Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pardon me while I ramble...

I have noticed something for the last year or two that I have been muddling around in my mind and thought I'd report on it here. When I first started selling my tatted jewelry, most people I met - probably about 90% - at least had heard of tatting, and most of those knew at least one person who tatted, the most common being an elderly relative or neighbor or nun (if they went to Catholic school). I mean, my grandmother was the only person I knew who did it when I was growing up. It was also surprising the number or people who recognized it from crossword puzzles - "to make lace" - three letter word - "tat." At any rate, many did not know that the craft was still being done because they had not seen or heard anything about it for years.

That has changed. I would say that now about 50%-60% of the people I meet at shows have heard of tatting - again with most of those knowing about it because they knew someone who tatted. Now - it can depend on the show, it's location and promoters (for example, most people coming to a Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen show know what tatting is). It took me a while to process the fact, acknowledge that things were changing, try to analyze the reasons why, and figure out how I was going to adapt to this growing trend.

I think the main reason is this - this is hard for me to believe, because in some ways it feels like I just started yesterday, but I have been doing art/craft shows for the last fifteen years. In that time, a shopping generation has gone on, and a new one has come up - in other words, people that were teenagers when I started are now the customers I see in my booth. For them, even if they had an elderly relative who tatted, it was probably a great-grandmother, and they never knew her or saw it done, so they are not at all familiar with the technique. Also, because there are few of us out in the public as often as I am - people still don't see it being done, and although the internet is a nice thriving area for tatters to mingle, learn, and grow their craft - most people of this new generation wouldn't even know to search for it because they've never heard of it.

I think in the beginning I sold a lot of pieces simply because they were tatted, and the people who knew what it was were fascinated with this craft being used in a new way. Now I find I really have to be concerned about the design of a piece, have to watch color and style trends, develop my own particular "style," and my work has to sell because people like what it looks like on them, how it feels, and that fact that it is very unusual, rather than just because it is tatted.

When I started I enjoyed so much hearing people's memories about a mom or grandma who tatted. For them memories surfaced when they walked in my booth and they couldn't wait to share with someone else who knew what tatting was, since the never came across anyone else. I still get some of that, but it's much rarer today. Instead, I do a lot more education on the technique itself, introducing this craft to a new generation. For the most part, they are fascinated and eager to learn, and that is great fun too! Of course, I still share my own memories of my grandmother and how she taught me, and then tell them how it got started, show them how it's done, and encourage them to check out resources on the web if they are interested in pursuing it further.

So, that's my ramble for today.

And now for just a little eye candy! :-)

This is a pattern my grandmother loved to do - I've never seen it anywhere, so I think she just sort of made it up - she liked to just pick up the shuttle and tat away.

Please feel free to comment below on any interesting trends you've noticed while out in public with your tatting, or maybe hits or comments on your website, or what it's like being a tatter in your family or hometown.


Marty said...

Interesting post, Elizabeth. I wonder how many people have had similar experiences. Because I don't do craft shows, or sell my tatting, I don't get the kind of public reaction you do. If I tat in public (in the park, at the airport, waiting in lines -- that kind of thing). I occasionally have people ask me what I'm doing. Sometimes I hear people whispering, but too shy to ask. My family knows what tatting is, because I do it. I taught one of my nieces, and would like to teach the others. It would be a shame if WE became the great-grandmothers and didn't pass it on to the younger generation.

Lace-lovin' Librarian ~ Diane said...

Until I started meeting people over the Internet, my friend Denise was the only person I knew who tatted. Of course, there was the girl who gave me my first tatted cross, but that was in the late 60s, and she only lived in our neighborhood a few months.

I have had people ask what I'm doing, and they're interested, but not enough to learn how... until this past weekend! There was a craft fair at the elementary school (mostly junk), and I ran into two 6th grade girls who took tatting lessons from me last spring. They asked if I would work with them again! I can't wait to show them the lovely tatted brooch you made!

Marilee Rockley said...

Well written post, Elizabeth. A couple years ago I tried really hard to get a tatting guild going in my town, and people would show up for one meeting, seem very interested, but then not come back. I think mostly it was a scheduling issue, juggling work, family, and other commitments.
As far as my HDT goes, I've had success selling online because of all the tatters who have an idea of the quality and rarity of this type of thread. When I was at the harvest art fair last year (Lace-lovin' librarian was there!)people of all ages were very attracted to my tatted jewelry. I was tatting at the event, and some people showed an interest, though most of them didn't want to take time for a "lesson". They admired the HDT, but didn't know what to use it for!
My own offspring are all boys, and not interested in any of "mom's stuff". So, I'm happy to have the Internet.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for commenting - I'm so interested to hear other people's experiences and opinions about this. Something else that I was reminded of as I'm reading your comments - I also get quite a few people each show who are interested in learning - but very few who actually contact me about pursuing it further. I'm not sure why, although I can certainly speculate - I know I see things I'd love to learn, but once I get back to my busy life I realize I have no time.
I have twin boys so they could pretty much care less about the tatting, but I do have one niece, and my sister is planning on adopting a little girl so that would be two nieces I could teach. I totally agree with your comment, Marty, that it would be a shame if someday WE were the great-grandmothers who were not able to pass it on, for whatever reason.

Unknown said...

When I taught tatting classes at a craft store years ago most people would get teary eyed talking about their older female relative who tatted and how they regretted not learning and how happy they were to finally get a chance they thought they would never have. It was my favorite part of the class.
In recent years I have met more people who have also heard of it from the crossword puzzles from the clue "3 letter word for make lace". As I've Demo'd tatting at state fairs and such more and more people have become aware because of the internet as you say. I think it is wonderful. I enjoy every chance I get to share this beautiful craft with others, whether it's full on teaching them or having the privelege of being the one person who first exposed them to it.
Thank you for sharing the pattern your grandmother tatted, you've appropriately honored her with that lovely vinage collage of a brooch. How appropo. Lovely post, Elizabeth, thank you for sharing...I may have just repeated your post verbatim in my comment, so forgive me if I have, it's just that I've had similar thoughts as have others' I see from there comments, also.

Barbara Gordon said...

This cameo is just beautiful! That blue is gorgeous and is my favorite color. I wish I could come up these ideas and also find the cameos!