About being good at everything

Since I am planing to do some extensive embroidery on the cranach dress I am currently gathering information and materials for, I started reading up on medieval/renaissance embroidery a bit more. And even though this has been said about fivehundred times and even if I have been aware about this before – it is not in the modern human beings nature to picture different parts of a costume as seperate pieces of work.
We want to be able to do them ALL and ofcourse – with perfect result.
It is hard to remember that for instance the fur lining of something was not made by the tailor. And that the embroidered decorations were the work of someone else aswell.
Or 5 someone elses in some cases…
When we do our reconstructions, we want to do what perhaps 4 different masters made together – but we want to make it even better than they did back in the days.
Now, isn’t that slightly insulting to the skills of the old time masters?
Or actually – isn’t that WAY to much preasure to put on oneself?!
To make a master embroiderer or embroideress you had to be aprenticed for at least 8 years according to the regulations for Paris embroiderers drawn up and aproved 1303. (Medieval craftsmen, Embroiderers, Kay Stanland, Tne Brittish Museum Press, Page 13.)
You were not allowed to work after sunset and you were not allowed to work on any fast days or holidays.
Now, we can omit all that, but the fact remains: This was their day job and they worked really hard to gain the skills of a Master or Mistress.
We do not pressume to emidiately have the same skills as a Saville Row Tailor theese days.
We do not think that by just liking and having an interest for architecture we would be able to draw and build our own house with a perfect result – on our first try.
But when it comes to recreating medieval or renaissance cotumes – we sometimes tend to think that we can achive what it took masters YEARS to achieve – in just a few weekends.
So, what I am trying to say is that we should sometimes give ourselves a break.
And be good enough.
Do really good for a first try.
And dare to admit that we might not be able to be a Master tailor, Master embroiderer, a Master goldsmith and a Master weaver at the same time


11 thoughts on “About being good at everything

  1. Thanks for the reprieve! I just started back into embroidery after about 20 years. It’s like riding a bike, tho’. You know how, it’s just a little unsteady at first. Practice, practice, practice! LOL!

  2. ” So, what I am trying to say is that we should sometimes give ourselves a break.
    And be good enough.
    Do really good for a first try.”

    Just the words that I need, now that I’m wrestling with smockwork!!

    Thanks for posting 🙂

  3. I agree with Racaire. I had a bit of a similar rant some month ago, and it is really true. Master or mistress means exactly that, and there can’t be many of those at the same time, now can there?

  4. I agree with all of that, but still I wonder–was embroidery *also* done at home by normal people, who were never apprenticed and never became a master, but still wanted to decorate their homes? The high-end clothes, yes, will be the work of a team of talented artisans. The same is true today–come to Milan for Fashion Week and see things that many artists worked on, which are priced way out of reach of most of us. Did the average person never use fur or embroidery because they weren’t Mater’s in those crafts? Or did they make do with the skills they have and use it anyway, because they wanted to, and couldn’t afford to hire it done? I don’t know.

    1. Yes you are ofcourse completely right.
      What I should point out is that the majority of the embroidered items we have access to and hence strive to reproduce, are the high end things you speak of.
      If we had access to the home produced and perhaps simpler things – we would probably be more prone to cut ourselves some slack. 🙂
      And in the SCA at least – most people want to be the high end class.

  5. Sahra

    Well said!

    And we also should let the others do as well as they can 🙂 and say a nice word even for trying!

    and how hard it is to accept own work to be good enough even it is not Master-level 🙂

    This is what I have to remind for my self all the time; “do not compare. The others may be professionals. I am not . I am not. I am not….
    It is like practisig “handcraft yoga: do what you can, as well as you can and IF it does not work today, it will work tomorrow…

    Have mercy!

  6. You raise some interesting points.

    In the medieval period, it’s certainly true that a lot of clothing-related construction tasks, even in the making of clothing for ordinary people, were already being done by specialists. But what about during the “Dark Ages”? The Viking era? How much work had to be done by every family, and how much could be traded off to be done by specialists?

    It’s also worth bearing in mind that not every textile find from the past shows exquisite workmanship. Some are badly, even carelessly done. We have no way of knowing how much mediocre and bad craftsmanship didn’t survive–in fact, probably the reason so many finds show good workmanship is because good workmanship made clothing items more likely to last, and for their owner to take care of them, and thus improved the chances of their survival.

    1. Well, that is sort of my point. That we strive to reach up to those exquisit pieces of work – because that is what has survived. 🙂
      And even though some more carelessly made items have survived – we do like the ”bling” more and hence try to replicate the awesome and exquisit stuff more often than the mediocre.
      And this is where I hope we would start cutting ourselves some slack.
      Because not all embroideries have to look like Opus Anglicanum.
      And not all embroideries in the viking era, the dark ages or during teh renaissance were masterpieces.
      But the masterpeices are what we usually try to measure up to.
      Because we like the ”bling”!

  7. And even though some more carelessly made items have survived – we do like the ”bling” more and hence try to replicate the awesome and exquisit stuff more often than the mediocre.

    You’re quite right, and I agree it’s proper for us to “cut ourselves some slack” when we can’t quite imitate the old masters of the textile arts.

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