My identity crisis

(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.

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9 thoughts on “My identity crisis”

  1. It’s wrong, right, to sit back all smug and say, “I told you so.”? Right?

    I should make myself a pin to wear . . .

    (((hugs))) You are amazing and wondeful . . . but I still told you so! ;o)

    1. I was going to say that “I told you so” are words that you–being as wonderful and supportive as you are–would never, ever utter…but you know what? Go ahead. I deserve it. šŸ™‚

      1. *ahem* No, no of course I would *never* utter those words. I don’t know that I can even say them, all together like that. . . honestly. . .

  2. This makes good sense considering the fact that while you may not have a problem with buying from Christian folk the reverse may not be the case. The thing is pagans that are heavily into crafts sometimes, to me mainstream their products, choose not to share that part of themselves as they downright know it’s going to raise some brows. Personally, I prefer to buy products (from herbs to pendulums to tarot bags) from pagan/witchy stores but not because I have a problem with Christian folk. Instead, I choose to buy from Pagan/witchy stores because I think it’s important to support the folks producing awesome products and choose to emphasize their Pagan/witchy-ness as there’s no shame in it. As you noted in your post on Fehu, I wouldn’t opt to buy from a Pagan store over a Christian store if the latter had better quality in their products than the former because, at the end of the day, money still doesn’t grow on trees! Blessings.

    1. The temptation to market to the mainstream is very, very strong, because no artist or craftsperson wants to intentionally cripple their ability to reach as wide a market as possible. The only trouble with that is that everyone else out there is trying to do exactly the same thing. In SEO terms (probably the clearest way of looking at it), the first challenge is to be found at all, and the wider the pool you’re targeting the less chance there is of that happening. (There are a LOT of responses to a Google search for “handspun yarn”–a LOT. So, narrowing your own focus down even a little, by ANY factor, is actually a good thing.)

  3. I at first tried to do this with my writing as well. But I found I couldn’t help that Pagan-ish themes and such kept creeping into my work, so eventually I said “oh well” and just went with it.

    I still don’t post much about my spirituality on my writing blog though. Instead I reserve that for my more personal livejournal.

    1. Yeah, I am intending to reserve the more explicitly spiritual posts for this blog, though I’m sure some of it will leak over…(Though my struggle right now is mostly finding enough time to post at all as well as spin and promote the store, all while still working full time.)

      1. Yea, totally understand that! Sometimes being busy is a good thing, sometimes though it just gets in the way šŸ˜›

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