Doing Our Best (The Feminine Economy)

How far can we go if we support each other? If we collaborate rather than compete? If we start small and grow slowly? If we nurture others and ourselves? These are the questions posed by Jennifer Armburst in her phenomenal work on the feminine economy.

Almost ten years ago, I sold my first blank book. I hadn’t been intending to sell it. Frankly, I was little uncomfortable with the whole thing. At the time, I was working a minimum wage job that I hated. I was exhausted all the time. But the hours I had spent making that first book were pure joy. And the idea that I could exchange joy for money was weird and I didn’t like it.

But it’s gotten easier. I have learned that I don’t need to be miserable to feel like I have “earned” a living. In fact, I can be really, really happy about the way I make my living. I can wake up excited to go to work. And my work could put good things back into the world. I still struggle against the unbelievable idea that I get to make art and then sell it to someone who is going to make more art with it. More art in the world!

Now, with a shop, it’s gotten more complicated. I’m not just selling my hand-bound books, a product whose materials I have carefully sourced. I must think about where all my inventory has come from. I must think about the labor practices involved in making it, and the materials used, and the fossil fuels burned to transport it to me.

My inventory is far from perfect but I gladly put the effort in every day. And every day I am closer to a space filled with things I feel 100% good about offering to my community. It’s getting there, and I am doing my best.

Sourcing is a labyrinthine challenge. Capitalism obscures and reroutes products enough times that learning about origins can feel impossible. But the easy way out doesn’t feel like an option—on the big scale of what our environment needs, of course, and on the smaller scale of community. Because the more Wild Pages is in accordance with my values, the more I connect with my community—the artists who use what I sell, the students coming in for school supplies, the readers and journalers and tea-drinkers. And the more I connect my business with my community, the better my business does. Maybe, we all do better together when we each do our best.

[For more on the feminine economy, check out Jennifer Armburst’s work in the form of prints and pocket cards, both available at Wild Pages and her book, The Feminine Economy, available through her website.]

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Amber Edmondson