Student of Professionalism

What I really mean here is at what point does your sewing reach a professional level.  And although we sewists are most interested in answering that question, it does permeate through the art world.  One dictum says that you must practice about 10,000 (that comes out to about 5 years of 40 hr/week).

We all know, or should, that there’s more to it that just practice, practice, practice, and although that has a lot to do with it, then, according to this gauge, all my practice on the piano must mean that I should be an expert pianist, but I’m not.  So what’s the hang up?

Logic tells us (or at least should) that there are other factors too, acquisition of knowledge, access to that knowledge, talent, and certainly not least in this list is the will to learn whatever discipline you want to excel in.

An article in this morning’s feeds, shows this to be true:

Click the photo for more information, but the article pretty much says that even if you practice 10,000 hours (which is supposed to be that magic number), that there are some other variables and if you’re either not exposed or it’s not available to you, then good luck.

I found this when I was learning to sew, and frankly this is what set me on such a roundabout path toward learning how to sew – entering high school at my first excited day to learn sewing at the Home Ec., department only to find a project that was ridiculously simple (I think there was hardly any sewing to it – more at tying and gluing), as well as totally irrelevant to my life as a budding freshman in high school – a bib!!!!  What sort of information was making a bib going to add to my knowledge of sewing?….very little that I could see, and hence my major objection of the project (which landed me in the principal’s office the very first day of high school!!!!)

But before you cast aside any and all idea that mastering a skill doesn’t take practice – it does.  The thing this article makes clear is that practice is an essential part, but not the ONLY part.  With that part, comes not only practice, and the author makes clear, that this practice has to be intentioned practice focused on improvement, not just rote repetitious drills (alas, Hanon actually IS vile!!!!).

In other words, when you practice your sewing, make an effort to not only practice it well, but practice new techniques and learn to master them.  THIS and only this type of practice will progress you, and it will progress you at a faster rate than you can imagine.  I know it’s easy to sit down and do the famous no-sew projects that proliferate the web, but they really add nothing to your cadre of skills and certainly can’t and don’t advance your sewing knowledge and skills.

Another factor that is immensely important is learning the right skills.  This is a little harder to sort out because it’s like trying find the quality knowledge without knowing the knowledge of what’s quality or not.  Yeah, you think it’s confusing to do, it’s also confusing to say!!!!  Usually you can tell though with the breadth of work and the response from students.

Another dead giveaway are freebies.  These can be deceptive because the problems are not always immediately evident:

  1. They leave out crucial material
  2. They deal superficially with the subject matter
  3. They don’t involve troubleshooting or problem-solution along the way
  4. They deal with a very limited subject within a narrow technique description/explantion
  5. They can often contain incorrect information
  6. Worst of all – they can make a task look over-simplified and set the viewer up for certain failure

Doing just the basic research on a teaching system or person, can help you find a quality program/teacher.  One of the most important things I look for is the enthusiasm of the teacher(s).  This is what has caused me to fall in love with a local college that has some pretty dry leadership, but the teachers all have light behind their eyes and are sending their students off to the 4 corners of the world to practice their field of study as if they graduated from the major East or West Coast schools.  It is utterly amazing what enthusiasm and love of the art form can do for students.

Another is their passion to communicate and see the craft burgeoning and blossoming in their students.  This also displays their ability to share their creativity and their willingness to share their creativity.  Their willingness is almost directly related to their creative ability – if they have none, they are less (like not at all) willing to share, while if they are very creative, they are very generous in sharing their creative ideas.

Looking for a good class or teacher can be a little daunting, but hopefully it’s encouraging to know that if you do NOT complete 10,000 hours of practice, you can still and should be able to excel in your sewing skills.  I would think that would be a great relief, at least it would for me!

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  1. Claire, your reflections are always fascinating! I would second the “dumbing down” tendency that adds nothing to the skill set and, let’s face is, is boring. I mostly learned to sew trying to decipher Burda magazine’s instructions, and I learned a lot – thinking through a project, reading technical instructions, researching techniques through books (before Internet!) and trial and error. Your link re: Hanon is interesting as well – DS is studying the piano with an emphasis on classical technique.

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