Most days in the studio I look for meaning in the process, not in the end result. It might not seem that way to many as the thing most people see and react to is the end result of what I do, in the form of something they might purchase from me or enjoy looking at online.
But the reality of it all is, that much of the meaning is experienced in the process. This is where all the wondering begins, questions are asked, and solutions discovered. I appreciate simple process and basic beginning points. I really enjoy creating and practicing a process. Always have.
This past week, I had the first wholesale order of shibori ribbon in a while. I have adjusted my process a bit to fit the scale of what I am doing these days. Also, jumping around in the studio from one process to another isn’t exactly the model of efficiency. (shibori silk dyeing, indigo dyeing, moon making, teaching zoom workshops, card making, putting together fabric packs, flower making and more-phew!) That always bugs me. I feel like I am spread too thinly.
Some things are like riding a bicycle, you remember how even if you are a bit wobbly and slow at first. But you can improve the more you do it (the practice thing). I can make shibori ribbon with ease, in general. In the past I had enough orders to facilitate the making on a bigger and more efficient scale.
What do I mean by this? For example, the base dyeing. Generally, I would base dye a minimum of 60 yards of a color. If an order was for 200 yards of 12-15 different colors, I would probably be base dyeing 600-900 yards of ribbon. The extra would be consumed by the future orders and only the colors I was short of would be put into the mix for the next order.
Now, I do one order at a time. An order for 12 rolls of 12 different colors are produced one 10 yard roll at a time. Overall, this takes more time, wastes more dye, uses more water. When it comes to the overdyeing part, it takes me almost the same time to dye one colorway as it would to dye two of the same colorway. In all of this, I am spending more time to make less product and less income. I’m getting older, working harder, making less income. (Quite a familiar scenario for many these days!) These are the things I have to consider in the process. Yes, I could raise my price. I suspect I will have to the next time I have to order silk- we all understand rising prices for materials and transportation.
I’ve been also considering another option. Ending wholesale orders and switching to retail only. Seems like the practical choice.
I have some reservations about doing this. I like my wholesale customers and have created good relationships and even friendships with many of them over the more than a decade of making and selling the ribbon wholesale. I liked the fact that several of them are (and were… no longer in business) small businesses like myself and we formed interdependent relationships that benefited us both. So that feels like a loss to me. But over the past two years, wholesale orders have slowed to a near stop. The pandemic is responsible for a large portion of this but not all of it. Much like the sun and moon both rise and set, a product also has a trajectory that has a beginning, a middle, and sometimes an ending. But generally things do have a season of popularity. I have seen these product arcs last ten years or so with products I have created in the past. The shibori ribbon has seen even more time than that (since 2006/07 ish) so I am grateful!
I still love it, its beauty, the process, and all the customers that use it in their creative works. It’s really such an honor to see what you all do with it and all the beautiful things that have been made with it. Yes, there have been quite a number of people who started to make shibori ribbon to compete with me. None that I am familiar with did so on a wholesale level. That’s harder. They were more interested in getting the higher retail price selling only direct to customers. I took it to a different place.
So right now, I have one more wholesale order to complete. And from then on, I’m going to go retail only for a while. I think. Of course I can always change my mind.
I will also say that when I started making the ribbon, very few were even aware of what shibori was, let alone this new fangled thing called shibori ribbon. It was a unique creation that inspired lots of wonderful making over the years.
I thought it might be fun to do a visual look-back on shibori ribbon over time. I have a number of slide show vids and photos I’ll post below. At least I will record them again here in one place and one post. For now. It will take me a while to get set up and post product for retail only on the ribbon, but in the meantime, I’m cutting up all current stock for shibori ribbon scrap bags just to make a clean sweep.
Like a wildflower mix. Seed your imagination. Water with wonder and creativity!
And start over. In the shop here.