Friday, January 13, 2012

Textile Friday: Perspective: The Value of Age

             "Respect the old while searching for the new." -Morimoto (Iron Chef)

           I've been catching up on my New Year's resolution for reading and wanted to talk today not about the future, but the past. This is the hardest lesson I have had to learn as an adult. That I do not know it all. To be a good designer, you must know your tools. To be an extraordinary designer, you must know the past. Many people forget in the face of our rapid technological increases, the value of old wisdom. There's a lot of experience that living imparts that can not be replicated or stolen. A machine run according to a manual that does not assume failure results in a hunk of broken metal. Real expertise comes not from expecting a perfect system, but knowing all systems are opening to failure and allowing for it. The harder part comes in being willing to fix them. And having the knowledge to do so.
            A beginner sits at a sewing machine and sews for an hour only to think that they have mastered the concept by completing the class. An master knows that a pattern must be drafted, corrected, redrafted, cut, recut, ironed, sewn, ironed again, and finally tested. Many master crastmen do all of this with 40 years experience at a speed that is both humbling and mind-blowing. Really getting a skill is the work of years not minutes. Sketching a concept may be the work of minutes or an hour, it takes longer to create the real thing. Add to that raw materials must be bought and costs figured. Machines must be oiled and maintained. The final product must be tested in the marketplace. That's why real commercial patterns that have been tested over time have such value, because of all the built in failures of the master you are not required to make to reach their conclusions. Or why established design shop equipment is so valuable.
           You should respect a master craftsmen for the time and effort he has put into learning his craft. This is a real skill and this is why design shops consider skilled labor of all types to be preferential. Be warned, you will limit yourself if you allow this sense of accomplishment to get in the way of your common sense. Skill rests upon the value of your equipment.  And equipment can always be improved. Your hands, feet, mind, soul, and body are part of that equipment set.
           A wise man prizes his tools for this reason and has several sets at his disposal. He also knows that tools tend to, like skills, get better over time. Right now the price of robotics is going down significantly. In another 5 years it will likely be 3D pattern drafting. Watching the industry as a whole as seeing where it is going is important. And this is the second part of this proverb by one of my favorite chefs, that the new always exists right beyond our grasp ready to surprise, delight, and frustrate us with it's unguessed beauty. Thanks Morimoto.

Have a great weekend everyone. May you grow in wisdom and may your workshop find new tools in it soon.

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