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May 2016

Someday I Want to Be Paid As Much As An Electrician

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In an eloquent comment on ASK Harriete  John Rose says,

 "Demonizing workshop sponsors is fun and in some cases deserved, but in reality workshops are business partnerships between instructors and venues. They need each other. Instructors need an equipped, safe and maintained facility to teach in. Without qualified instructors the venues are just very expensive empty rooms."

"Both sides of this equation have expenses. You have quite rightly pointed out the hidden costs of the instructor. Building and maintaining a facility that will support metals workshops [any media really] requires no small amount of capital for real estate, equipment, insurance and staff to run it (just to name of few expenses).

The real issue facing us all is how to determine a fair price that students can afford/willing to pay..."


Harriete continues: I also heard a similar comment in some of the Facebook discussions. It isn't that I disagree or don't recognize the expenses of managing a facility.  There is no intention at finding the workshop sponsor solely responsible for the lowly pay for the Craft Master Workshop Instructor. The issues are multi-faceted and numerous.   So let's look at some of those expenses for running a workshop for some insights. 

The workshop sponsor pays the electrician, plumber, custodial fees, insurance, workman's comp, utilities, rent/mortgage, etc., all at the going rate. They don't negotiate and offer to pay a lower rate to the electrician because he/she loves the job or should love craft.   

The workshop sponsor contracts for graphic design, advertising, and promotions. How else can people find out about their remarkable programs?  They get a quote and pay the amount. The sponsor doesn't expect to get a discount or pay an especially lower fee because the graphic designer loves their program or supports the crafts.

Some workshop retreats offer food and housing.  Does the cook cook food for a reduced wage because they love craft? Did the organic farmer charge less for their premium quality vegetables because they love craft?  

So ....what is happening?

Actually I am not blaming the workshop sponsor.   I am blaming "us" -- the art and craft instructors for giving away our talents at discount prices.  The practice has become embedded into the culture.  The workshop sponsors have come to assume that the easiest negotiable expense is the workshop teacher.

The workshop sponsor is indeed running a business and has found a bargain deal in the person that is supposed to love craft more than money...the Craft Master.  Then offers the Craft Master the same wage from 30 years ago because they don't possibly expect more. After all, they really, really love craft and want to support the school, the participants, and the community.  

Hey, someday I just want to be paid as much as an electrician.

Harriete

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Dear Workshop Sponsor,  

I am honored to be invited to teach at your renowned program which is highly regarded in the arts and crafts community. 

Two days of travel (one day before and one day after) plus teaching for two especially long days all for $1,000 compensation sounds like a great opportunity.  This time away from domestic responsibilities and studio work will also relieve me of my established income sources.  Upon returning home, I will cram in some double time for another four days to catch up on all the obligations that were left unattended.  Sadly, I will miss my exercise classes, but no worry, the standing and demonstrating all day will provide a different kind of fatigue. 

The samples and projects expected in a workshop usually only take a 100 hours or so during the prior six weeks. No need to compensate for all the prep time. It is just part of the job.   

The location of your program is beautiful which will be great to see from the car window on the way from the airport. For my return flight, the uncertainty about getting back to the airport in time will be an invigorating experience. 

Auspiciously, this workshop may help pad my resume (I've only worked in the field for three decades).


Visting SlideShare 004The proposed trunk show is another great opportunity. Circumventing my gallery and asking for a 50/50 split probably won't have much impact since workshop participants expect a special workshop price. Discussing purchases may be a moot point, no one seems to be buying anyway. And by the end of the workshop, the students will have learned how to duplicate my signature techniques.  In the past, some participants have even said, "I love your work and want to make one for myself." 

My nurturing and giving persona must be gaining attention. Recently, another craft retreat in the mountains offered $500 for a week of teaching. I hear the studios are open 24 hours a day and the view from the studio window looks like a vacation photo. 

After careful reflection on this workshop proposal, and with the utmost admiration for your program, I must decline.  Someday, while continuing to ignore financial realities, I hope that artists and makers will make as much as my babysitter. 

Best Regards,
Harriete

Domestic Diva with a B.F.A., M.F.A., two children, house, garden, and bills.

P.S. Sorry for the brevity of my response. I need to water the garden, sweep the floor, empty the dishwasher, volunteer for my neighborhood, make dinner, set the table, build Battlebots, and get dressed before my children and their friends arrive. 

