Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Producer

Twenty yards of finished wraps,
ready to go to the customer.
Last week, I mentioned the 25 yards of baby wraps on the loom. They shipped yesterday.

My bread and butter right now is coming from weaving baby wraps. What are baby wraps, you're wondering: basically, four to six (or more) yards of 28-inch wide handwoven fabric, hemmed at each end. They're basically longer, updated versions of the rebozo, that indespensible shawl worn for centuries by Latin American women. There are a couple of companies that mass-produce these things (MobyWrap is the best-known), but there's a real desire for handwoven wraps, primarily because they have finished selvedges (something lacking on 90% of the fabrics made today). Custom designs are even more popular, as customers can buy exactly what they want...if they have enough money. They are, for all intents and purposes, the wedding dress of motherhood.

The design:
Erin's Rainbows
It turns out, I'm pretty good at weaving baby wraps. I have the necessary equipment, namely, a really big loom with a really big sectional warp beam, and an AVL warping wheel, so winding a 20-30 yard warp onto the loom is not difficult. I don't mind the tedious work of weaving 20-25 yards of plainweave--it's boring, but that's what audiobooks are for. I produce beautiful selvedges--important when this cloth can't have turned selvedges. I weave pretty fast. And, I have the design sense and patience to work with a customer to take her ideas and turn them into a working design.

Erin's Rainbows: On the loom
I see a lot of weavers dive into weaving baby wraps, and nearly as many jump back out of that particular pool, once they discover the amount of time and level of tedium involved in production weaving. It is, quite frankly, a lot of work for not a lot of money. I keep my prices toward the mid-range of what production weavers charge, as I like the idea that someone who might never buy art is getting a piece of artwork (I do consider creating textiles to be "art") for a few hundred dollars. At that rate, I'm making enough to cover my costs, along with a small (just above minimum wage) wage for myself. Instead, I get "paid" in the satisfaction of working as an artist (it beats teaching any day), and seeing my artwork make people happy.

Erin's Rainbows:
The finished cloth
Now, I have to get back to work, as I'm starting to wind another warp, for another batch of baby wraps.