Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Skill and Craft

Since my hair has been growing out from a disastrous scalping a few months ago, it had reached a shaggy dog condition. I only wanted it trimmed neatly so it could continue growing. Rachel suggested I go to her friend Courtney who is in training at a local hair dressing school. It would not be too challenging for Courtney and inexpensive for me. Both were true plus a challenge -- thinning certain parts that were heavy -- that Courtney had not done so an instructor did it and Courtney observed a new technique -- and I had an expert do that part. This was all good and the price was VERY good. But every step was excruciatingly slow as Courtney wanted to do everything just right. That really wasn't a big problem, only that I had not had dinner before the 5:45 appointment and I was getting hungrier by the minute.

But as I sat waiting and telling myself to be patient I thought of a lecture I heard several years about the quilting academies in Japan. That lecture clarified why the quilts we see by Japanese quilters are examples of consummate skill and design. [the picture above is not even an intricate example although it is beautiful. These quilt academies take the beginner thought a long and rigorous lesson plan with exams and challenges along the way. The doyenes of the academies are not only highly skilled but often in competition with their counterparts all over the country so that the level of skill and design is always being pushed upward and the students are also challenged.

I read a lot of blogs and I know about the accredited courses in England and I know we too have some courses, some online. Nothing here in the US approaches the Japanese methods. I thin that's just fine actually. The Japanese have a different ethos, they invented ikebana and bonzai and the tea ceremony -- we have decided that the work of the Gees Bend women is art. Yes, we have our quilt standards and accredited judges and competitions that quilters striive with gorgeous results to win. But we have a different approach too. For many, probably most, certainly this one specific person, quilt making is a delightful addiction and it is fun. For me fun is seeing results, i.e., a completed quilt, that satisfies me. It doesn't have to meet a judge's standards. It may not satisfy me five years from now when I have moved on to something more skillful or of a different type, but I live in the now My quilts are part of what I do, not all that I do. I am who I am with or without my quilts Not much ego is involved just a very little ego is involved when I play Scrabble or croquet. Win or lose, eh, it's a game, not life itself.

Those perfect quilts whether made painstakingly by a well trained Japanese quilter or an American quilter who has taken classes, read instructions and worked alone are a great pleasure to look at. I hope for the quilter's satisfaction, others appreciate them and give her prizes and I would wish that the public understood and valued her hard work and would pay appropriately for it -- but that's another topic for another time.

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