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"I love your work and want to make one for myself"


Tools and Techniques Are Part of the Message

Recently, I wrote a post about "the Intersection between CAD/ CAM and craft." With further reflection during the week along with an extended conversation on Facebook, I'm trying to add some clarity and extend the interpretation of my message.

Steve-Jobs-movieThis weekend, I was listening to the commentary from the director and crew of the movie Steve Jobs. This film was really phenomenal, just fantastic in the way it was structured in three acts!   I highly recommend the film. A comment by director, Danny Boyle, offered deeper clarity about how tools and technology can be part of the message in any media.

Arri_Alexa_cameraHere is what Boyle said about his use of technology in Steve Jobs: Act 1 used 16 mm film for the "rough edge, homemade and basic."  Then the 2nd Act portraying events years later used "35 mm film which is kind of liquid, beautiful, smooth and romantic. And then we shot the third act on the Alexa, with a modern digital camera which is infinite, it has infinite pixels, almost, or we are moving that way, anyway."

In other words the director intentionally used three different technologies in filming to convey a subliminal feel within the film. This level of refinement was one of many special levels of execution that elevates this film to memorable. The film technology may not have been obvious to the less knowledgeable film audience, but it was apparent in the visual quality of the film.  The thoughtful use of filming technologies also influenced the meaning behind the film. Danny Boyle chose film technology to parallel the technical innovations of the decades portrayed in this narrative about technology. Genius!

For another example the music by Daniel Pemberton used the actual synthesizers of the 1970's/80's era, one note at a time (due to the limitations of early synthesizers) to create a score for Act 1, circa 1984 of the film. It's another example where the technology helped create more richly textured content.  


These are examples of using technology to enrich the content of a particular art form, a movie, but I think it translates similarly to the intersection between CAD/CAM and craft
in all media. A thoughtful rationale can be applied whether to use any technology, such as CAD/CAM tools, or stay within the concept of "hand made" to enrich the content.  


T-hammer-letter Tool alpahbetl 025 Tool alpahbetl 080 Tool alpahbetl 006 S-flexshaft-lette

 

 

 

 

 

The question is whether the tools and technologies add to or enrich the intent and appearance of the work?  The deliberate choice of a technology or technique can elevate the meaning behind your work.  



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To make something by "hand" becomes an attribute of the work, but this attribute is irrelevant IF this is not your message.  Making something by hand can be a political statement, but competing with manufactured goods that have the same look and feel is a waste of your time.  Does your work look like it was "handmade?"  What does that mean to you and your audience?  Are you making something by hand that could be done equally well or better by machine?

Technology and "hand made" need not be incompatible.  CAD/CAM is simply a tool and "hand made" is simply a technique, but tools and techniques alone do not necessarily elevate the work. 

CAD/CAM may help make items at a competitive price.   Commercial jewelry is often made by CAD technology, but it holds no meaning. The tool does not elevate work which is boring and meaningless and has nothing to say.

The technique, tool, or technology is effective only if it is consistent with your aesthetic or purpose.  Here are two examples from architecture to illustrate effective and ineffective use of technology.

The architecture of Zaha Hadid reflects the technology that allowed her to design and fabricate her buildings.

In contrast, constructing 18th century decorative motifs with 3-D printing seems fake. It isn't that you can't do it, but it seems inauthentic. Sure it might be one way to get it done, but doesn't it feel fake?    

There are many examples in the art and craft world, where the tools and technology add meaning to the work.  I would love to hear of other examples that work or don't work well.

In closing, an insightful comment from writer Alan Sorkin about the Steve Jobs movie; "We invest a lot of ourselves, all of ourselves, in what we are doing, and we kind of want the world to look at that and not us."

Harriete 


Gemini Battlebot (I Helped Fabricate) Will Be On TV

The Gemini Battlebots that I helped fabricate will be on broadcast television!! Wath it on Hulu!!  Tune into ABC Battlebots show Thursday, June 23  at 10:00pm West Coast time. I have no idea what will be shown, and the little I know about the Battlebot competition, I am not allowed to reveal. Shhhhhhhhhhh.........

