AT the time when this very challenging year of our lives is about to finish I want to summarise my experience of it. I will unlikely be wrong when I say that for everyone the year 2020 was hard, unusual, challenging and noting like we’ve experienced before. But the most important thing is not how the year has been for us, but what we have learned from it, what experience and emotions we are carrying forward. Now it is more important than ever to choose right what we want to live with, and what we choose to change. Because what we don’t change by default we choose to have.
2020 started really good for me. My business was going well. I was running sewing classes and had plenty of mending jobs and custom orders and really enjoyed the business of this. I was happy. Really happy. Then came April and it all ended there… I went into deep, deep depression. I was waiting to go back to “normal” again, but each new week and month postponed this “normal” further and further. I lost hope. I was trying to find the meaning behind what has been happening in the world. It made me rethink everything in my life.
I could see rich people getting richer in spite of the crisis and lots of middle class and poor people loosing hope. And it made me realise that the “normal” we all want to go back to was not so “normal”. We got used to live this way. But humanity can surely do better than that. And now is the right time to rethink our ways, change what we don’t like and rebuild a better future.
I started to think about how many of my previous customers would actually be able to pay me for my sewing courses or completing a job? I know that many are going through really tough times, especially those who run small businesses who, like me, barely surviving without any income. I am lucky that my husband still has a job, so we have everything we need. But what about those single parents out there or families where both parents lost their jobs?..
Creative people put a lot of efforts into achieving the highest possible level of craftsmanship to charge the maximum for their work. Most also have huge egos and believe they need to work to the highest standards and then charge as much as possible. (I used to too, I am not an exception and I am not perfect, but I am learning). There is a general assumption that the higher the price, the better the quality you provide. But I am starting to really question this now. Does the price really reflect the value behind things? Do I want to live a life where everything I do is constantly compared against a certain amount of money someone thinks it might be worth?.. Yes, creatives deserve to earn enough money to live on and be fairly compensated for their work. But I am stating to believe that there are other ways of achieving it.
Do I want to live in a world where only people with money can afford to pay for ethical, sustainable, quality handmade things and the poor majority will continue to buy cheap items and discard them as they break because they can’t afford to pay for the repair either? When we go back to “normal”, do we really want to head in the direction of deeper social injustice, accumulation of wealth and power and the ever increasing divide between rich and poor? I don’t want this. I never did. I just never thought about it deeply enough before now. I started doing some research. I stumbled upon people like Marina Jacobi’s energy philanthropy and her video Money Structures, Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics. Where he poses the question, "Why does money seem to be a force for injustice and destruction? After all, it is just a system of agreements, a story." And, "What would a new story, a new system of agreements look like that were aligned with a healing planet?"
Our business models can either support the injustices of the modern world, or create a different story. And what we put our efforts into and where we spend our money can either create further division between us, or start a new beginning.
I have decided to transition to a business model where customers pay what they can. I have decided to never refuse a job or a place at my classes because someone cannot afford to pay for it going through hardship.
Right now, I have started with digitalising and putting up all my sewing patterns online, including zero waste patterns, completely for free. There is a donation button near every pattern for those who want and can donate after they have tried the pattern, but I leave it open for people to choose if they want to do so. I want the exchange be from the position of one’s heart rather than from the position of money. I am also working on an online pattern making course that will also run on “pay what you can” principle.
There will be a long road of recovery for our community from the economic crisis we are in right now. I want to be part of the solution, not contribute to further social division into rich and poor. The world is changing and perhaps we need to change too and let go of the idea that people with lots of money deserve more, and people with less money deserve less. No matter what you can afford to pay, I will always do the best quality job I can for you.
You may ask what guarantee I have that some people will simply use me and not pay at all? There is no guarantee. I am opening my heart to people and it is up to them whether they choose to respond from their heart or just take advantage. For me it does not matter as I am acting from my heart. In the past I have worked willingly for free or for very little payment, for different people and a variety of reasons. And I can tell you, these are the people I got the most from. Not in terms of money. The feeling you get when you made someone happy is priceless. Besides, very often in life I have received help or support from other people when I’ve least expected it, when I most needed it and without asking for anything in return. And these moments made me think, that I must have done something right in this life to deserve it. Let’s do more of it! Gratitude and kindness never come with a price tag.
Does it feel scary to choose this path? A bit. But I believe in humanity.