Those long line-up days are dwindling.
I'm still not entirely sure tech understands craftsmanship though, given a few conversations I've listened in on the past few weeks. Sure they understand making, but not the heartbreak that comes with honing one's craft, for years at a time, making mistakes, understanding the benefits of quality materials that can make a quality end product.
If it doesn't work, they'll fix 'it' in the next update.
And that has me wondering if many regular folk understand the need for quality materials.
Two summers ago, I embroidered a stomacher for a friend's wedding. A stomacher is the triangular shaped part of the bodice of an 18thC gown that covers the breast and belly. Her gown was silk, it called for an embroidered stomacher, and she was feeling in over her head.
She sent me the kit she bought...
When I sat down to begin, I read over the instructions to see if there were any differences between them and what I had planned to do. Ok, there were a few, but nothing major. But when I pulled out the thread to begin stitching, I realized that what had been enclosed with the kit was nothing like what the instructions called for. I'm pretty sure my friend bought the kit as a whole, threads included, as she is not an embroiderer, and would have asked me what I wanted to stitch with. When I looked at the kit again, I was glad she didn't attempt it, as she would have been spectacularly frustrated. The kit instructions called for stranded floss, what was included was silk sewing thread.
Now, I know what I'm doing with embroidery and could make it work. The stomacher was embroidered, built, and sent down to her with enough tome for it to sit with her gown for a couple of weeks before the wedding. I'm happy with it, I think I did a good job.
But not having stranded floss meant that there's not a lot of shading to the flowers. Sewing thread cannot be divided into smaller strands, to be blended with other colours like stranded floss can. So the flowers are a bit blocky.
Am I making sense?
My current embroidery project is entirely my own devising. I'm using linen as the ground, and silk floss for the embroidery. I designed the pattern based on extant pieces. The embroidery itself has shading, because of the stranded floss I have. I'm really enjoying the project and can't wait to see it finished, I'm really proud of it, and will include the process in my studio exam coming up in the Spring.
Currently my reading has been about how we can use the creation process in our research. It's a bit like preaching to the choir, as that is how I work out how things were made in history, by making them. But it's really nice to see philosophy to back up what I have done my whole career. Making samples, full sized projects, writing about what I've done, looking at how my reproduction differs from the extant, make another, test the theory, and then watch the thing as someone wears or uses it.
A Forbes article from last year describes this process as 'Learning through doing', "this learning technique was used heavily by craftsmen to train their apprentices. It was a perfect fusion of do-it-yourself wherewithal and immersion learning"(Craig, 2015). The author laments that this form of education has been transitioned into a method that is more formalized in the way we learn in mainstream academia. I'm wondering if the tech world is simply laying out their trial and error process, with the culture of updates and patches to fix the tech they sell, for all to see. Something that craftsmen of the past kept hidden from the public through the apprenticeship process.
And maybe that's really a good thing.
Why yes, I can roughly draft out garment shaped directly to cloth, it comes from my years of training. I know the shape of the pieces almost by heart, I know where the measurements need to be laid out. I'm sure that many of your grandmothers could do this too, having had a similar experience of time, and learning from mistakes that you never saw. This does not mean that what I do it 'easy' or less valuable. There are things that you do that I struggle with...ie, tech.
So maybe what I'm really getting around to is, try that thing that you want to make, but don't expect it to be perfect that first try. And maybe, just maybe, think about how much your time is worth before trying to undersell that craftsman you want to buy that product from. Could you really afford to spend your time perfecting that craft enough to make that beautiful thing?
Think about the actual time spent in learning that skill.
We all deserve to live comfortable lives, to be able to pay our bills, to buy groceries. Everyone's craftsmanship has time behind it.
Chachra, Debbie. 2015. "Why I am Not a Maker: When Tech culture only celebrates creation, it risks ignoring those who teach, criticize, and take care of others." The Atlantic, January 23: 6.
Craig, William. 2015. "What is 'Maker Culture,' And How Can You Put It To Work?" Forbes: Entrepreneurs, February 27: 4.