Thursday, March 26, 2009

Where Have You Been, Pretty Jane?

Away. Busy. Overwhelmed. Changing directions. Moping, occasionally.

I've been going through A Thing.

On the one hand, I've been starting a new venture--have I mentioned Whipstitch yet, my baby, my passion? It's really taking off and becoming so much more than I ever, ever thought it could be. I mostly blog about it separately rather than here, but there are a lot--A LOT--of gray areas, and sometimes I want to bring the overflow of all that excitement to this venue more. I'm sorry I haven't done that.

On the other hand, Pretty Jane has been doing some...well, not really growing. UNgrowing? Is that a real thing? And I didn't want to write about it--still don't really, so forgive me if I'm abstract and oblique when it comes to details today. Perhaps I'll feel more like elaborating as time goes by.

As Whipstitch grows, I've had to do a lot of hard thinking about what Pretty Jane IS. Ironic, no? When I've been building up and building up with posts and previews and giveaways of the spring line. I've said since the beginning of this company that I didn't really believe that Pretty Jane, as a company, was what my life holds for me--but with equal utter certainty, that Pretty Jane would lead in a very direct way TO what my life holds for me. The success and excitement and anticipation and satisfaction that I am currently seeing with Whipstitch leads me to see the truth in that vision, and to be very, very grateful for it. It also necessitates some changes of structure.

I wrote earlier this year that I was scaling back on Pretty Jane, planning to sew every piece myself again, that I'd had enough of playing Sisyphus and trying to push that boulder up the hill. My plan was to reduce my scale and focus more on my family. As soon as I began to do that, Whipstitch moved in as an entity with its own motivation, and has shown me what needs to be done next. That has been nothing short of a revelation for me, and I am so, so grateful.

To cement that, there have been bad experiences. There has been a lot of hurt. Reading a post over on Kelly Rae's blog today really drove that home for me. She alludes to a lot of the behavior that has led me to want to walk away from Pretty Jane altogether, the kind of insecurity and dishonesty that seems to come out with fangs bared when the economy gets bad and suddenly people feel threatened. Hypocrisy shows up then, too. I want very badly for my work, especially the creative part of me that is Pretty Jane, to be about so much more than just the stuff I make. I want it to reflect who I am and what I stand for and what matters most in this world.

It's been hard to feel passionate about Pretty Jane at a time when I feel a little defensive. But here is what I've learned, and where I stand: I love designing, and I know the things I make are good. I know that imitation is constant and relentless in this field--in any field. I also know that often inspiration and imitation are difficult to distinguish, and that it is possible for two individuals to have markedly similar ideas with no contact between them.  It saddens me to see so many people who could so easily work together and learn and benefit from one another work AGAINST each other and struggle needlessly. I feel a little ill when one individual accuses another of stealing an idea or a design or a concept and then turns right around and does the exact same thing.  Consistency is a reflection of one's ideals, and inconsistency is a reflection of a lack of character.  It makes me sad to see so much insecurity, so many people marking out territory in what is, essentially, unimportant--yes, I know that there are designers whose livelihood depends on the income from their design work, but I also know that none of this matters as much as our families and our friends and our spirits and our hearts. I will sacrifice none of those things in order to get ahead, and I will not go to the mat to fight over who invented what and who got there first.  You want it? Take it. I'll just go make something better.

I suppose this sounds as though I disagree with what Kelly said; in fact, I don't. I feel very strongly that each person who designs and innovates should get full credit for what they do and what they create. I also feel that duplication is a part of the free market, and as such, is the price each of us pays for putting our ideas out there. Kelly gives excellent guidelines for a personal set of checks-and-balances to determine if you, in your heart, feel that you have appropriated someone else's ideas prior to selling them for profit; I urge you to read what she has to say.  It allowed me to work through some of the lingering ickiness I've been feeling, so that I can let it go and make a constructive new start.

One of the things I love most about Whipstitch is that it gives me the opportunity to sing the praises of other creators and designers. I've always felt a little hesitant to link to other sewers (and children's designers, especially) on this blog because I know that some of them DON'T want their work to be associated with any other designer--a concept I find deeply foreign and so confusing. I'm thrilled to talk about and talk up and revel in the ideas of others, and I feel so liberated to do that through Whipstitch.

And so, having digested all that, Pretty Jane has begun to tell ME what needs to come next. I'm leaving the boutique in which I've been a member for over two years, and am no longer taking custom orders. As of May 1, Pretty Jane will be Etsy-only, and I feel so, so good about that decision. No more pressure to produce volume--did I ever mention that manufacturing has always been the bane of my existance?? I love design, but manufacturing is HARD! No more pressure to try to outsmart the consumer and predict what they'll want--I just get to make what I like, and if others like it, too, well that's one more reason to greet the day with gratitude.

I hope none of this comes across sounding anything other than jubilant. I'm so thankful for everything Pretty Jane has offered me these last two years, and have learned so much. A lot about who I am and who I want to be. A lot about how to run a business and how to treat people, both of which feed directly into Whipstitch and are allowing me to experience the true happiness I am finding there.  Even the bad stuff has been good, really.  It has forced me to take a long look at my own motives and see if I measure up to the standards I set for others, a practice I think few of us do often enough.

I'm not leaving this blog. Just FYI. But it's becoming more personal in nature, more about me and my family and less about Pretty Jane. Pretty Jane has always been me, anyway, that part of me that wants to run and play. How sad that the last year or so I've felt like she was getting too rambunctious and needed to be told to settle down! Time to let her out again--thanks to all of you who've been so kind, you've been the balance to the mean voices, the insecure competitors who have taken the fun out of the game. I'm taking my toys and heading back to the Big Sandbox, and I hope to meet your smiling faces there for a long time to come!

The sun has already begun to shine, and shine bright, over at Whipstitch.  It's headed back over here, too.  See you soon, with my smile on...


dana said...

Great post. I was honestly wondering where you've been and hoped you hadn't gone private or something :).
Very interesting to see how you've evolved and found what you really love. I think about that all the time with my creative ventures. Life is always steering me in directions I could never forsee until I started sewing and creating and letting it go from there.
I'm excited for your Whipstitch love to grow and grow!

Carolyne said...

It's great to have found your blog!
Nice to meet you, btw. Isn't it wonderful to meet such crafty people in the blogosphere?

supa said...

Thank you so much for this post. You are such an inspiration -- perhaps even more so when you share the difficult side of things. Thanks again.