Malcom Gladwell is a noted business author who penned the rule of 10,000. I am sure he was not the first to figure this out, but he articulated it well to the point where our contemporary society could understand true mastery. The skill of a “Master” can only be attained through hours in their art or craft.
Societies of yesteryear had Guilds of which craftsman were members. Individuals who wanted to take up a craft, such as masonry, carpentry, weaving, and many more, that individual would have to find a master in the craft willing to apprentice that individual. They would then work until they amassed enough skill and expertise to move into a status called Journeyman. Journeymen would have the necessary fundamentals to be able to take commissions, but still worked with a Master. They journeyman period can be the most frustrating, long, and hard won. It is when you no longer feel like the beginner, you believe you know enough to be a Master, and yet, you work for a lesser pay rate than the Master and yet the Master keeps you working in what you may feel is rudimentary. And this is where the rule for 10,000 comes in.
I heard a story about a Potter, who took an apprenticeship with a well-known and respected potter. This young man was excited to take such an apprenticeship, having long-admired his employer. And then his apprenticeship began. He was tasked with mugs. Mug after mug after mug. All he was allowed to work on were the mugs. No plates. No bowls. And certainly not any of the sculptural pieces the master potter was world renown for. And the apprentice turned mugs. For over a year, there he was with mugs upon his wheel. And when his apprenticeship was up, and he moved on, he felt disappointed in his apprenticeship and his mentor. He resented the mugs and swore to never turn another mug as long as he lived. A few months down the road, he received a “Call for Artists” for ceramics and he wanted to enter. But what could he possibly turn in to a national competition? And wouldn’t you know, he turned a lowly and humble mug. It was what he felt comfortable with. And while he noted his skills had improved across the board, the mug was exceptionally superior to everything else he turned. So he submitted his mug and went on with a potter’s life. It turned out that his mug won the competition. National recognition and a wonderful pay-out for his submission. It then dawned on him what had happened. He was a master potter without ever realizing what had happened. His mentor had known all along what would happen to him. He had become a Master of the Mug.
Is this the definition, then, that creates a Master Craftsman? I have been contemplating this and how it applies to the Fiber Arts. Is it 10,000 hours of spinning? Or 10,000 skeins of yarn? It can’t possibly be 10,000 yards, since that is just one week of Spinzilla! And is it 10,000 warps in weaving? 10,000 projects? 10,000 hours of beating? Hours alone could not be it, because there is so much time involved with weaving. And then there is knitting? Is it 10,000 sweaters? If so, I give up! Or is it 10,000 small projects? 10,000 swatches? Crochet? Quilting? Sewing? How can a fiber artist gauge their place in the industry by their projects?
So one of my goals for September is to do some serious note-taking. Surprisingly, I seem ot have a back log. What did think I was doing since my last post? I have been weaving! And demonstrating! And teaching! And all sorts of things, but now with the impending fall, it is time to catch up on my notes and my cataloguing of woven and knitted samples. And read through my certificates of excellence. We must all have goals, and one of mine is to be a master in the fiber arts. In order to do this, I must have the documentation to back this up.
How about you? Where are you in your journey to mastering your craft? Are you an apprentice or journeyman? A master already? What are some valuable lessons you have learned along the way? And where to you hope to land as a Master?