There were many things that spurred me on to create The Craft Sessions, but one of the biggest drivers was hearing the words "You're so talented" when someone saw something I had made. Now before I sound totally ungrateful, I know that the person saying "you're so talented" to me, is trying to be kind and complimentary. But the way the statement is often used implies that the crafter in question, in this case me, has a special quality that means that I can make beautiful things due to the magic of talent.
Talented is a quality that you either have or you don't, because talent isn't something that one works towards, is it? Talent creates a divide between those that make things, and those that wish they could. The concept of "you're so talented" really bugs me - really really bugs me - because I think that the idea of people being "talented" is so deflating and discouraging to so many people. AND for what we do - which is craft for joy - talent has nothing to do with it.
So bear with me while I explain why I have such an issue, and why I think that talent is totally irrelevant.
So let's say we are runner's rather than crafters. Most of us runners are simply looking to put on our sneakers and go out for a run around the block. We aren't concerned too much about our speed or the finesse with which we run. We just want the exercise and the joy of running. Obviously this joy only happens once you get past the initial six week hump, which in crafting equates to the "learning to sew/knit/quilt" hump. As we get better we might want to improve our technique, so we might start reading the odd article about footstrike, or maybe join a running club. We may want to start challenging ourselves to get fitter and improve our speed, so that we get a bit more enjoyment out of it. But - and here is the key - we aren't trying to become Olympic athletes - we are just trying to go for a run. Now, if you were wanting to be an Olympic athlete, you probably need some natural born talent. All we are looking to do is run around the block (enjoy making some stuff), and maybe eventually do a fun-run here and there. Talent is not necessary. Practice is.
It goes without saying that the internet has been a total game changer where craft is concerned. It has given us access to techniques and skills that previously existed in silos of local knowledge. We have been able to learn to craft (in my case knitting) without having someone teach us in person. But the biggest thing it has done is inspire us. There are so many amazing (talented? ;)) people making so many beautiful things. However, there is a dark side to all the inspirational joy we get from looking at what others make. The prevalence of beautiful pictures without context, can sometimes have the opposite effect on us, leading us to make less not more, as we struggle with the idea of being less "X" than someone else. Questions arise; "How do they make something so beautiful", "Look at their gorgeous finishing", "Look at their perfect topstitching", "How do they make so many things, when I can't find the time to do one?". And those questions can stifle us, deflate us and ultimately lead us to not make.
These contrasting feelings of inspiration and deflation can coexist. I wrote on Wednesday about the uber-inspiring Gee's Bend book, which on the one hand floors me and encourages me, but on the other hand deflates me with feelings of "there is no way I could ever make something that beautiful". I think I said to something to Anna over coffee this week about a quilter in the book being "genius". She gently (mockingly?) reminded me that I had just been talking about writing this blog post. Whoops.
A reality check is needed. The quilts are in the book because they are so clever. The pictures people post on the internet get posted because the person is proud of their work and they are pretty. People don't tend to put sub-standard quilts in books, nor do they post sub-standard work on the internet. They often don't talk about the ten/twenty/thirty quilts they made before they made the one in the book. I don't often post pictures of the many ugly jumpers I made before I made a pretty one. Or if I do, I post it in it's best light.
I strive for The Craft Sessions to be a place where we find balance in this. Yes - I post pictures of the pretty but I try to temper it with reality. Like that the buttonholes on the birthday dress are sewn all the way through the bib of the dress. Or that I ripped the yoke of the colourwork jumper out six times before I got it to something approximating wearable. Yes - I want you to find inspiration in the things I post - but I also want to talk about the reality. I want you to feel encouraged rather than discouraged by what you see here. I hope I've found some balance.
One final thing; Yes - there are talented people. But for most of us "talented" doesn't actually matter, and it dismisses the largest factor that affects a person's ability to make the things they want to make, and that is practice. Practice and practice and experience and making mistakes.
This post is me setting the scene for a brand new blog series we have starting soon. It's all about the journey. I can't wait to share it with you. You're going to love it.
As always - I love hearing your thoughts...