Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dealing with Recession...

The question arises:   How do we get through the present economic emergency?  If only we could say when it would ease!  But the experts agree only that it will go on for awhile.   If only we could persuade people to begin spending some of their inactive cash!  We do know that 70% of the American economy is driven by consumption.  (Whether we like it or not!).  But.  For now, it simply IS.  So we do what we can do.   At Artisan Knitworks, we are dealing with it by making choices that are likely to succeed (though I confess to have bought some hats and super bulky yarns that I KNEW wouldn't sell right away -- there is the problem of my taste for the uncommon, the beautiful, the idiosyncratic....!

But there are other things that can be done, and some of them have unexpected consequences.  We have organized two multi-shop crawls, e.g. -- one of them over the Halloween weekend, and another upcoming on December 3-4.  The first one involved 7 shops ranging from Grosse Pointe to Plymouth, a distance of perhaps 40 miles.   The new one moves in the other direction, toward the small town of Romeo, with six shops.   There will be all of the usual benefits -- discounts, small bags with surprises. (all of which affords shops an opportunity to get rid of valuable items they haven't sold or otherwise want to eliminate -- we also give away copies of our own patterns).  The proceeds go to a charity -- in this case, a wonderful shelter for women and children in Mt Clemens, Michigan.  And of course that's one consequences -- the shelters run out of money at this time of year, just as the weather turns ugly, and at the bottom of a nasty recession, both of which increase domestic violence under the best of conditions).  We'll have another huge crawl in mid-summer, when all of us experience the summer doldrums.  And I'm trying to arrange a kind of 'visiting professor' program with friends in Ann Arbor, by which we will teach classes in each other's shops for travel expenses. 

But look at what has happened!  When the recession lifts, we will have forged links with people we barely knew, enriched our own lives, and grown as artisans through interaction with new people.  I had never met the wonderful women from Sweet Pea and Labor of Love, far to the north of us; now, we can visit and talk and compare notes.   Perhaps more important:   Everyone talks about the politics of yarn shops in Michigan (a phrase actually used by a yarn rep); we can break down walls, make it USUAL rather than unusual for owners to mix and mingle and visit and share.  This will be a lasting legacy of an economic disaster.  We will have succeeded in chipping away at those walls in ways that have not happened over 20 years of prosperity.

Second, and in some ways most important, we have been forced to fall back on The Local, our own resources -- local teachers, local resources.  I now carry a huge supply of Stonehedge yarns from East Jordan, Michigan - gorgeous medium and fine-weight woolens, including Deb McDermott's exquisite mill-end yarns, which our people have been fashioning into socks and amazing little sweaters.  No two skeins are identical.  Local talent, local materials, and local self-reliance.  Cultivating one's garden.
During World War II, there were victory gardens; we have gardens of knotted wool.

What a joy to contemplate all of this.    . svb

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