Monday, October 7, 2013

Niche markets sometimes aren't so Niche

Girls Will Be T-Shirts 
I love stories like this - someone who says 'why isn't there a product like this for this need?' and actually takes it upon themselves to fill it.  We see so many examples today that frustrate us with these over-sexed media driven conglomerates trying to convince us that every child is a video gammer or a post-Hannah Montana Miley Cyrus-wanna-be.

So if you have girls or girl grandchildren, I am sure you have been shocked and perplexed with how to dress them if you have visited the mall.  The clothes available up to age eight is in shocking pink and purple and after that - it just needs to double the amount of fabric to be decent!  So here is a set of three siblings who had girls and decided that they were done shopping in the boys aisle for their girls.  They started a company, Girls Will Be, to market T-Shirts that we might have found thirty years ago - nothing mid-drift, no cap sleeves, no pink.  Just a fun shirt that doesn't look like it came out of your brother's hand-me-downs.  DUH.

And they can't keep them on the shelf!  What a surprise.  :-) I love it.  Sometimes you have to ignore the status-quo that is being shoved at us.

I get that response every time I tell people I have a business teaching 17th century embroidery to people over the internet.  They just shake their heads and suspect I have a handful and must be crazy and loosing money.  When I tell them the hundreds and hundreds who do - they are shocked.  There is much more interest in textiles and handcrafts than most people realize!  Then I tell them that I do things like X-Ray embroidered caskets.  Then they are hooked and want to know everything.

Just a normal Sunday without video games in my kitchen
That brings me to video games.  I run into plenty of people who lament about them.  I do too.  Rotting the brains of our youth.  But if you provide an exciting alternative for kids, they will beat a path to your door!  That came true to me this week through a couple of experiences.

My robot team was targeted by a kid who wanted on it - BAD.  He had been asking for a month and so I finally said - geez this kid is serious.  He showed up here Friday, Saturday and Sunday to 'try out' by working with each of the guys on the team.  He made the cut and will be a terrific asset to us.  So great to see teens putting aside the games and beg to help to invent water treatment systems (our project this year).  As I say to people, if you give them something 'real' to work on - you will have to fend the kids off!

On Friday, my new robot team of 8-yr olds was working.  It was hilarious as they work afterschool until 6 and then are supposed to go home while the big guys (13-14 yr olds) start their work and go until 10.  It hasn't worked out that way.  The parents come and end up in big negotiations - the kids beg and beg to stay and keep going.  Our next door neighbor came to get her kid and he stood on the porch making every deal he could think of to stay and watch the big guys run their 'bots.  The big guys are now showing up (and asking to!) on Saturday AND Sunday as well.  Think about that - these kids all have sports on the weekend too.  They are effectively giving up all their free time to hang out here working on programming, robot building and natural disaster solutions.  Of course it makes it pretty hard for me to answer the class emails!

I hosted a play date on Thursday for all the boys in the 'hood.  We hadn't had anyone over because of
all the construction.  One little guy at the end of the gathering came up to me and asked 'are you famous?'  I asked why he would think that.  He said 'because you know all these things... robots, legos, 3-D printing'.  I thought that was so funny.  Kids at that age will think you are a hero if you treat them like they have half a brain.  I am having a feeling that my newly finished house might be the boy magnet of the neighborhood.  And that is ok, because there aren't any video games here.  :-)

Embroidery + Robots = Totally Cool Day
So if you lament about a kid in your life being hooked on them - take them to the local electronics store and buy a kit to build a light up thingy.  Learn to solder with them.  You will be surprised how engrossed they will get.  Or give them an old phone, remote control or broken printer and a screwdriver.  That's the best fun around.

I went to Maker Faire in New York two weeks ago (my birthday present).  It was amazing - 650 booths of people doing knitting, embroidery, crafts, electronics, 3-d printing, cardboard toys, robots, you name it!  Everything creative you could think of, especially with a bit of a tech bent.

There were 50,000 visitors.    

That's not Niche.  We embroiderers are part of a movement.  A movement beyond what the corporations are telling us is mainstream.  It's a movement to take back youth for kids and creativity for ourselves!  I love the poster for Maker Faire - note how Textiles, Sewing, Felting, Embroidery, and Fibre arts are right there mixed with NASA, Rockets, Robots, and Lasers.  Very cool and very hip.  Did you know you were so hip?


  1. 30 years ago my oldest daughter (then in 4th grade) was to sing in a school program. Every girl in her class showed up in high heels, make up and sexy clothes. My daughter and the daughter of a neighbor were the only children who looked like little girls. They were also the only two to grow up to be normal, up-standing young women who hold good jobs, have strong families and have never done drugs. I'm not certain it was us two mom's holding the line that did it, but it looks like good circumstantial evidence to me. Don't cave in to the corporations!!

  2. This is so wonderful! I grew up like this too - with parents who let me know that making something myself was ever so much cooler than buying anything - that once something became corporate mass merchandise, it was 'tres passe' - and last, but not least - the best sort of people don't follow fads, they create them!...The maker movement is the human movement!

  3. Woot! For Makers Faire!! We have one in KC too. Advertising is low key but word of mouth has spread and it is packed. Being the home of a huge Lego store (just across the street from the MF Site) there is a big Lego presence too. My Big Guy would probably beg to stay and play, errrr, work on the robot projects too. (no kid, my fifty-something husband :) ).

  4. As a girl who was a tom boy and who still is (a tom boy that is, not a girl anymore!) I got used to buying boy clothes. I still do. Many of the activities I do as well as stitching - sailign tall ships, scuba diving, have only small petite woman's sizes, so I am still wearing men's clothes. Good on you GIrls will be.

  5. Robofest welcomes video submissions of robotics projects!

  6. Robofest is also looking for site hosts outside Michigan.

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