Friday, November 20, 2015

Susan Hull Walker talks about loving work at Creative Mornings

A global affair

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 1:25 PM

click to enlarge Redux is a cool venue. A tight, cramped, make-new-friends kinda cool. - CONNELLY HARDAWAY
  • Connelly Hardaway
  • Redux is a cool venue. A tight, cramped, make-new-friends kinda cool.

Susan Hull Walker, founder of Ibu movement, an organization and store that advocates for and sells global women-made textiles, spoke passionately about her work at this morning's Creative Mornings Charleston (CMCHS). "I'm going to make this topic sexy," she said as a way of introduction, acknowledging today's not-so-hot theme of "work." And she did.

Walker graduated from Harvard with a degree in world religions and began her post-college life as a minister in Maine. She says that being a minister, while somewhat satisfying, did not fulfill the answer to the question: What do you really love? Walker quit her job, left her marriage, and traveled around the world.

Sweet gig, right? We kept waiting for Walker to let us in on the secret — how do you do what you do, because it looks pretty cool. The answer: time.

"It was a 32-year pregnancy," Walker said. She finally discovered her passion for textiles after years of waiting tables and studying dance therapy, among other things. Speaking to an audience of mainly 20- and 30-somethings, Walker's words struck a chord we weren't quite expecting her to hit. Her common sense — do what you love and do it well — seemed so much more reasonable through the lens of time. (Overnight successes always fail to inspire in the same way.)

As for her textile finds, Walker acknowledged the high price point for many of the items she sells, like a $300 skirt. "They're for people willing to pay for the real deal," she says. She showed slides of each step taken to make a cloth hand towel. The end product is beautiful and after seeing the process, the price point makes sense. Would you spend days making something just to ship it across the world for cheap?

click to enlarge Some of Ibu's pieces on display. - CONNELLY HARDAWAY
  • Connelly Hardaway
  • Some of Ibu's pieces on display.

As a former minister Walker said she is interested in the ancient texts of women and she points out that most religious texts come from men and that women use textiles to tell their stories. Ibu, which is a word for a woman of respect in Indonesia, currently works with 76 women's cooperatives in 40 countries.

In the Q&A session one attendee asked Walker how she educates people back in Charleston. It's all well and good to help people around the world (although Walker doesn't look at it as "help," she says that she has a "reciprocal" relationship with artisans), but how do you help those at home? Walker said that she's starting to send feelers out to women indigo dye-ers out on Wadmalaw. She also welcomes groups to tour her store and hear about the story behind Ibu movement.

This month's CMCHS 30-second pitches could be called "gift guide for good." Head to watermission.org/christmas to buy a gift that gives back — for each $10 you donate in the name of a friend or family member one person receives safe water, and your friend gets a 5x7 keepsake card with photography from Malawi. 

Distil Union, an "objective design shop," also pitched — their store opens today at 525 King St. They call themselves a pop-up shop bringing modern design to Charleston. And they make really cool iPhone cases where you can also store your ID and credit card. We're biased — they gave every CMCHS attendee one to take home. 

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