“Being a college professor would be a great job . . . if it weren’t for the students.”
I’ve heard these very words spoken, and have uttered them myself, if only as a joke. After all, if there were no students, there would be no job, no need for college professors, right?
All jobs, no matter how fun and fulfilling, have their downsides, I suppose.
In all my years teaching, it wasn’t the students that were the problem for me—I liked the students. It was the grading I hated.
But teaching, at least in American higher ed, means grading. Without students and without grading, there wouldn’t be a job.
In every craft I’ve done, there are tasks I dislike.
Making yoyos is great, if it weren’t for sewing them together.
Quilting is great, if it weren’t for the basting. Ack—I hate basting.
Making jewelry is great, if it weren’t for the polishing stage.
Weaving is great, if it weren’t for winding warp/sleying the reed/ threading the heddles/finishing the fabric off the loom. This whole topic of unpleasant tasks is actually on my mind right now because I face a day, or more, of hemming eleven towels and tablecloths. I have been postponing this for a while!
And, yet, without these tasks would the craft be the craft?
Without sewing them together, yoyos are just a pile of useless, albeit cute, pieces of fabric.
Without basting the quilt top to the batting and the backing, there is no quilt, just a piece of fabric of no particular use.
Without polishing, jewelry is just, simply, ugly.
Without all those steps of weaving, no weaving happens, no fabric grows.
When I was first learning to weave, I read a book where the author’s response was very clear, to a student who hated to wind warp.
The student said, “I just want to weave, not do all this other stuff.” She meant she just wanted to throw the shuttle.
The author’s position was that, when you wind warp, you are weaving. When you sley the reed and thread heddles and otherwise prepare the loom, you are weaving. It’s all weaving.
All the aspects of any job are critical to its being done.
So, if we care enough about the making, and the finished product, we learn to manage the bits that we find difficult or tedious.
I suppose, in some cases, we find more tedium in the craft than joy, and that may explain why we give some activities up and search out new creative outlets, to find the ones where the tedium/joy ratio is more to our liking.
For me, and the crafts I continue to do, I’ve either looked for ways to make the process more enjoyable or tried to re-frame my attitude.
I found a technique for basting quilts that works beautifully for me and, while I still don’t look forward to basting, I do it with much less gnashing of teeth than before.
For the yoyos and the weaving, I have simply (or maybe not so simply) changed my thinking.
Sewing the yoyos together remains a drag. But the only really unpleasant part is the longer stretches of stitching and it’s those longer stretches that also provide a sense of how satisfying the finished project will be. I keep my eyes on that prize and take time to step back and see how lovely this will be!
With weaving, I’ve found that many of the steps I used to hate get less soul crushing as I get better at them. Winding warp used to be my bête noire and now I have no trouble, although it’s still tedious.
I’ve come to grips with other steps by treating them as challenges, as fights I must win. Can I thread the heddles without mistake? Can I get the warp wound on without major tangles? I think I can, I think I can . . .
And along the way, I tell myself that, no matter what stage I’m in, I’m weaving. I am touching the threads and enjoying the textures. I’m watching the colors shift in the light and planning how they will come together. I’m doing some task that is integral to the making. It’s all weaving.
I wonder why we don’t talk about all this more often. I can’t imagine that we don’t share some frustrations about our crafts, as beloved as they are, but we spend our time talking about the fun parts and the finished projects.
Will you tell me about what you don’t like in your craft or in a job you’ve done? Or do you relish every step? Have you found ways to make the icky parts more fun?