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Mastercrafts - no short cuts

In my recent pre-review on Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us I pondered about master craftsmen. Why, when modern progress and all the inventions of the last century should have given us more free time, are craftsmen so far and few between?

Mastering takes time


For some weeks now we've been watching Monty Don's Mastercrafts and yesterday's program in my opinion really told it all - why mastering takes time and although modern society seems to give us more time to spend the way we like ourselves, at the same time modern society is "guilty" of giving us the one thing that holds us back: short cuts.

In the weeks before we had watched as 3 hopefuls per program had set the first steps in mastering one of the "old crafts": Green Wood Craft, Thatching, Balcksmithing and Stained Glass and from the first program on we became hooked to it. The programs are sincerely made, showing you the history of the craft, the masterpieces preserved for posterity and the reason why it is so important these crafts are being kept alive (our heritage of masterpieces would "crumble" if we do not take care of them in the way we should.)

Yesterday Monty Don introduced three new hopefuls to the craft of weaving: Fashion designer Holly Berry, ex-City business annalist Tref Davies and craft-writer Momtaz Begum-Hossain. All three were left in the hands of mentor Margo Selby, one of UK's few craftsmen making a living from weaving.

Momtaz, a true spirit of modern times, told us she did not like to follow rules and would make up her own to create the products. And that "statement"/attitude would come to haunt her the rest of the 6 weeks of "boot-camp".
In mastering a craft there are no short-cuts - in order to become a master you have to master the technique first, relentlessly getting to grips with the technique. Once you master the technique of your craft, you can start to push against it boundaries and create your own craft - not the other way around.

The two others quickly "saw" the basics, the technique of setting the loom, why the correct winding of the yarn on the wraps and the correct schedule - or rather programming - of then threading the headles in the different shafts (which when used in different combinations during the weaving creates the pattern) forms the absolute essential foundation to the craft of weaving. No short cuts.


Understanding the whole process of what makes a woven cloth, understanding the technique how, but more important, why it works the way it works is the first and only step to master a craft.
As Monty Don remarked: repetitive actions, extremely repetitive actions matters every time, starting with the correct winding of the yarns, setting up the loom and handling the shuttles - all equally important. No short cuts.

And that's where modern society, modern attitude fails us - we are so used to short-cuts we even believe we are entitled to cutting corners. Being "clever" -i.e. finding the short cuts - has in many ways become the new meaning of being creative, of "mastering" something. Being clever is using this or that trick to cut corners and get ahead of the game, we see it daily in many products and services. Get Rich Quick schemes aplenty.

Yes, you could get lucky and create a "master-piece" without the hard graft, but could you repeat your success when you have not taken the essential time to understand why and how it works? You can throw paints on a canvas and by chance a combination of two colours mixing together creates a most wonderful new colour. Could you reproduce this new wonderful colour again and again? No chance. No short cuts.

Momtaz tried to follow her own rules in creativity and messed up the first sample by not mastering the importance of the technique of the craft. At the end of the program - to give her her due - she persevered and created what the two judges (Michelle Bowen from the Arts Council and Angela Swan from the Worshipful Company of Weavers) considered as a very early stage development, but given time she would be able to master the craft.

Holly and Tref both mastered the technique where Holly produced a commercial worthy double woven cloth. Tref turned out to be a real novelty, even a genius, and already managed to push at the boundaries of the technique, creating a very complicated pattern extremely well executed - even though he had been very unwell the last week. His "master-piece" earned him a 6 months apprenticeship at Margo Selby's studio.


Monty's last remark, quoting Momtaz, brought the message truly home: there is such a difference between amateurism and professionalism, it has such a high standard.

No short cuts.

(The program is filled with precious moments, if you have 60 minutes to spare do yourself a favour and watch the broadcast here)


Karin H.

Low and behold! No sooner had I emailed out the blog-alert for this post do I receive an ultimate example (IMHO) of taking short cuts. One of my subscribers uses an auto-reply on all incoming emails promoting, you guessed it, a get rich quick scheme.

Subject of the email:
"If I can show you how to take $275 to make $10K, over and over again, do you think... Re: Teresa, Mastercraft, no short cuts - new post on Kiss2"
Body text:
"If I can show you how to invest $275 to make $10K, over and over again, do you think you can find 2 people who would be interested?
Yea, it's a NO BRAINER!
Let's connect if you're interested.
Skype: xxxx - (removed by me)
Or, email me back.
Here's to Your Health & Wealth!"

I pity these kind of people. Suppose they think they are "crafty" and "clever". Sigh

Karin H

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