Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The 'Sweat Shop'

Workshop preparations are going smoothly.  Mary has got her loom set up and just started weaving her heading.  I just finished threading and have begun sleying, but feel the need of a back break.  I have been away from the loom for too long...if you don't use it, you lose it...and I can feel how much muscle tone I have lost.  Fortunately it does come back, so I just need to pace myself.  

We have been working through the Fiberworks tutorial in order to acquaint ourselves with Fiberworks.  Even though I have used the program for literally decades, some of the more, shall we say advanced, features have eluded me.  So just for that alone this workshop was well worth signing up for!

The temperatures, which have been high for here at this time of year, have come down somewhat.  Maybe tomorrow we will go for a walk.  

In the meantime, I have a loom that needs setting up...and hope I didn't make too many threading mistakes!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Working Holiday

This 'holiday' is really an excuse to retreat from the daily concerns of life, work on things that I can't concentrate on well because of the distractions of Life, and generally take a break before a very busy time rapidly approaching.  

Mary had to go out this morning so I put some music on, opened the latest round of edits, and hopefully caught more typos and rough spots.  There are at least two passages that need to be re-written. But I'm going to talk them over with Mary and Cindy to see if they have some suggestions for clarifying what it is I want and/or need to say.  

There is still plenty of work to be done.  I'm thinking all photos need to be re-taken, partly to make sure they are all in focus, partly to make them visually consistent.  Diagrams need to be drawn.  Drafts edited.  Projects designed, assigned or slotted into my schedule for weaving.  Then, of course, the finished projects will have to be photographed.  

All of which is to say, I'm back on the original schedule, maybe even pushing completion into 2018.  

Well, it will take as long as it takes!

The stuff in the background is some of the preparation for us to take a workshop with Bonnie Inouye.  Looms have to be dressed and any threading errors fixed...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hidden Costs

One of the threads (ha!) on the #fairfiberwage topic on the internet is that of the hidden costs that go on regardless of the actual teaching fee being requested by teachers.  

The beta edits are beginning to arrive.  I have completed two, both of which were extensive (plus my own, done on a hard copy, because that's the way my brain works best, usually) and I am about to go to Staples and print the updated file out again.  

But here's the thing.  Those 133 or so pages that I was working from are now garbage.  Well, recycle, but you get the drift.  

So far I have invested countless hours generating the text to date. Printed out multiple copies for my own use, relied on the good will of a chosen few alpha and now beta readers.  And the book is still less than 50% complete.  I have used up printer cartridges to print out early versions, sucked electricity to run both computer and printer.  Burned the midnight oil.  And all of this effort done long before the book is ready for sale.  This is not unique to me, this is the effort that goes into any book.  There is a reason most authors only produce one book a year.  A technical book, in my experience, takes longer, partly because of the difficulty of rendering information in text, which is generally best seen done.  So, lots of photos, diagrams, and now, thanks to modern technology, perhaps even embedded video clips.

Teaching classes requires much the same sort of hidden effort.  Many students have no idea of the amount of effort required, nor the hours of marketing that are required.  The logistics of setting up teaching tours/dates.  Teachers who rely on teaching for part, or all, of their income stream are not just working the hours of the class.  They are doing hours if not days of preparation.  Then there is the challenge of physically getting from home to point A, B, C.  

At a recent five day class, I got precisely one 'coffee break'.  My only other 'breaks' were to run down the hall for a bathroom break.  And even then I have been known to field questions...  

One of the things to remember, as a consumer if educational products is that you get a whole lot more than what you see of the instructors time, effort and energy.  

Sunday, September 11, 2016


One of the things about being self-employed is that...you, yourself, get to do the work.  No minions.  Just you.  If you don't do it, it doesn't get done.

One of the things that I, personally, have to deal with, constantly, is a tyrant of an Inner Critic.  She constantly casts doubt in my garden of ideas.  "That isn't good enough."  "No one will buy this,."  "No one will pay that much for this thing."

For 66 years and counting I have been doing battle with this tyrant.  So far she has not actually prevented me from doing what I want to do,.  But wow, can it get tiring!

The worst thing, I think, is that the more I listen to her, the more I procrastinate, the more I doubt myself, the less I tackle the hard jobs.  Like writing.

The first edits (of the latest version of the manuscript) are beginning to come in.  And, in spite of it looking promising, and the kind words of those who have responded (because it takes a Peanut Gallery to quell the tyrannical Inner Critic), I sit here, the edits quietly, patiently, waiting for me to open the file and get 'er done.

The other things about being self-employed is that there is always a list of Stuff That Needs To Be Done.  So ignoring the 'hard' job (writing) becomes easier.  "Oh, I'll just do this 'easy' job, then I'll do the 'hard' job."  Ya, right.

And so the days go by and the hard job gets harder and harder to do.

Which is why I have to love the deadlines.  I have a deadline by which time I really want/need to have this round of edits done.  And it looms.  Relentlessly, the days go by and that deadline gets closer.  So today, right now (as soon as I hit Send and Share) I will open the Word file and get back to the edits.

The few days between starting and today, this minute, have let me cogitate on some of the edits and make a decision about them.  And so I will plough on. 

Because the hard jobs also need to get done.

Currently reading Dead Ground in Between by Maureen Jennings

Friday, September 9, 2016

Life is a Sample

trying for 'perfect'

I think there are so many 'fairy tales' that use textiles as a metaphor precisely because so much of weaving - the lessons to be learned - are true for creating textiles and life.

So yes, I weave samples.  Lots of them.  I believe in the lessons that can be learned by weaving just to increase my knowledge.  Unfortunately some new weavers just don't seem to understand the necessity.  Many of them just want to make...X...whatever X may be.

But without knowing your materials' potential, how can appropriate choices be made?

I am not the only one who believes in sampling for the sake of learning:

Abby Franquemont - That's just good sense. Sampling is doing all the science and investigation and exploration and whatnot!

The Olds program emphasizes the need to sample by requiring many samples, fully documented.  Weaving the samples and keeping records of what was done allows the new weaver to begin to create their own database of knowledge so that they can begin to adjust density, weave structure, wet finishing, in order to create the cloth they desire, not just whatever happens to occur.

People get all obsessed about making 'perfect' when what they need to do - imho - is to make good.  Concentrate on learning from what happens when x, y and z are put together.  Then change one of the parameters to get better.  

Lately there have been a lot of posts on social media about making things.  It has been shown over and over again that making many things leads to better results.  As one meme put it - make stuff.  It might be bad, but as you make more stuff, it will get better.

And that pretty much sums up life for me.  I do stuff.  I make mistakes.  Hopefully I learn from them and do better.  

It's all about 'sampling'.  It's all about learning.  It's all about getting better.  If I manage 'perfect' once in a while, that's great.  But it's only a goal I work towards.  I don't beat myself up when I don't manage 'perfect'.  I will just keep trying to make it good.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

More to Learn

Warp for the workshop with Bonnie Inouye

One of the attractions of weaving is that you can never learn everything in one lifetime.  

For quite a few years I simply haven't had the brain power to think much beyond my creative borders, and since that continual learning aspect was a big draw for me, I felt as though I was stuck in the same old, same old. 

But, just like the universe worked hard to get me to a loom in the first place, another opportunity arrived when the time was right.

Turns out my hostess in TN was interested in taking a workshop with Bonnie Inouye that was taking place during my visit with her.  As soon as I found out, I asked if I could borrow a loom and take it, too. Turns out I could, so I am.  

The topic isn't entirely new to me, but it has been years since I have looked at it, plus Bonnie has been pushing the boundaries of the topic for a long time so it will be a good review and launch back into what I hope will be a more intellectual exploration of cloth construction.  Not to mention I will undoubtedly learn a whole lot more about using Fiberworks beyond the basics I am comfortable using.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Labour Day

Like most women of my age, I was raised to question my own worth.  It wasn't just my parents that instilled this in me - it was part of how society was in the 1950's.  Women had been encouraged to enter the work force during the war, then were pushed back into the home and proper 'women's work' when it was over - where we didn't get paid, our time wasn't valued the same way a man's was and we were expected to do things like 'share' and work for free as volunteers.

During the 1970's that began to change (thanks Betty Friedan, and others), but that sort of attitude has deep roots.

For the longest time I felt very...awkward...about people referring to me as a 'master' weaver - in spite of having the paper to show for it.  (Thanks to my supportive spouse for getting this mug made, to remind me that I did, indeed, fulfill the requirements for the Master Weaver Certificate - as granted by the Guild of Canadian Weavers.)

Even today, women typically make 70% of what a man in the same position will make.

So, appropriately enough, this Labour Day weekend a furor of sorts has broken out, centered on what is a fair wage for fibre arts instructors.  This group is largely filled by women - with a few men.

The target audience is typically women - with a few men.

Over the years I have struggled to set myself a fee that I felt would be 'fair' - not just for myself, but for those hiring me.  Knowing that the audience for my classes is about 99% female, and the reality of the economics of women, I have kept my fee as low as possible.  Also I have factored in the fact that my travel costs to anywhere are going to be much higher than other people.

Add into that the fact that I have not reviewed or adjusted my fee for three years, and my daily rate is woefully out of date.

I am also reaching an age where the stress of travel - time zone changes can be as much as four hours from the west to the east - the general stress of wondering what Mother Nature will throw in my path, airlines that arrive late so I miss my connecting flight(s), sleeping in strange beds, food that may - or may not - be 'safe' for me to eat - or else I don't eat as much as I need meaning I may be teaching on a near empty stomach, trying to explain things in as many different ways as required to reach the majority of the students.

There is also the aspect that someone like myself who - and it is difficult for me to say this - has an international reputation - is under pricing herself, potentially making other teachers who *are* charging a more realistic daily fee look 'bad'.

