Supply And Demand

Any true magazine junkie will understand why I would pick up an old copy of Guitar World from the share table at the library (no, I don’t play), or haul away the unsold periodicals from a garage sale. You also know that nothing feeds an addiction like the excuse, “it’s research”. This explains a number of lost hours at newsstands and a whole expense category in our accounting system.

Recently I bought a copy of Mark Lipinski’s Fabric Trends For Quilters. I felt like a poseur, because I’m not a “real” quilter. Real quilters piece and organize their fabric neatly by color, right? But it was research, and I’m an avid learner.

Here’s what I found particularly fascinating. In Mark’s editor’s letter he writes that all of the fabrics featured in Fabric Trends are currently on their way to shops, and photos of actual quilts:

have been traded out for computer-generated designs, but that compromise means you can now actually make the quilts you see.

So here are the thoughts that swirled around in my head while I stitches this week.

  • Making projects that exactly match the pictures in a book or magazine isn’t my style, but I can appreciate why people do it.
  • How much is tied up in inventory in my local fabric shop? Yikes! And yet what they probably hear the most about is what they don’t have in stock.
  • How long can a manufacturer afford to warehouse and sell last season’s fabrics (or book titles, in the case of publishers) when it’s no longer the newest / latest / bestest thing?

And finally:

  • How long will it be before print-on-demand technology changes all of this? 

One day, will I be able to walk into my local fabric shop for needles and thread, browse racks of fabrics that reflect the current trends, then step up to a kiosk to reorder fabric from a year or two before? In the store, so the store owner who answers my dumb curious questions gets some benefit from the sale?

I am totally in love with Spoonflower, and have my own designs for sale there. You can upload your own designs or pick one from another designer and choose the type of fabric. Spoonflower will print the design, and it comes to you in the mail. But will this option kill the desire to buy fabric in person? No more than methadone alone eliminates the desire for other addictive substances. No more than e-readers will eliminate books you can flip through with pages you can dog-ear.

Stop. Rethread. Make a cup of tea. Resume stitching and pondering.

Earlier this month as I was working on the redesign of my web site, I debated what to do with my bibliographies. Some of my old favorite books are out of print, and some of my new favorites won’t stay in print for long, it seems. Perhaps in another decade, print-on-demand technology will make it possible for another generation of artists to obtain some of these titles without waiting for the yard sale that will begin shortly after my funeral. Perhaps it will be possible for me to get a copy of Toshiko Horiuchi’s From A Line without hocking the car. I can’t see any possibility, though, that the option of obtaining old titles would keep me from wanting new ones, too. That includes magazines as well as books.

For what it’s worth, I moved an abbreviated bibliography to this page here on Two Red Threads.

As for the rest of it, I’m curious about how you would use today’s print on demand technology to shape the world of tomorrow. What are your thoughts?

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Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin