Sunday, August 9, 2009
Tithing for Textiles
I recently had an Etsy customer buy three of my ralli quilts. She bought two the first time and then several weeks later, a third one. Most of what I carry in my shops are low end items, under $30. Textile stamps have the biggest following, but the remnants, beads, fabric and molas also get their share of attention. The higher end, vintage textiles (ralli quilts, suzani embroideries and kilims), sit for a longer period in my shops, but eventually, the right person finds them and they also sell. This customer mentioned that she was excited to spend money from her textile fund.
Textile fund? Interesting.... She set aside money every month until she had enough to buy something that really was special to her. That got me to thinking.... Most of the people that I know have lost a lot of money during these hard economic times. This lost money means that "disposable" income that could be used for fun, for impulse purchases, is gone. The belt tightens up and priorities (mortgages, utilities, food, etc.) take precedence over unnecessary purchases. Most would argue that buying a textile or art falls into that "unnecessary" category. Yet, even in hard times, most of us spend money on non-art things that we also don't need: a coffee, an electronic toy, a hamburger, and so on. $10 here, $15 there. I would argue that there is a place, a needed one, for beautiful, handmade things in our lives. So, what if we actually made that a priority and set up a fund for beauty?
So, maybe setting up a separate bank account for beauty is one way to go. My customer also made me think of the concept of tithing. This is a practice many churches have of giving 10% of one's income back to the church in order to fund church projects and to help the poor. Jews, Muslims, and other religions have similar concepts. In the old days, this concept went beyond money and included one's labor: crops or products. At different points in European history, tithing was translated into taxation, overseen by the Church with political backing. Forced tithing or taxation resulted in imprisonment, land grabbing and finally, revolts. Tithing went back to a voluntary concept.
In thinking about this, I am attracted by the idea of not only setting up a beauty fund, but of also allocating a percentage of one's productivity toward charity. Those of us who are artists do have an asset that can be given back to society. We can volunteer our knowledge to a community program (after-school programs, nursing homes, hospitals, homeless shelters, etc) through teaching a free workshop or we can donate items that we make or our computer skills to fund-raising events or to the less fortunate around us.
Each of us has to find our place in this world and to choose how we spend our buying power and our productive energy. The handmade movement does have a huge impact on what is being made (is it junk?) and where these things end up. We can save for beauty, tithe for it, work for it, and slowly change the perceptions of what we need and want. My thanks to a wonderful customer who made me do a bit of thinking!