by Signora Fiore Leonetta Bardi, Crowns A&S Champion, May 2020.
When one has a desired goal, a thing to be accomplished, it can be tempting — perhaps even expedient — to figure out how to achieve the goal most quickly. I have been so very guilty of this. I once infamously learned a devilishly hard song for a concert in a couple of days. Of course, I no longer remember it or why it was so important to learn in the first place. And like most of you, I have burned the midnight oil to get to a place where I could finish sewing on the drive to an event. Where I was, of course, wearing/entering/donating said garment. I have learned something by mastering expedience — that it is rarely, if ever, truly satisfying. These days I take the most pleasure in the process itself and I am writing this treatise in an attempt to seduce you into this calling.
Working backward from a goal — determining what happens last and then, what happens before that. And, before that. Until you come to the beginning of your project — is a revelation. As is, beginning with a list of all of the steps before you, and the steps within those steps. Looking at patterns and portraits, or reading other findings. Using these as a basis for your own questions. Allowing yourself to treat each discovered answer as a reward. Treating the unanswerable as a playground for your thought and experimentation. Letting questions lead to other questions. Letting this inquiry and experiment fail and reflecting on the lessons therein.
Embracing failure. Letting the frustration of those missteps bow to the lessons within them. Catching yourself in your repetitive mistakes and your self-limiting beliefs. Accepting that what we know as fact can shift with new findings, better scholarship, and clearer understanding.
All of this is Process. And as you come to know Process, beginning to respect, and understand your process.
I sew, almost exclusively, by hand. I do not do so because of the virtue in historical accuracy (although I suppose I am glad of it), but because of my specific history. My mother worked in sweatshops as I was growing up and took in piece work to make ends meet. The hum of her Singer sewing machine was a constant feature of my evenings and a soundscape in my dreams. Simply put, I hate that sound. So, I sew by hand and my process is informed by this. My process might never serve you because your process is informed by your reality. These differences sometimes make people feel that they can’t “do” process when not only can they, they would better enjoy their work if they did.
Another example of my process. Hard deadlines are both important and potentially destructive for me. That is to say, that certain projects take me the amount of time they take and a deadline in violation of that time, is disastrous. You may thrive under a deadline so my process in this instance, cannot serve you.
My point is this, your growth as an Artisan does not have to look a certain way, especially as you begin. But that growth should have a methodology. You could try to emulate the process of someone you admire but before you launch in, make certain to adjust for how you like to learn and do things. Try something one way, keep a record whether written or recorded, document how effective (or not) it was. Iterate and reiterate — make ALL the mistakes and then document them so that you can avoid them in the future. Better still tell others, so that they can learn from you and avoid those pitfalls altogether.
Process — having a goal, stating a plan of action, charting the steps, acquiring knowledge and resources for each step, and keeping a record as you execute each step — leads to something very specific. Process leads to Craft. It leads to Artistry and it leads to more Process because as I mentioned before, Process is seductive. Once you give in to it, you will not want to let it go.