After thinking about all of the aspects of being an itinerant teacher the choice is obvious - I either quit - or I increase my fee to something that more realistically reflects what others of my stature are charging (and I can't tell you how hard it is for me to accept that I AM a 'name' - I need to keep that mug out and use it daily to make myself believe I am what it says I am!  A friend gave me a tiara - perhaps I need to wear it around the house to remind myself I am...special???)

And thus I make this announcement.  For those guilds who have contacted me for prices, I will honour the quote I have given.  Beginning today, my teaching fee is now $600 per day, plus travel costs, plus food and lodging.  Workshops will also have an attached material fee, depending on what is supplied.  The hosting guild will provide the handouts - because carrying handouts in my luggage means an over weight bag, which is already full of teaching samples (and textiles for sale during the event.)  This fee is still on the low end.  I am keeping it on the lower end because I recognize that my travel costs will be higher than pretty much any other teacher out there - unless they come from abroad.  

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Romantic Notions

People who have not taught, especially when long distance travel is involved, have such a romantic notion about what goes on before the class ever happens.

First the teacher has to come up with a focus for the workshop - the general topic.  Then the various drafts/projects have to be designed.  The photo above is a sampling of what happens at this stage.  Lots of yarn samples, some preliminary designs to include.  Samples to prove the concept.

Then all of the handouts have to be designed and generated.

All the appropriate marketing information needs to be assembled and posted to a website (preferably) or sent to the event for their consideration.  It used to be that an instructor didn't have to do this bit until they were hired, but now event organizers want all of that up front.  A whole lot more work before you even have the job.

Once booked, a traveling teacher usually tries to find other bookings to maximize their income and keep the cost of travel down.

After the go/no-go date has come and the event confirmed, travel needs to be booked - and paid for - up front.  Class materials are mailed out for participants (this job usually takes me about 8 hours) so they can bring their dressed looms, ready to weave on.   (Of course the first hour is frequently spent 'fixing' issues - like mis-threadings, mis-sleyings, etc., etc.)

One of the longest most challenging trips I did began by arriving on the eastern side of the continent a few days early.  A participant invited me to stay with her to help me adjust to the four hour time zone difference.  She drove me to the event (5 hours away) and then acted as my 'assistant'.  (She had taken several classes with me previously and become a good friend.)  There, I taught a 5 day class, then my friend helped me dress all of the looms for the two day workshop over the weekend.

From there I went to Point C where I taught a one day class.  I was driven to a convenient meeting point where my hostess for the next leg brought me to her house (Point D).  The next day we drove to Point E where I taught another weekend workshop.  Travelling on fresh ice slick highways.   On Monday we returned to Point D where I taught for that guild.  From there we set off to Point F, this time with three people in the vehicle, two looms, and all of our luggage.

At Point F I taught a two day workshop and then a one day workshop.  From Point F I returned home.

Six locations.  Seven different workshops.  Six topics.  All with class samples that had to fit into one suitcase.  Frequently I also do guild programs while I am in an area.

This trip was very different because I was driven between the locations, not flying from point to point as usually happens.  I actually got to see some of the countryside, not just go from airport to hostess to venue and back again.

I was away from home for an entire month.  When I got home, Life Had Been Happening, plus I had a month's worth of business to catch up on.  And the time zone change, again.

Two years ago I had to cancel all my teaching because I was waiting for by-pass surgery.  I had no idea when the surgery would take place, or how soon (if at all) I would feel like dealing with the logistics of such trips and the stress of time zone changes, different beds, my funky diet, especially while traveling.

Recently I have been getting inquiries about teaching.  So far I have accepted the dates but my teaching fee is three years out of date.  With the recent discussion on the internet about what represents a 'fair' wage, I either need to stop teaching (other than for Olds College) or increase my rates - significantly.

Friday, September 2, 2016

One Small Cog

So this arrived while I was out of town:

Tien had a vision, a big dream, worked hard to make it happen.  Big dreams don't happen without planning, dedication, effort, on the part of the dreamer.  And sometimes, the path to completion can be smoothed, aided and abetted by others.  

I, too, have dreamed big dreams.  I know how much effort they can take and my personal philosophy can be summed up in one short sentence...lighting someone else's candle does not diminish mine.  So I offered to help in one way I knew I could...by transcribing the interviews that were conducted with a number of other creative people.  

I was happy to be one small cog in the 'machinery' that brought this dream into material form.  

I am also blessed that a similar crowd is helping me bring my latest big dream into reality.  Life can be challenging and difficult.  Good friends help get over the hurdles and smooth the path.  

Currently reading The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Use It, or Lose It

I've been told that muscle tone starts to reduce after three days of not using them.  I have seen this in action whenever I am away from the loom for more than a week.  

It has been about 10 days since I've done any 'serious' weaving and I felt it when I got back to the loom today.  

As I am only home for about two weeks before I leave again, I will no sooner get back to 'normal', then leave, this time for three weeks.  While I will be taking a workshop during my trip, it won't be my usual sort of weaving.  Then, once I'm home it will be all steam ahead in terms of show season.  I hope I can fit at least a few days in, here and there, just to keep my hand in, as it were.  

Because if you don't use it, you do, indeed, lose it.