Michael Caine once said “I'll always be there because I'm a skilled professional actor. Whether or not I've any talent is beside the point.”
Regardless of what your thoughts may be on his acting ability, Michael Caine brings up an interesting point on what professionalism is, particularly for artists. Whether your career is in acting, writing or making, there is a line between talent and professionalism and it’s the job of organisations such as Craft Scotland to support makers in developing both.
Last month the BBC announced they were on the search for “amateur designer-makers” to participate in a new series. They are looking for hidden talent, people who are passionate about their craft who would benefit from presenting their work to Britain’s most ‘discerning masters and makers.’ As a keen supporter of the DIY movement I was delighted to see that craft is going to be on the television in what sounded like an accessible format and without so much of a hint of Kirsty Allsopp. It wasn’t until I read the final sentence that I became confused.
It states “Please note: amateur refers to anyone whose sole income does not come from sales of their craftwork.” According to the recently published Craft in An Age of Change this immediately rules out at least 30% of the craft sector, but I would be surprised if this figure is not much higher. I know many, many successful makers (working across discipline and attracting very different audiences) who are also teachers, shop assistants, curators, waiters, cleaners in a B&B…the list goes on. Some people do it for the extra cash and some people do it because they enjoy it. Surely it doesn’t make them any less qualified?
This got me to thinking about what it means to be a professional within the craft sector. Is it about quality of work? Is it about achieving ‘master’ status? Is it about making a living solely out of selling products? Or is it about how a maker conducts themselves in their working day?
I’ve recently had to inform 50 makers that they had not been selected to take part in an upcoming event Craft Scotland is involved in. In response to my email I received lots back from makers asking if I could provide more personal feedback. Some makers sent a reply wishing Craft Scotland and the makers who have been selected lots of success with the show.
However, there were some less positive - and less professional - responses. A member of my team was screamed at over the phone. I’ve been threatened with violence, accused of being immoral and told I’ve caused complete devastation to lives. Perhaps most surprising of all, I have been accused of bringing down the Catholic Church.
This is not the first time I have received insults from makers who have not been selected. I have spent the three years wondering why this happens, and questioning whether my approach is sometimes a little too open. For the first time I have spoken to others who run similar selection processes and I have been shocked to discover they receive similar threats and abuse. In other working environments it simply would not be allowed.
Not being accepted for an event can create feelings of anger, frustration or rejection. There’s lots of ways to deal with these feelings whilst remaining professional. One solution for venting emotion is to write an email and send it to a friend, or chat it through with someone you trust. Then give it a few days and respond to the organisation you’ve applied to with a more measured response, asking for feedback and guidance.
Scotland is home to a wealth of talent and often makers aren’t accepted for a show because of circumstantial reasons. These include a big surge in applications for a particular discipline, or because a collection of makers has to sit well together. If feedback you receive from an organisation recommends that you apply to future shows, take this as a positive, not an insult.
Your professionalism in dealing with rejection could help you out here. No-one wants to work with someone who has been unprofessional.
Nobody likes to feel criticised, but when done constructively it is absolutely necessary for the development of your career. I hope it’s not too naïve to assume that people apply to organisations such as Craft Scotland because you trust us. We are ambitious for every maker in Scotland and any feedback given should be taken positively.
I always welcome constructive criticism from makers, as we are constantly improving and tweaking the way we do things at Craft Scotland. Any sector is best when it is informing and learning from each other, constantly improving on its professionalism and supporting the growth of the individuals within it.
Emma Walker, Chief Executive, Craft Scotland
Craft Scotland are currently recruiting for positions on the Board of Directors. We are particularly keen to hear from people working in the craft sector. If you would like to contribute to the development of Craft Scotland please take a look at our advert here: http://www.craftscotland.org/community/event_details.html?apply-to-join-the-craft-scotland-board-of-directors&event_id=990
Please note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of Craft Scotland, but of the comment writer.
If a comment made does not comply with our Terms and Conditions, please use the ‘report’ button to let us know.