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While Hubby and I were hanging out in the meatspace that is called the Twin Cities Friday, one of the stops we made was to Textile Center (note that “the” is not part of the name) on University Avenue in Minneapolis. There’s a little quirk in addresses near Textile Center that threw us into a tizzy.

We were traveling northwest from St. Paul along University, checking diligently for the address of Textile Center – 3000 University Avenue SE – when the addresses suddenly jumped from 2700 to something like 3300 in the space of a block. Um, yeah. Where was 3000 again? Hubby quickly turned the car around, thinking we had missed it. Back we went, confirming that yes, indeed, address numbers had been skipped. We continued past where we had done the turn-around and finally found Textile Center by visually locating its distinctive front.

Seems University Avenue changes addresses as the road moves from St. Paul territory into Minneapolis territory. Would be nice if there was a sign indicating the shift.

Once we were inside Textile Center, it was all peace, love and happiness. There’s an inspirational show in the Joan Mondale Gallery called Metaphoric Fibers: Untamed Knitting & Crochet that contains some astonishingly complex work, including a HUGE (25-feet!) charm bracelet knitted in metal. One of the charms is a baby buggy. There’s an unbelievable quality about the piece, even (especially!) when standing within touching distance. Can you imagine where you’d start in knitting a baby buggy out of metal? It took the artist a year to make the entire charm bracelet. If I had the guts to tackle such a project, it’d probably take a decade or more. (The exhibit ends April 17, so stop in if you’re in the neighborhood. You’ve been forewarned about the street numbering!)

After checking out the exhibit, Hubby and I explored, poking our noses into the weaving studio and examining the spools of yarn and books for sale in the shop run by the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, whose home is Textile Center. (Truth be told, I think my examination was a bit closer than Hubby’s, but he’s a good sport for putting up with my interests.)

Textile Center has its own gift shop that sells handmade fiber wares, some books, and yarn. While I investigated, Hubby had a seat on a couch in the main hall, next to a lady who was knitting. (She later told me what Ravelry was all about.) After the other customers were taken care of and left, I struck up a conversation with the woman behind the desk, who turned out to be Margaret Miller, Executive Director of Textile Center.

During our chat, when I brought up the word “handiwork,” Margaret drew in her breath like I’d said something insulting. She then asked me very kindly why I would use that word and not “handwork.” I hadn’t given any thought as to the distinction between the two, which led to our discussing how many in the fiber arts community consider the term handiwork in a negative light. Handiwork connotes busy work, not the efforts of a serious artisan. As Margaret put it, we’d never think of walking into a wood shop and telling a guy he was involved in handiwork. Handwork, however, speaks of fine craft.

After our talk about handiwork versus handwork, I got to wondering why the topic has never come up in my community, which led to the realization that most of the fiber artists in my community are not organized. Other than a long-established quilters group and a just-getting-started knitting group, each of us works pretty much alone. We haven’t had a chance to discuss the philosophical implications of the language we use to describe our work.

Me? I’ve never used either handiwork or handwork in relation to my fiber work. I prefer fiber artist or fiber arts. Part of this comes from being a weaver. How can I claim that something I’ve made is completely hand-woven if I’m using a floor loom?

How do the rest of you fiber artists feel about the terms “handiwork” and “handwork?” Do you have a preference? How do you refer to your work?

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