I don’t call what we do handmade. I call it small-batch. Everything, except when attaching a button, is sewn by machine. The industrial sewing machines we use are the same as one would see in a factory anywhere in the world.
My concern about the word handmade is that it can, sometimes, have the negative connotation of ‘unprofessional’ or otherwise lower in skill ( beyond that it is simply inaccurate.)
Since we are running a retail space, I get to see lots of customer interactions with the clothing. Items that are drapey jersey, or with abstract appliques, are immediately greeted by customers saying out loud “oh! this is handmade.”
Despite the fact that the sewing machines and cutting table are about ten feet away from the underwear display, the customer reaction is more typically “you actually make the underwear too?”
Look at this contrast. Why do walk-ins immediately see that the drapey, asymmetrical pieces are handmade? Why are they surprised that the underwear and lingerie are? (The reason, of course, is the aesthetic of standardization.)
In the next room over (SEAWALL) we’ve got racks of shirting, mostly mens, that are made in the same workshop. The shirts, made using classic techniques, don’t announce ‘handmadeness’ or even ‘small-batchness’- and customers, consequently, are surprised that the items are made in the next room.
I’ve always had an affinity for handmade aesthetic. My parents were of the 1970s back-to-the-land generation, and one of the books I loved to look at growing up was “Handmade Houses : A Guide to the Woodbutcher’s Art.” That handmade aesthetic origin seems to be undergoing a bit of a revival; as I mentioned the other day, “Cabin Porn” is an extremely popular board title on pinterest, a blog, and probably a book too. (It’s not about porn. it’s about handmade houses in the remote landscapes.)
When I was a child, we were allowed to paint and draw on the walls of our house. Not random, messy paintings- if I recall, they had to be pre-planned, approved (by parents) and well-executed.
Actually, a couple years ago a woman came into the store when I was working. She looked around a bit, and then curiously asked my name- which I told her and she exclaimed “oh! I think I live in the house you grew up in. We still have some of your paintings on the wall!”
My family moved out of that house when I was fourteen, so this was probably twenty years after those paintings were done :)
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There’s an island nearby, Mackworth, with a walking path. It also has easter eggs (to use the technical term) for attentive walkers: some of the trees have small elfin faces carved into them, sort of high up- above my eye level.
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Actually, the relaunch, just over a year ago, of Brook There as a lingerie-focused brand coincided with a bit of rebranding. Daniel developed a new logo that represented the new, more grown-up version of the brand.
and we ordered a full collection of ‘real’ care labels and woven labels.
The rebranding was successful- in the sense that sales grew. The workshop grew as well. I was scanning through some old writing this morning in order to add a “popular posts” widget to the sidebar. It’s fascinating to realize how much my approach to dealing with people, employees, and co-workers has matured. I’d almost forgotten how much of a struggle it was- for so long, and how easy it is now. As an introvert, being around people all day took some adjustment- but now that it’s familiar, the shop feels lonely and empty if there aren’t at least two other people there.
So what I see, as I look back at older work, and its handmade aesthetic, was a beautiful, but deliberate, isolation. Working as an artist as opposed to working as part of a business.
I’m enjoying the progression out of handmade, and the consequent aesthetic development.