One of the things that was discussed a lot on the weekend was making mistakes. People's fear of them. How demoralising they were and how much tension trying not to make mistakes caused. How annoying it was to rip stuff out and how people didn't try things for fear of doing it wrong.
And I felt so chuffed we were talking about it. When I first was thinking of why I wanted to put this event together I wrote a list of things I wanted to say. I'm calling it our manifesto. And one of the main messages I wanted to get across is about mistakes.
"Making mistakes is how you learn, so embrace them - they are also often very pretty."
In my initial email to some of the teachers at The Craft Sessions I wrote the following
"One of the big drivers behind this event is teaching people craft in a way that is not stuck on technique. Helping them to get over the idea of "doing it perfectly" or "doing it right" because I think this means that people are scared to have a go for fear of making mistakes."
I think that there is a tendancy out there in blog land to post pictures of the pretty things people have made - which is great, because I love a pretty picture - but when we surf the web looking for inspiration I sometimes feel like we look at other people and only see their sucesses. We don't see all the little errors that make the thing handmade because they aren't being pointed out to us. It leads to comparison and also the idea that there are craftspeople who make beautiful mistake free work. Which they don't. They just don't necessarily post pretty pictures of their mistakes. And the idea goes a bit further - that we learners or non-perfectionists or crafty dabblers are not capable of making such beautiful things. Again there is the idea that the person must be "so talented". But instead I think that we just aren't seeing the whole process. It is just a snapshot of pretty without context.
Maybe to make the pretty thing on their blog they have thrown four muslins in the bin. Maybe they didn't take a photo of the pants that they threw into the bin when the shape was soo super bad they were unwearable, and instead took a photo of the successful pretty pants (this was me!). Maybe they can't show a photo of the three times they knitted the same neckline of that perfect sweater in order to make it work (again me!).
Everyone makes mistakes. Embrace them. You learn stuff.
One of the reasons I have loved and followed Elsie Marley's blog for so many years is due to this post with pretty pants. You see the pretty pants, you scroll down and then she shows you the waistband. So encouraging. I love that she didn't unpick it. She just said "play on!"
There should be more of it - and by that I mean more visibility of the process and the disasters.
Everyone is different in how they approach their craft and how they learn. Some like to play by the rules and some don't. Some want a perfect outcome and some don't. Sometimes it's about the context - the craft needs to be more perfect than other times - for example a wedding present rather than a pair of kid pyjamas. And I think that some people are more about the end product than about the process which means that mistakes often just feel like setbacks, which effects their willingness to make them.
For me personally - in order to really "learn" something I need to test it out myself. I know that you need to start in the middle when quilting and quilt to the edge. I know that when you don't do that the fabric distorts and you get a lumpy quilt. And yet, when it came to the making of the pretty quilt in the picture I still tried to see if I could outsmart the rules. Like they don't apply to me ( I truly was such a fun teenager!?!). My thought process goes along the lines of "so if I try really really hard to make it straight then it will be straight". Yep - see I proved to myself beyond a doubt that "you can't outsmart the linen". The linen distorts and then kicks you again by showing the distortion. But I tried and tried again. Three different ways in a single quilt and each time resulted in a mistake that I decided I could live with. One of the lovely participants at the weekend looked at my quilt after hearing all about the mistakes and said "but surely you could just unpick that". My reply "I could but I am a really really lazy crafter and I can live with the mistake". I learnt something from making it. I like that the mistake is there as it reminds me, and will remind me for years to come that "you can't outsmart the linen". (....and possibly that I should pay some attention to the rules some of the time?)
I really truly believe that the best way to learn is to get stuck in. To try, sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. To rip out the mistakes you can't live with AND to live with the mistakes you can. Making mistakes means that you learn about structure, process, what you like and what you don't and where your tolerances are. Looking back on the mistakes you have left in reminds you later of the journey and how much you have learnt.
To prove the point I've posted a couple of my latest "mistakes" above. And before you kind women say anything, yes, I know they are still pretty. That is my point! Mistakes are part of the process - the part where we learn things about our craft and about ourselves. And they are often pretty. How super is that!
What do you think? Mistakes - love them or hate them?