|Five Senses casket in Tent Stitch. Linen|
is currently not made anymore so can't
sell this design with a casket.
When I suggest that the stumpwork casket is open for registration - I always get back this answer:
"I am afraid that it will be too much for me to do stumpwork"It was shocking this weekend as I got that response from no less than a half dozen people who I am sure weren't sharing emails.
So here we go - a bit of my stitching philosophy which is wrapped up in my life story. The sentence I keep getting is part of a pattern of comments I get often that really get me going. As you well know, I am not a well behaved woman... so I keep making some history.
|Small Silken Trinket Box in Tent Stitch -|
So the mantra became "I'll try it" vs. "I need to learn it (usually from someone else who is an expert)". I became largely self taught - often by examining the embroideries up close myself with a magnifier. I don't have Royal School Credentials, I am not a Master Craftsman, no City and Guilds... I will admit that I had some mentors who pushed me hard in Japanese embroidery but I never finished beyond a few levels. I took the lessons and said "I'll try it". I bought books. Lots of them - mainly for the pictures as reading is still hard.
Looking at the historic embroideries very carefully taught me some VERY important truths.
Most historic embroiderers sucked. Really. They did a poor job at it. They violate every RULE that a 21th century embroiderer is taught. Why? Because most of them were middle schoolers. Know a middle schooler who is an expert at anything or follows the rules???? Nope. It was her class project - a badly paper-matched volcano and her parents loved it. But those elementary and middle school girls stitched with gusto and it shows in the raw creativity behind it. But today we look at their samplers and their caskets (almost always as a tiny picture in a book) and we swoon and since we never get up close to them - we IMAGINE how perfect they must be.
"They were experts"
Nope, they just TRIED IT. And often pretty badly to be honest.
So we get to my massive problem with 20th century embroidery. I am going to say some things here that will ruffle some feathers - please don't take it as a direct criticism of an organization - I have no problem with what several organizations are doing and applaud them highly for their outreach and continuation of the craft. What I have a problem with is the fall-out that is unintended by what they are doing and I just wish they would realize that and do a little to mitigate the fall out. They don't intend it, it is the naysayers that create the problem and often the demons are inside us all. I am talking about the dominance of our formal embroidery teaching institutions (there are several) such as the Royal School of Needlework, Lesage, Hand and Lock, and the Japanese Embroidery Center in our collective psyche.
These institutions are very, very important commercial embroidery houses - and that says everything. They have moved into the hobby embroidery market for several reasons, obviously because they care about the teaching and extension of the craft but also in order to make up the shortfall in the need for custom embroidery by church, custom orders, and couture and thus stay afloat by making money from the hobby embroidery market.
The problem comes in that the style of embroidery taught comes direct from their mission - to teach a group of people to a skill level where their embroidery is indistinguishable from one another. That is their bread and butter. There is only one way to do anything in Japanese embroidery because otherwise you could tell how many people stitched that Obi or Kimono. The Royal School wouldn't be the Royal School if Kate Middleton's wedding dress had a mis-mash of skills all over it - it must be uniform. The same with Hand and Lock and Lesage for Haute Couture work. It is all about commercial production of big pieces by many hands in a way that no one knows how many did it.
And that is the problem with how the average stitcher interprets it - they don't know that the real background story is commercial embroidery commissions. Their stuff looks perfect because it has to so others will pay thousands for it. Instead stitchers think that it is "THE RIGHT WAY". And unless you have decided to ignore the "You aren't good enough" thoughts and outright comments, you look at things and decide that "it will be too much for me". What that is really saying is "I don't think I can live up to that level of stitching perfection because I haven't been studying for years". This has also rubbed off from all the City and Guilds, and Master Craftsmen programs, and classes by the Japanese Embroidery center and Hand and Lock (and it goes on) where it is a single minded pursuit of PERFECT. For some of those programs that is the point, to become a master at it. Sure, I don't have a problem with that - what I do have a problem with is the thousands of women who think they can't because they can't live up to that level.
I can not tell you how often I get an email from someone who wants to take a class and they actually give me a run down of their 'credentials'. Such and such class from such and such organization. I kid you not. I almost want to hug the lady and say that it will be ok - I don't have any of them myself. That she can reform...it isn't too late to realize that she 'can'. I can help her with a 12-step program and soon she too will be carefree trying new threads and techniques and inventing some herself - and enjoying herself with new creativity. I couldn't care less about what credentials she has - all I care about is that she wants to try it. Ok - it does help if you can thread a needle. But that is my highest bar because that is pretty hard for me to demonstrate from here.
Screw perfect. If I had waited to be perfect I would be dead. My brain is not wired to be perfect - it is in fact very imperfect. I will never read well. Period. I am over that and I use other skills to get through the day. I will also need an editor badly for formal books. Again, not perfect and that won't hold me back from teaching and writing. I am often scared and put things off because of it, you bet I do. But then after a day or so of that, I resolve to pull on 'my big girl undies' and go out there and TRY. I do things that scare me (ok, I did back off that clift climb this summer - that was just crazy crud).
The other thing that I think of when I get that phrase in an email is - geez, they must think I am a horrible teacher that they need to come knowing how. I am not sure what drink those 17th century girls did that magically turned them into stumpwork doers. It was their first stumpwork project (and if you could use a magnifier you can tell! My advice - do the back first. ha ha). Yes, this will be your first stumpwork project and yes in places you can tell or you can use a drawer in it to place the leaf you screwed up or the petal that didn't work out, and then move on to version two of that which will be so much better. I can't take my teaching projects online and publish them into a book because I use too many pictures to show how something was done - too expensive to publish. I also often include the whoops stuff - often because it shows how to fix it, what not to do, and that I (the expert) am human and am trying too.
|One grade-A dog butt that has nothing to do with the presentation topic.|
And really, if I can turn a bunch of fart-joke boys into World Champion roboticists - why can't I teach you to do stumpwork? :-)
In the awesome words of Auguste Gusteau from Ratatouille - "Anyone can Cook"
...if they try.