The Triumph of the Creative Spirit
PieceWork always has been a bit of an anomaly. What does that name mean, anyhow? Is it a quilt magazine? (No, except for occasionally.) Newsstand managers don’t know where to put it on the racks. Advertisers don’t know how to relate to it, because it’s not just about stitching, or knitting, or lacemaking, or crochet. Sometimes it’s about making pom-poms out of moose hair! Or darning old petticoats!
I remember pretty vividly how the name came to be, though, back in 1993. We put together a focus group (except that we only invited people who we thought would “get it”). Then we floated some names, and then we picked the one we liked best anyhow. The Madison Avenue types would laugh.
We liked the name because it spoke to the kind of piece work that women often did for survival in earlier times: Making crocheted floral motifs for the wealthy in dark, cold Irish crofts; knitting woolen gloves for sale in the British Dales, at the rate of a pair a day, while tending the children and the fires and the livestock and the evening meals; sewing collars in New York sweatshops such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. It was an homage to the exquisite skills exercised under the harshest conditions by women of earlier times and passed down to those of us who can practice them to embellish our lives and enrich our leisure time today.
Of course, much of the content of the magazine over the past eighteen years has not had this rather grim social shadow. Many craftswomen (and men) of the past practiced their skills for pure pleasure. Many found pure pleasure in creating special handmade touches as humble as pot holders or pillowcase edgings—homely objects that we can appreciate and cherish today. If you were to go back through old issues of the magazine, now numbering more than 100, you’d see that really the recurring theme is the triumph of the creative spirit among ordinary people. But how would you make a title out of that?