Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mea culpa

Okay, I've stirred up a hornet's nest without really intending to. I got the book, Sewing Clothes Kids Love about a week or so ago and I find it to be a beautiful, colorful book full of inspiring photographs. We talked about it on the yahoo Ottobre sewing group this past weekend and there are 2 schools of thought: the first is that the book is amazing and that it's incredibly inspiring; the second is that the book lacks appeal because (while the written content may be great) the photographs are so overwhelming due to the mixes of color and pattern that it's too harsh to look at and is difficult to read because of that.

To be fair, I think most of the people who adore the book are already die-hard Farbenmix and Studio Tantrum fans and of the so-called "euro-style" way of mixing colors and patterns of fabric. The people who are turned off by the book are obviously not big fans of such a mix, and I certainly don't expect it to appeal to everyone. And it's definitely a style that can cause a strong initial reaction, as evidenced by the 1 star review on Amazon, whence comes the hornet's nest.

I was going to buy this book in the store but nobody local had it in stock, so I went ahead and ordered it from Amazon. I read the reviews before I placed my order, just to see how well it had been received, and was shocked to see a review with 1 star. I was surprised, mainly because it was extremely popular before it even came out. Since Farbenmix and Studio Tantrum aren't sold in mainstream stores, I (obviously wrongly) thought that the people who were buying and therefore, reviewing it, were already fans of the patterns. Those of us who like these patterns usually already have seen the mixed-color, mixed-pattern finished products from the patterns that can be seen on the Farbenmix website or on Sabine's photo website, and so the photos in the book would be - and are - nothing new or shocking.

The author of the 1 star review basically said that it only gets 1 star because she doesn't like the clothes in the book, specifically because she thinks that the mix of colors and patterns is way too loud and isn't her taste at all. Okay, so maybe she's never seen any of the Farbenmix or Studio Tantrum finished looks before and wasn't aware that these clothes are almost always made in the "Euro Style" with the mix of fabrics and colors. Maybe it's my fault that I happen to know that the word 'farbenmix' means color mix, so obviously things are going to be colorful. Whatever the assumptions that I made, the review made me want to ask the reviewer why the book gets only 1 star if she has nothing else to say about the book than she doesn't like it because it's not her taste.

So I commented on her review, pointing out that yes, the colormix isn't for everyone, and that her description of the clothes as being 'clown-like' was unnecessary. I also went so far as to say that the idea behind the book and the authors' personal theory is that kids like clothes that are colorful and make them feel happy and that it shouldn't matter if the style is to the parent's taste but rather to the child's, since the clothes are for the child to wear and not the adult.

I would have left it at that, I think, had I not looked back to see if there were any more comments. Several other comments were made and some were in support of my comment, saying that the patterns were good and could be made up in solid colors and still look great. But... there was a response from the original reviewer, saying that she at first assumed that I was the author of the book (hello - my name is Jen, not Nancy and it says as much on the comment), but then came to the conclusion that I must be one of the Farbenmix "team". Maybe I should have just let it go, but, of course, I had to reply.

I started out nice, I think. I'm not sure where I went off into a no-so-nice tone. I didn't intend to. I asserted to her that I've nothing to do with Farbenmix and Studio Tantrum, other than I like and use their patterns. I offered that I didn't think it was accurate to write a book review giving only 1 star when she didn't list any specific problems with the book that didn't deal with her own personal taste and made no suggestions as to how to better the book. She offered no critique of the work itself at all and that was my main issue. It was as though she had a gut reaction and didn't allow any time to think about the fact that the patterns might be ones that she could use if sewn with her taste in mind. This obviously colored her whole perception of the book.

I pointed out that the patterns were the main point and that the idea of the book was to make the patterns your own - whether by making them in solid colors or by eliminating embellishment, etc. I suggested that she trace the line drawings and try coloring them with colored pencils to see how they'd look in solids, unadorned. I think the journey away from being nice happened when I said that if she couldn't do that then maybe the book was beyond her creative abilities in this regard. In hindsight, this was too catty, though it wasn't meant to be at the time. There are some people who just can't see the possibilities in drawings and who are too influenced by photos when they are as dynamic as the ones in this book. And they are dynamic.

I also addressed the issue of the fact that the reviewer claims that the clothing isn't 'normal' except for maybe in California or Miami, and that no normal child would wear them. Basically I said that saying that means that those of us who don't live in those locations and like the patterns are abnormal and that anyone in those locations must be abnormal for considering the clothes normal, according to her 'normal' standards.

So maybe I crossed the line in terms of making a personal attack. There's no excuse for it, even if she did do it first. I should have stuck to the main point, which was that her review was lacking in any kind of critique of the book. I'll say that I was wrong to go into the catty area. But I won't apologize for my point of view on the lack of critique.

1 comment:

  1. A hornet's nest is right Jen! I didn't get involved in the review debate because I didn't have the book at the time, but I did think her review was harsh.
    My surprise parcel arrived from Nancy yesterday, it's all on my's sooo wonderful, way more than expected. Thanks for your congratulations on the Ottobre group, by the way.
    I have to say I love the book, I have not been a die hard fan, I'm not long enough sewing. I've really only sewn Ottobre until now. I love everything about it, it's so inspiring. I have lots of plans for things to make, because of the book and the other things Nancy sent.
    So, I totally agree with you, and so what if you were a bit catty, so was she!