Erich Campbell wrote a fabulous post, “In Memory of Heroes“, talking about work he did to help commemorate and memorialize the events of 9/11. It’s an amazing post, but it’s the last paragraph that absolutely kills me, and which spawned this post.
I’ve always contended that embroidery is important, and that it allows us to wear our affiliations, our beliefs and even our hopes, literally on our sleeves. If any wonder how I came to believe so firmly in our need to wear such symbols, it’s easy to define: My beliefs were made of the sadness of the survivors, the pride for those who served and the support of a nation in a time of great need. As we commemorate that fateful day, I wonder how many people will be dutifully dusting off a cap pulled from some corner of their closet, and once again donning those symbols. I wonder how much of that work that passed through our hands and our machines has survived to bear witness to our collective support even to this day. As I look upon a sample of appliqué we tested for an FDNY design that I still keep on my desk, I hope our work does as much honor now to the fallen and those who forged ahead as we hoped it would then.
Anyone who decorates garments or creates promotional products for a living probably has had at least one day when they wonder if it’s worth it. There’s the bad artwork, the cranky customers, the balky machines, any number of issues specific to running a garment decoration or promotional products business, and then there’s the added issues that can come with running any kind of business. There is also the pressure to create, to make something where there was nothing.
It’s easy, in the day to day grind, to forget that what’s being created is more than just a polo shirt with a logo on it, or a mug with a grandchild’s picture. What’s being created is a symbol and a memory that will be treasured long after it leaves your shop. It’s easy to forget because it seems so ordinary, it is after all, what you do, day after day to pay the bills.
The thing is, what’s created matters. It has a life and a meaning beyond simply being fabric and thread, or a substrate and ink. I suppose it’s easier to remember the significance when the items being made are to commemorate a major event, like 9/11, but whether the event only has meaning for one person or one million, it still has meaning.
Today, when you’re struggling with that hard to hoop garment, or dealing with a clogged printer nozzle remember that what you do is more than the sum of its parts. Whether it’s a t-shirt commemorating someone’s first 10K run or a plaque that denotes years of faithful service, the items you create have a life and a significance long past when they leave your shop.