(cross-posted to Fensalir Fiber Art)
Or not mine exactly, but that of my business, Fensalir Fiber Art.
As those of you who have followed the evolution of my little Etsy fiber shop will know, this is an issue I’ve explored and reexplored since even before posting my first skeins of yarn. My recent post on Fehu in the Pagan Blog Project seems to have brought it to the forefront again. In that post, I talked about the fact that many pagans feel reluctant to spend their money on items crafted by strongly Christian artisans. I myself have no issues with doing so, but I respect the fact that many people do.
Recently it came to my attention that many fiber artists (spinners, knitters, weavers, what have you) are people of very definite and overt Christian faith. I’m not sure why this surprised me; after all, fiber working is a traditionally feminine craft in most cultures, and devout Christian women– at least those whose Christianity is a major part of their lifestyle and identity–seem to gravitate towards traditional femininity and its trappings. (This happens to be the same demographic of Christian women who choose to veil, unsurprisingly, and as a corollary to that there is a disproportionally high number of fiber people among pagan women who cover their heads–but I digress.)
Now, to a certain extent fiber (like most serious crafts) is its own language, and I’ve found myself able to talk freely to almost anyone who works with it, as long as the conversation is about fiber, spinning, knitting, sheep, and related topics. The one time I’ve brought up religion in the midst of such people I got a rather cold and mildly offensive reaction (I won’t go into detail), so I’ve learned not to do that again. As I said above, I don’t mind dealing with people on the level of fiber and working with it, and leaving it at that; people don’t need to be all things to me in order for me to find some use for them in my life. I also don’t have a probem buying my supplies from such people, or taking lessons from them to enrich my own art. (Hey , I’m Odin’s; we are nothing if not opportunistic.)
However it did get me thinking about my own efforts to keep my fiber store separate from my religous life, and I had to ask myself why. It’s one thing to maintain a separate blog for the store; that’s fine, and I’d rather reserve my more heavy duty, in-depth religious posts for my spiritual blog. But why try to downplay the fact of my being pagan when it is so central to my own identity, when it is in many ways the thing that defines me? What else is there that sets my work and my store apart–especially considering that most of the people I’m competing with have been doing this for far longer than me and have much more polished skillsets? It occurred to me that I am not increasing the appeal of my business by trying to downplay my pagan identity, but rather shooting myself in the foot. What about those pagans out there who knit or crochet and would love to have handspun yarn but don’t care to buy from flagrantly Christian handspinners? What about all the cool accessories with pagan appeal (Tarot card and rune bags, anyone? tailspun ritual crowns? handknitted headcoverings?) I could be making with my handspun? And how for the love of Sleipnir do I expect to blog, Tweet, and post to Facebook and Pinterest to help my prospective customers get to know me better when I’m trying to avoid mentioning such a central part of my life?
What sets me apart as a person and as an artist is, unquestionably, my pagan faith. Embracing that fact may not be my secret to success, but rejecting it and trying to compete on an equal playing field (I almost typed “equal plying field” there) is certainly not going to help my cause any.