Thursday, November 19, 2009

The brave new e-world . . .

The longer I noodle around in the e-world, the more I see it as a place to, as Trekkies might put it, boldly go where we could never go before. Once we lose our out-dated conception of what's possible, the web opens up to us heretofore unimagined opportunities. Our professional horizons have much less to do with our physical reach these days.

Take me, for example. When I work nationally, I work digitally, turning sound into computer files that can be instantaneously beamed up to Washington and edited. So, I get to live in the Valley and have the professional challenge of being NPR's emergency back-up reporter on books and publishing.

And take Kathleen Temple and her designer clothing.

I met Kathleen Temple in late 2001, just after the U.S. had begun bombing Afghanistan. I was doing a story for NPR on the Anabaptist reaction to our country's newest war. I stood with a group of anti-war protesters (Kathleen among them) on Harrisonburg's Court Square, recording both them and the reaction to them. I later went to Kathleen's house and talked to her for quite a while about what it means to be an activist peacenik in a time of war.

I liked her immediately. Kathleen struck me as a person of intelligence and initiative and well-founded opinion. Plus, the woman had style--that wonderfully rare quality that turns what we wear into an expression of who we are.

In the years that followed, whenever I'd bump into Kathleen, she'd be wearing these wonderfully, subtly distinctive garments. As I, myself, am a retired clothes-horse, I'd always ask where she shopped. No where, she'd say. I design and make these myself.

So here Kathleen's been, living in the 'Burg, designing, sewing fabulous garments for herself and people she knows, itching to turn her clothing into a business, not being able to figure out how. Harrisonburg, she knew, was just too small to support a shop opened by a designer of one-of-a-kind garments.

Then she met up with recent college graduate and earring designer Morgan Kraybill, and the e-commerce light bulb went on. Together, I'm happy to announce, they've launched a virtual boutique, KathleenMeetsMorgan. It's her long-imagined shop, Kathleen says, opened for business out in the e-world, meaning that friends, relatives--customers--from all over the world can see her creations and buy them.

To me, this is a great example of how the rules of opportunity have been turned on their head by the internet. Our talents and ambitions can range much farther than they could even a decade ago; our world is now the world.

The challenge we have is to do what Kathleen did--identify what, exactly, it is that we really want to do. And then to not let any outdated sense of the possible make us believe that we can't pull it off.


  1. Now I understand all this "Etsy" talk in the blogging community -- fantastic idea.

  2. You're right. Kathleen is an unusual and rare person, delightful. And so creative! I love to go into Ragtime to see what she's working on, and what she's wearing!