dollars and sense...

Recently I've been talking to teachers about their workshops, and working on the jigsaw puzzle that is the schedule of our offerings for the next couple of months. I am super excited about the return appearance of Mary Jane Mucklestone on our line-up, as well as the addition of the terribly talented Julia Farwell-Clay for you knitters. I have also been talking with some guest teachers from further afield about Summer and Fall workshops. Oh the cool things we will be learning! So I thought this would be a good moment to talk about how things work here at AGOS. This is not a sexy post. At the bottom are some beautiful pictures to reward you for getting all the way down there.

Thinking about our future offerings makes me think about some feedback I have gotten recently. What choices do you make? Every time you pull out your wallet, or click on the Buy Now/Pay With PayPal/One Click button, you make a decision about what is valuable to you. And making that choice is rarely a casual one these days. Those bloody 1%'ers screwed things up for the rest of pretty royally six years ago. Despite all its hard work, our economy is still struggling. So those choices you make need to be that much more careful these days. We are all watching our wallets, our bank accounts and our spending. 

When your purchases are guided primarily by price you are often driven to the internet. Sometimes you have other options and can make purchases with more factors in mind. I prefer to buy from a human being, but sometimes I need to turn to the internet. I will tell you that I do not shop online unless I have to. So when I do, I buy from fabric purveyors that I know are real people located in a real place, making a living by reaching an audience beyond their immediate geography.  I do not shop at the larger corporate businesses that dot our landscape, unless there is absolutely no other choice. I try and make my purchases, the times when I use my buying power, mean something. I buy my groceries as locally as possible. Here in Portland we are lucky to have a couple of great options to do just that- Rosemont Market, Harbor Fish, the Farmer's Market. I buy fabric from Mary at Z Fabrics, I buy yarn from Susie at KnitWit. In fact I support these local businesses so much that I am instituting a new policy here at AGOS.  Buy your supplies for any workshop at Z Fabrics, KnitWit, PortFiber, Tess's Designer Yarns, Central YarnsAlewives Fabrics, Home Remedies, Grace Robinson, Cotton Weeds, Over The Rainbow Yarns, Fiber & Vine, FiddleHead Artisan Supplyand Casco Bay Fibers and I will give you 10% off the price of any registration. Click on any of these names to be taken to their websites. {if there are any I am missing they are also included, tell me who I overlooked…}

If you are a Buy Local kind of person, you know that there is often a less expensive way to go. But you make the choice to buy local because you know the implications of your choice.  You know how much of your purchase stays here in your community. Here at A Gathering of Stitches I am trying as much as economically possible to be a local business. That means a couple of things that influence my prices. 

I pay my teachers what would be a living wage if they were full time employees (which I am unable to do at this point, but would love to get to).  This was a choice I made from the beginning because I believe in quality. I value quality, and expertise, and authenticity. I believe in the craft world, I believe that we all need people who make a living from creating, from working just slightly outside of the norm, from following their artistic dreams.  I think these people give us our soul as a community. They reflect what we are feeling and experiencing. They give us the padding, the comfort to slog through our daily lives.  I want to do my small part to keep them creating, making, contributing to this community. This whole venture was born out of the desire to provide a home for the creative in this community. A place for them to work (studios), to create (the equipment and space for rent), and to grow (the workshops). Creativity takes many forms around here, so these resources are here for everyone from the absolute beginner, the dabbler, on up to the small business person.  I was lucky to find what I think is a pretty perfect location here in East Bayside. It is big enough to support a large community with as much equipment as I can afford (a level I am always seeking to raise). But it is not free. I have a good landlord, but he is a businessman. I will not bore you with all the expenses involved in keeping the lights on and the doors open…. 

This brings us to the most ephemeral part of my pricing- what we are offering you. When I said I value quality, that means that I seek to provide the very best instruction I can offer. People who love what they do are often (not always, but often) the best teachers. They pass on their love of the practice. They are emotionally and professionally invested in teaching you the best they can. These are the people who teach here at AGOS. The things that we teach you should stick in your craw. We are teaching skills that will survive beyond the length of the actual workshop. We strive to really teach you to sew, knit, quilt, dye, embroider and screen print. We want you to finish a workshop and have a new skill to take with you in your life. To use over and over again. These should be experiences that you absorb, that give you skills that you can apply to your daily life, that can add to your arsenal of tools to deal with the modern experience.  To try and spread this experience we do offer various entry points for activities at AGOS. We have Stitch-In's that are completely free, we have Open Studio nights where you get guidance and help with projects for $15-20 and then we have workshops that range in price from $30 to $250.  We want to give everyone who is interested a way in the door.  We're not just teaching to amuse ourselves, we are teaching because we love these hand crafts, we think they make life better, we think they contribute positively to our existence. Not trying to sound lofty here, but obviously we all believe in this stuff, this working with your hands thing. So when we put a price on a workshop it is not an arbitrary number. It is based on all of the above factors. It is because we value these experiences and we believe you will too.

And ultimately it comes down to your choice. I just want you to know that if you choose to spend your hard earned dollars on time at A Gathering of Stitches, I and all of my teachers, are going to do everything we can to make sure you get the most out of that experience. When you pay to learn at A Gathering of Stitches you are helping other makers do their making, you are supporting this creative community that you are a part of. You are insuring that these resources will continue to be here for us all to use. You are learning new skills, and you should be having a great time too!