Sunday, December 20, 2020

Critical vs Critique


After reading some posts on social media this morning I am reminded about the difference between being critical, and offering a critique.

It is extremely easy to criticize someone.  It is much more difficult for someone to give a critique.  

What is the difference?

Someone who is critical tends to denigrate the person or make negative comments without the intent of providing feedback the person can use to improve their work.

A critique is focused on the work, not the person, and is an attempt to help the person see their work with fresh eyes.

I was privileged to attend a critique being given by Mariette Rouseau-Vermette at the Banff Centre of Fine Arts.  It was eye opening, both in terms of hearing what Ms Rouseau-Vermette had to say in regards to one of the student's work, but also?  To witness the reaction of the student afterwards.

What I heard was a gentle questioning of the student as to her intent and where that intent was not being expressed in the work being shown.  What I heard from the student afterwards was a tirade of emotion, based on her reaction to the critique.  The student was probably 19, had probably never had a critique done before and interpreted everything that had been said as criticism of *her*.

It was sobering.  And enlightening.

So when I give feedback to someone, I tend to come from the same place as Ms. Rouseau-Vermette.  I ask what the maker's intent was, try to find out more about what it was they set out to do.  In the case of marking homework, I point out areas that need to be worked on in the future.

But more importantly?  I try to be clear in my own mind about my own intent.

I was already doing that, to a large extent, but not in any clear way.  It was as though a light had been turned on, and I was able to see more clearly - my path, my purpose, even my customer.  Because my intent was, after all, to earn an income from making and selling textiles.  And ultimately teaching about them.

During this time of pandemic I have seen an increase in people who are also trying to earn an income being asked for donations.  Donations of product, but even more, donations of time.  Well, it takes time to make product, be that actual material items or course content.  So asking a professional textile person to donate their time?  Is taking money out of their pockets.  

Asking people to do their professional work for nothing?  Takes food out of their mouths now.

Believe me when I say, no one in the textile world is getting rich doing this thing that we do, and, during this time of pandemic, contracted events have been cancelled.  They have had to pivot to on line teaching, which means a bucketload of time to convert class materials and how information is presented from in person to on line.  Learning new technologies.  *Buying* new equipment.  Not an easy feat.  

Expecting, demanding, people with a high profile in the craft donate their time to someone/some event is not appropriate at the best of times.  When the answer is 'no', chastising them for not helping?  Not appropriate.

I have been the brunt of someone asking why I was charging a fee for a service I was providing.  I have had people tell me to my face my prices were too high.  I have had more than one person ask me who I thought I was, asking to be paid.  Which stings given how much time I have donated to the craft, how many places I have worked for less than my stated fee in order to support an event, how many things I have donated to fund raising auctions, how many emails I've written answering questions (then been told they didn't like my answer so they were going to ignore it.)

Abby Franquemont has a list of her fees on her website.  When I contacted her about doing the Sunday seminar series, I factored her fee into my budget, and am now promoting the hell out of the series so that I can pay her, and the other speakers their asked for fees.  What I did NOT do was ask them to work for free.  When one person said that she would, I asked if she was sure because I do not want to undervalue anyone's time and effort.  OTOH?  The series is also meant to be a fund raiser for the guild, so her fee will be used to help pay the guild room expenses.  And I will send her a couple of tea towels as a thank you.

Right now a lot of people are hurting financially.  And the professionals in the textile world are struggling.  If you can't afford to buy their books, take an on-line class, it takes but a moment to share their on line events.  

It costs nothing to light someone else's candle.  And two candles give more light than one.

1 comment:

Jacquie said...

I can relate to this. Talking with my 40+ yr old career-orientated stepdaughter about how the pandemic had affected us, I made a comment that I was thousands of pounds light from losing all my week-long and weekend teaching this year. "You mean you get paid for doing it? I thought you just did it for fun, with maybe your fuel paid for."

She found it hard to believe that the skills involved in my little 'hobby' of lacemaking was actually valuable enough to others to want to pay me to teach them how to do it.