Sunday, September 9, 2012

A little frustrated

Gratuitous Max photo - no frustration there!
I spent 2 hours on Saturday afternoon at my neighborhood arts league, where I'm supposed to be teaching an embroidery class this fall.

I say supposed to, because as of Saturday afternoon, no one has signed up.  This could partly be because of advertising, and the near lack thereof, but I also think it's a fundamental problem in people these days.  Not all people - look who I'm speaking to here, after all - but allow me to vent and generalize a little.

They've had little or no interest in any kind of handcraft classes in recent years.  There are occasional painting classes, but none in the last few years.  Pottery and ceramics have an enduring popularity, but from what I saw, most are repeat students who have no other access to a wheel and a kiln.  There's yoga, of course, and flamenco, and a raft of kids' and after-school classes.

But no sewing, no embroidery, no textile based classes at all.  Not even knitting.  And years ago, when I was in my 20s, this very same place used to cover all of downtown Philadelphia with flyers for classes that included embroidery, quilting, trapunto for pete's sake.  Trapunto.  And now I can't even get anyone excited about embroidery, much less sewing.

I shouldn't say that.  There were quite a few women who stopped by my table and were interested in the pieces I had displayed and who wanted to talk about embroidery.  Not one of them was born in this country, and every single one of them already knew how to embroider.  I spoke to Muslim women from several regions, Indians, Chinese, South American American women . . . all of whom were interested and who told me about the patterns and stitches prevalent in their cultures.

While the women of our culture (or at least the one I visibly resemble) walked past the table without even looking, and when I did speak to a few women at the snack table, their comments were that their grandmothers did stuff like that, but isn't it great now that we don't have to do all that hard work and can just buy whatever we want, already made.

No.  No, it's not great.  It sucks that most people can't see that sometimes the effort of creating something is more interesting, more fun, more worthwhile than plunking down a couple of bucks at Walmart for something embroidered by a machine, most likely operated by a child, probably in some third world country that they wouldn't even want to visit on vacation.

First class is supposed to be Monday night.  They need 3 bodies for it to go forward.

It's cooler now, the sewing room is bearable.  I think I'm going to prep a few sewing projects this weekend.  I'll need something to do Monday evenings this fall.


Michelle said...

I am really sorry :( I can understand your frustration. I routinely get complimented on my clothes that I make and when people ask where I got it, I tell them that I made it. Then, they ask me, "Why?" to which I respond, "Why not?" They usually laugh uncomfortably and move away.

People either get it and are really into it, or they don't get it and want nothing to do with it.

SEWN said...

That is frustrating. I'm so sorry. I hope you can drum up the interest in time. Miss you!!!

badmomgoodmom said...

When I was in grad school, I answered a flyer in the Physics building for a new quilt group that met after hours in a lab. The wife of a visiting professor in the department joined us even though she didn't quilt. She belonged to the embroiderers' guild in her native Scotland and just wanted the company while she embroidered. She was also curious about American patchwork. She did such inventive things w/ her embroidery that I wouldn't have categorized as embroidery.

Once, I watched her cut up shot silk taffeta into squares and then sew them back together, rotating some of the squares to get a subtle color change effect. Is that embroidery or hand piecing? She was really pushing craft forward, w/ a nod to tradition.

I try to do that with my own garment sewing, knitting, quilting and textile explorations as well.

kms handmade said...

I'm sorry about your class. I know that can be disappointing. I run a craft center and see first hand the ebb and flow of what classes people are interested in at any given time. Embroidery is one of those we struggle with too. I think the key is locking in on something that grabs their attention that they want for themselves. Maybe like a cool handbag or embroidery on jeans. I also like embroidering kids drawings. It's just the hook to get them interested. Don't give up! There are young people who believe in slow fashion and handcrafting! I'm one of the and I work with them and I follow their blogs! And just to give you a little hope, I've been tossing around the idea of doing a trapunto class! :)

kms handmade said...

PS I'm not a good commenter, but I like following your blog. I shared your post about your new chicken with my husband because it was so funny!

Jenni said...

I am so sorry. Its the same here too. Plus the few classes that do take place, happen in the day time so that working women (or men for that matter) can't access them. It does drive me mad that people can't see that there is more value in something you have made yourself than in the cack that is retailed in the cheap stores. And of course to hone a skill is a challenge and you get such a reward from achieving something that was a challenge. A fair few people nowadays seem unwilling to challenge themselves in this way and don't see the rewards.
I hope that you do get some people interested in your classes. Its such a shame that someone is willing to pass on skills and people don't take up the opportunity.

Karen said...

So sorry to hear that-the Arts League is such a great place! Yeah it's like that. I did teach a friend at work to knit socks, but the usual response is "my wife's mother might have a machine" "why would you want to sew?" "I just discard things at Goodwill if they rip" Even DH asks why knit socks? Most people just don't get it.

Lisette M said...

Why is it so hard to understand the feeling of accomplishment with having something to show that you put together with your hands and your mind?

My question is what do you do with your time? Because we are all busy, but I rather be in the sewing room creating than walking around the mall finding something that I like and fits.

I would take your class, I need a refreshing course.

Anonymous said...

The embroidery class that I took in London was arranged by the Kensington and Chelsea Womens Club, which is a club of bored expat housewives. It was pretty well-attended. The teacher was the real deal (she also taught at the Royal School of Needlework), but all of the participants except me were embroidering from kits that they bought at a department store. You know, cross-stitch kits with puppies on them. It was more of a stitch-and-bitch group than a real class, although the teacher would go around to each student while they worked and make helpful suggestions. Then when the teacher got to me, she would get all stern and criticise my work in fairly harsh terms. It took me some getting used to, but her suggestions were so great that it was worth it.

So, maybe if it were less like a class and more like a book group, you might get more interest?


Anonymous said...

The only thing people do use their fingers for is cellphones. Renita in NC

Anonymous said...

I feel for you; I hope you get enough students.
In the realm of jewelry and metalwork, i have often signed up for classes that don't get the minimum participation needed. I have found that anything but introductory classes are very likely to actually get enough students. What disappointment! I have stopped actively looking for local classes to take, and only look for classes at conferences and bead shows.
With sewing classes, it is difficult to find one that is not during my work day. Retreats are wonderful, but it would be nice to have some more options. I think that skill level and interest vary so greatly that it is hard to meet everyone's needs.
Have you thought about teaching a class on Craftsy, or similar sites? I'm thinking of taking a class on or Craftsy at some point.
Good luck!

Erzulimojo said...

I think Kelly had some good suggestions on marketing a class in handwork. I know, I know, I know all about the strange looks and almost pitying condescension from those who can't imagine the pleasures of working with textiles and creating your own beautiful things. I love your blog and also read your new chicken post outloud to my family. Have you posted on Craigs List and like?

mimi jackson said...

Don't be discouraged. There are moments of general malaise, and reluctance to spend money, effort and thought on such things... and then the weather and general mood changes, and people start to think differently... You never know. I've been in this and related businesses for quite some time now, and it all moves in cycles.

renee said...

So sorry about your class. If I was a bit closer I would take it. I'd love to learn embroidery properly and would jump at the chance to take a class with you.

BJ in TX said...

I had to look to see where you're located - I wanted to take your class! It would be a long commute as I'm in Texas. I'm so sorry as I would love to be there.

Seraphinalina said...

I completely understand. My mom was invited to teach some classes, intro to quilting and a sewing class and has faced similar registration issues. People would say they were interested, but not actually enough to register. There are certainly people who want to do things themselves, but they seem to be the exception. I hope interest increases for your class.