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30-something mother, wife, lawyer, writer, design junkie, craftaholic, cook

likes: clever tools, snazzy colors, working for justice, kid wrangling, Meyer lemons

dislikes: inefficiency, civil discovery, most shades of purple, Tori Amos

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A pilgrimage of sorts

Honey Bees © 2010 Cameron Blazer // Cottage IndustrialistGinkgo Wave © 2010 Cameron Blazer // Cottage IndustrialistTwo weeks ago, we took our son on his first big car trip. Like a regular old family. It made me feel so grown up to have to answer him 15 times an hour about whether we were there yet.

We were heading to Washington, D.C., because I was attending a conference, and it seemed silly to go and stay in a hotel all alone when I could do it with my boys. To sweeten the pot (for myself), my husband and I agreed that we should break the trip up into two parts, stopping somewhere along the way. The somewhere was IMMEDIATELY obvious to me. Mebane, NC.

Mebane, wha? If you're a regular reader here, you know that I design fabric and that the friendly wizards at Spoonflower print it for me. And, yes, this all happens in Mebane, NC. From the very beginning, I started emailing the owners, Stephen and Kim and Gart, with questions, suggestions, and praise. They were more open and friendly than I could have imagined. I am sort-of baby-duck-like, in that, once you are nice to me once, that imprints on me, and I will be your loyal friend forever. I tend to have "friendships" that exist only in my own mind. So when the opportunity arose to meet these friends I had never met, I jumped at it. I wrote to ask if I could come see where the magic happens, and they didn't file a restraining order, so we were in business!

The factory is a giant open space full of printers and whizbang and heaters and awesome. I got to meet Kim and Stephen, who were just as nice as I thought, and I also got to meet their print-operator extraordinaire, Danielle, who showed me around and was happy to answer every single question I asked and didn't seem alarmed as my four-year-old wandered around nearly crashing into machines that are probably worth more than my house (thanks, housing crisis!). I have newfound respect for the hard, often sweaty, work that goes into turning my ideas into something real and tangible.

And I am also really proud that Spoonflower is in the Carolinas. Once known for our textiles, off-shore production has pretty much decimated the textile industry in North and South Carolina. While I'm all for the knowledge economy, I think we nearly lost something very important as a country when we stopped being a place where the things we use are made. I believe in making things, and I love that companies like Spoonflower are bringing that ethos back—back to North Carolina and back to the sewers and crafters who want the satisfaction of having a hand in the things that they make from the very beginning.

The rest of the trip was great—the boy was a champion traveler, and my husband was a champion driver. I had made a pledge to myself not to stop for any fast food on the way, so I packed a cooler, and we munched and talked and sang songs, and pretended to fall for the same 3 jokes the whole way. My son was thrilled by staying in a hotel—with a TV! and a phone! and a bathroom! And while the boys spent the time exploring the sites in D.C., I spent most of it holed up in the hotel, nerding out about the Constitution. By choice.

And, then, as if the beginning of our trip, our stop in NC, hadn't been great enough, the last day of the conference ended with a speech from Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, NJ, a person whom I have long admired. I don't air my politics and such on this blog, but in the interest of full-disclosure, the speech was directed at a group of "progressive" lawyers, of which I am one. But I promise that whatever your political stripe, if you have the 45-minutes to spare, you'll be inspired by his words. Take a look.

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Reader Comments (2)

Hmmm. That Spoonflower experience sounds an awful lot like a crush realized to its full potential. The tides they are a changing...

June 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Thanks for sharing about Spoonflower ... I couldn't agree more about NC's lost textile industry. I'm bookmarking this video for a quieter moment. Thanks again!

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