creating stuff from scratch
Now, on to our regular post...last night, after a busy day, I couldn't sleep. This may have been because of a supposedly decaffeinated cappucino I had after a dinner out, or because my charming Professor had a stuffy nose and was snoring to beat the band. (It happens sometimes to the best of us!)
I got up and wove on my loom in the next room. At first I worried the noise would wake somebody up, but one human and two dogs slumbered on, so the weaving happened for about an hour until I could fall asleep. I was thinking particularly about this...here is a partial quote from a comment, but the sentiment is pretty common:
"I... would love to see more pictures and details. That's something I'm interested in doing as well."
I struggle with this kind of request. On one hand, many of the things I do--teaching, fiber arts (spinning, weaving, knitting, dyeing), writing, etc. --are things that I believe should be within reach for many people. What I mean by that is that people have lots of potential. As a teacher, I believe that I can help people learn, whether I am teaching them to write, or doing a Religious Studies workshop, or teaching them to spin. I believe that for a determined person, many things are possible.
On the other hand, at the same time, we all have gifts. These are things we're good at when compared to other people. Do we deserve to be compensated specially for our gifts? Should we use our gifts in our professional lives? Should our gifts be our livelihood?
Many of the things that might be called my "strengths" are things that are traditionally offered for free or for less than a fair wage. For instance, for many generations, women passed along their fiber art skills to their friends, neighbors and children. These same women were sometimes were natural born teachers. Eventually, women teachers were paid for their work in school houses all over North America...and often earned much less than male school teachers. The same is true, of course, for instruction in religious topics. Even though I have an academic graduate degree in this, many times this sort of knowledge is offered up for free.
Sometimes I'm paid to teach for a short time, and then someone (without this training) concludes that it would be better and easier if they did this for free...and I'm relieved of my "duties."
So, the question becomes--how much information should I offer for free? I think there are several options, using a fiber arts context as an example:
1) Pretend it is all top secret, and offer very little. (this looks stingy..)
2) Write up the instructions for any projects I mention, and try to sell them.
3) Offer all the information for free, with the understanding that not everybody has the same gifts and that somehow good fortune will come to me through this notion.
What is the answer? Well, lately I have been creating finished fiber arts goods for a juried craft sale. It's called the Handmade Holiday Sale (this is from last year's sale) and it will be held in November at the West End Cultural Centre here in Winnipeg. It is run by the Manitoba Craft Council and I applied and competed to be accepted into this juried event. The rugs you've seen me feature on the website will be for sale there.
Anybody could make these rugs. Anybody who:
-sourced mill ends and locally made materials
-used handspun and knew how to spin to produce weaving materials
-hand-dyed materials to the right colors for the rugs in question
-had a floor loom suitable for creating rugs
-could do a simple weave or twill tie up
-could refer to a few books on rug weaving
-could find the time to produce one to two rugs a week whenever possible!
I really believe that anyone with reasonable intelligence and determination can learn most anything. The question for me as a teacher is, at what level do I start explaining things? Do I start with learning to spin, weave or knit? Do I start with "this is the tie up for this particular loom?" I am not sure.
Of course, beyond this is the question I have to face as a freelancer and small business owner. How will I earn a living doing things like this? When is it worthwhile to ask for compensation? What should I give away for free? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this...
More next time on our beautiful new sukkah--Sukkot starts this week!