When I am selling my work out in the world or showing gallery photos while I’m teaching, a question I get asked pretty often is “Who does your sewing?” The answer is always “me”.

That question always surprises me. And maybe my answer surprises you too.

I don’t hear my pottery friends get asked “who does your glazing?” or the jewelry makers “who does your polishing?” but somehow the design and the sewing parts of what I do seem like they should be disconnected. I’ve heard other makers say that they hire out sewing or get things manufactured overseas because they want to spend their time on “more important” parts of what they do. Or that their time is too valuable to be used on sewing.

I am a pretty skilled seamstress because I have put in many hours of practice and I have an interest in being skilled at it. I have been asked many many times if I would “production sew” pieces for other people or if I would share where I get my pieces sewn, so I know it’s a skill that is much in demand. So I am always puzzled by the idea that it is a less valuable or integral part of what I make.

This week has been a week of what I call a “sewing days”. I was working on a wholesale order for a collaboration I am doing with the Guthrie Shop and another for a shop in Seattle that sells my work. Today, I hemmed and pressed tea towels, I hand stitched the finishing on scarves, I serged tiny rolled hems on the edges of chiffon wraps.

I love sewing days. I get to binge watch something on my laptop (today was NCIS) or listen to an audiobook and shut down the creative designing part of my brain to work with my hands. Being an artist requires a lot of thinking. I am constantly thinking about new designs to make, new classes to teach, statements I want to make with my work, creative ways to market it and a million administrative tasks like sending invoices or following up on contracts. It is refreshing (and necessary) to have days where I can turn all of that off. This is just as valuable to me as all of those thinking days. It’s a balance.

One of the reasons that I was drawn to being an artist is that I love to work with my hands. It’s more than just thinking “it’s fun”. It’s something I have to do. I just got back from a week-long vacation and I joked with several friends about being bad at going on vacation. After I few days, I am tired of seeing and listening and absorbing all the new things and I need to DO something. It’s like an itch. My brain craves that activity. (I can’t imagine going without at least one knitting project to work on. The horror!)

To be perfectly honest and practical, I am picky. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t afford to hire someone that paid as much attention to detail as I do. I don’t want my work to be sewn in factories overseas where workers are paid pennies for having the same skills I have. I don’t want half of that piece of art to be made with someone else’s hands.

So the answer to the question “Who does your sewing?” is enthusiastically “ME!” Because sewing is a skilled hand craft just as much as illustration and surface design. It is one component of what I make, just like glazing and polishing and sanding are in other art forms. I want my art to be something I do from start to finish and not something I do only for the “fun parts”. It’s a reason that I have always focused my fabric design process and business way more toward making vs licensing.

So when I think about that sewing question, I wonder what those “more important” things are that those other makers talk about. I can’t think of any.