pretty well known and at least accepted (if not truly understood).  Fiber art is a bit different because the knowledge of what separates high-quality from not is not nearly so universal.  The element of prestige is pretty much non-existent which affects variables like "luxury" and "taste" that might otherwise be used to justify prices and assign value. 

At the same time, we have "lemon laws" that protect buyers from wasting money on crappy cars.  There is no such protection in the fiber marketplace (says someone who has received quite a bit of frustrating fluff from "noobs" and "experts" alike).  There is no rule or law in Fiberville that says "thou shalt not sell crap".  And so, people do.  Some maliciously, but my guess/hope is that most do so in ignorance.  Ignorance that begins to seem somewhat willful, when you consider examples like "Dyers" who don't spin, and "Spinners" who don't know how to use their own yarn.

Back and forth and back again, to what end?  Ultimately, I have zero control over The Market and what the "experts" think and do.  All I can do is look at myself, and my shop, and my space in the community.  So that's what I've been doing.  I've been going over that sucktacular thread again and again, trying to filter out the ego-fueled ranting and distill the points that deserve consideration.  Then I've done the icky work of running my own products/process past those points.  Not so much as a pass/fail.  I still believe that everyone deserves a place.  More as a way to determine what needs improvement because anyone who's not an asshat can always find something that does.  Self-monitoring/evaluation seems to be the sort of thing that not-douches do.  

And so, the booklet in the picture at the top of this rambling post.  I decided to go to the dark side and really explore technical precision in spinning, which is not to say that I will ever attain a certifiable standard of same. ;-)  I'd like to do this as a tangible thing and not just an intellectual exercise.  I'm motivated to learn more about my craft because I'm a nerd like that, and because quality is important to me.  I only know what I know, but I know there's more to learn.  I also want to know how it is that one gets from "noob" to "expert".  If there is a set path for this, I have not yet stumbled upon it.   I want my art to be a willful exercise in deviating from a standard, not merely "art" as a matter of convenient labeling for something that won't fit neatly elsewhere.  I am aware that there are some "experts" out there who'd be happy to tell me where it fits.  I'm not doing this for them.  I want to find/refine my style, my "voice". 

I can be better, and there's no shame in saying that.  I look at the tremendous amount of progress I've made in my very limited time in Fiberland and I am very proud of my achievements.  I see no need to be embarrassed by my shop or my decision to sell fiber and yarn without a Decree of Worthiness from those who'd put themselves above me.  There is a great deal about business that can only be learned by doing business.  The value of the lessons I've learned from having my shop have far outweighed the miniscule possibility that my mere presence in the marketplace was somehow damaging to the market itself.  I'm sure the market will get over whatever insult I may have inadvertently caused.  I hope the "experts" will, too.

There's a lot more to say about this Evil Thread of Evil-turned-useful and the brainwrangling it has inspired/required.  The good news is that I (might) have more time to talk it out.  I've decided to put my shop on vacation for the foreseeable future so that I can devote myself to further study of my art, along with some serious community building.  We really do need a lot of the latter, and I'm hoping the former will give me the energy to be a part of it.  This is all part of that shift I've felt coming.

Excuse my dust. Renovation in progress.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Not Now. Maybe Later.

Like most, I don't like "no".  I want to do all the things. I only have so much time.

Mix those three and what results is an incredible feeling of pressure and stress to doallthethingsrightnow lest I somehow miss out or be left behind.  Problem is, that's not a very sustainable business strategy.  The result would most likely be a mess of half-done projects, or projects completed at half my ability.  Not good for business; half-done and half-quality both equal waste, IMO.

In order to help myself slow down, prioritize, and actually complete my projects, I employ a strategy I learned from parenting.  Not now. Maybe later.  "Not now" is a lot easier to receive and accept than "no."  Maybe later keeps it in the realm of possibility, rather than slamming the door shut.  The overall effect is an acknowledgement of both the super awesome new idea and the other ideas already on my plate.

I keep a ridiculously long list of Maybe Later Projects.  Seriously- it's nearly 200 entries long right now.  If I feel some spare energy bubbling around (hah!), I pick a new project from that list.  When I do my quarterly business evaluation, I cull the list and purge projects that no longer seem like such amazingly fabulous ideas.  I pick 2-3 that really jump out at me and put those on the official plan for that quarter.  The plan gets refined during weekly and monthly reviews, so there's not a whole lot of room for stagnation. 

How do you sort your ideas?  How do you decide what to follow and what to keep as fantasy?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

TIMT: Kindergarten Capelet

Been a while since I posted for Thing I Made Thursday.  Here's a special edition to make up for it.  :-)

This is a pic of my very first "all by myself" pattern. Yes, really.  I just made it up. It's fresh off the needles; you can see a bit of yarn at the collar that needs weaving in, and it's in desperate need of blocking, but... I made that!  With mah brainz!!!  And it actually fits!  I took it straight off the needles and asked her to try it on.  We're both very pleased with how it turned out.

It had been a reeeeeaaaalllly long time since I'd picked up my pointy sticks.  I'd forgotten how therapeutic it is to get lost in the rhythm of a good knit.  This was done in the round, which I love.  I was surprised by how well my hands remembered the stitches, even if my brain was having trouble recalling the details.  From start to finish, this project was very intuitive.  It's not particularly complicated, which I'm sure helped.  ;-)

It's appropriate to have a project I made for bigger babester featured today, as it is her 5th birthday.  I guess you could say there are two things I made in that picture.  She is her own, wild little creation, though.  She'll be starting Kindergarten in the fall (where does the time go?!!).  She's addicted to books (buncha bibliophiles in this house).  She is one of the kindest people I've met, and would gladly share pretty much anything she has.  She's also coming into her own power, and developing a sense of boundaries and her own code.  She's patient with her baby sister, which is no easy feat sometimes.  I know I'm biased, but she's a really neat little person.  I'm excited to see what this next year will bring for her.

One thing I know I can help her cultivate is her love of the fiber arts.  She was a great fleece shopping buddy at MDSW this year.  She's great at helping pick out colorways for batts.  She has had fun coming up with start-to-finish projects with a bit of assistance. So I think it's time for her to be properly initiated into the ways of the fiber junkies.

The spindle may look familiar to those of you who know me (or have been following my little slice of weird for a while).  I thought it was fitting to have her learn on the same spindle I learned on.  There's a bit of "leader" from a previous spin wrapped on there already, too.  Of course, I expect she'll want several of her own spindles; those extra chore funds aren't going to spend themselves!  For her first fiber, I went straight for the good stuff.  I picked out that pink poof of awesome from Loop at MDSW.  Steph herself put it into that little baggie.  She has no idea who I am, and probably thought it was odd that I only bought an ounce of fluff, but there's a bit of story on my side to support my madness.  Steph's from our town originally, and her fiber is the stuff my babester would always covet (whenever I was fortunate enough to get my hands on it).  Her spontaneous spinning clouds are what I took with me to spin while on vacation because they're heavenly.  Soft, fluffy, gorgeous color, and the type of prep that encourages spinners to feel the fiber and really experience it rather than overthinking it.  So when I saw the giant bag of spontaneous spinning cloud in this perfect pink colorway, I knew exactly what babester's first spinning fiber would be.

There are more fun things in the works here at BabesterArts, but it will probably be June before I have more to say about them.  I've got a write up of this pattern to finish, another pattern in the making, a fourth carding cloth co-op to finish, some really BIG projects to reveal...

All in due time.  :-)