If you missed the show....here is a longer preview (1:48 second) The whole show was hilarious to us...in the know. You can see my son, and even my husband on national television! The production for Battlebots was amazing. This is the first time my son build a Battlebot and he got to be in a nationally televised competition.  (Gemini Battlebot shown at 1:18, 1:36. My son and his team member 1:25) 

The experience fabricating a contender for Battlebots was empowering, but the outcome at the time was unknown. Sometimes you simply have to try your hardest, work day after day. stay up late night after night, and then pull an all-nighter because if you don't try, nothing will happen. 

And if you do try your absolute best.... you will at the very least create a possibility.

Harriete 

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Above: Harriete drilling holes in the Gemini weapon parts at the TECH Shop, San Francisco, CA. (Blue tape on the drill bit was to mark where to stop.) That day was a sold 10 hours of drilling, and grinding....non-stop.  Photo credit: Ace Shelander.

Ace designed, engineered and was the primary fabricator for Gemini Battlebots. More part fabrication at the milling machine shown below. 

Ace Shelander holding up part just finished at the milling machine at the TECH Shop

part for Gemini Battlebot with aluminum chips after milling


At the Intersection Between CAD/ CAM and Craft

Recently, I was a guest worker at Radicand in an effort to help my son, Ace, fabricate his Gemini BattleBot for an upcoming Battlebot competition for an ABC summer show. The smaller red robot (at 125 lbs.) (in the video below) is the one I helped make. 


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Photo above shows some of the Radicand engineers, and Aryn Shelander (guest worker 12:00 midnight to 3:00 a.m: during our all-nighter.


Harriete driling the Gemini Battlebot partsThe much larger scale of everything was certainly a challenge but I soon realized that my hand fabrication skills translated well. 
And among several surprising observations, I soon realized just how important it is that handcrafting skills are still needed.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was witnessing the entire fabrication process beginning with CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacture) and progressing through each of the necessary steps to final assembly and operational testing.  Not everything is computerized.  A good "eyeball" and steady hands are involved.
 

water Jet cutting of battlebot partsAfter the parts were perfectly cut with water jet, I still had to figure out where to manually mark the holes (referencing from the cut edge with calipers), center punch the holes, hope the drill centered itself accurately on the center punch, and then to actually drill the holes straight.


precisely cut parts ready for marking and drillingI have plenty of experience, lots of skills for precision metalwork, and at the same time, at every step I was astounded by the inherent possibility of inaccuracy
. The CAD provides a tolerance of 0.001 inch, but how accurate can a human being be while rushed to get this done as quickly as possible?    


IMG_20160413_151752682CAD/CAM offers precise designs, but in reality, some machine-made perfection must integrate with handmade steps.  The bridge between theoretical precision and adept skills is left in the hands of the human maker.

 



Moving on....more observations...

Ace Shelander designed the Gemini BattlebotsMy son, Ace, designed his entire BattleBot in CAD software called Solidworks. (This is one the major software design programs used for prototyping and manufacturing.) 

Most of the parts were cut from steel and aluminum by water jet. The results were quite impressive. The TECH Shops (at both San Francisco and San Jose) have water jets. It costs $3.00 a minute (after you pay to take a class). 

 
The water jet cuts the holes first so the small parts don't move (this why it doesn't appear to be moving very much at the beginning.)  Then the water jet cuts the edges of the parts.  The speed is determined by the material and thickness.

Additional parts were cut with a water jet at KELLER Industries in San Carlos. Their water jet was even bigger, faster and louder. The Keller brothers and sons were incredibly nice and reduced the intimidating, even daunting, hurdle of approaching a commercial industrial metal fabricating business.

While water jet is used for large scale fabrication, it is also ideal for prototyping and one-of-a-kind. Just pop in the file and the computer controls the cuts.  

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Here is a short video.

Harriete can cut sheets of aluminum and file them close to CAM perfection, but should I cut six sheets?  Where is the role of CAD/CAM in our craft work? I am a huge advocate for craft and hand made, but seriously question why we should be hand crafting in those situations when machines can do the work faster and cheaper. This is especially true for multiples.

Is "hand made" purity an absolute attribute when technologies could help us be more productive?

Are we disloyal to hand made if we consider using fabrication technologies that can help us be more cost effective?

I love making by hand, but there is a place where we should be working smarter and faster when the machines can do it as well as (or better than) we can.

This isn't an easy topic to tackle. I don't think the answer is absolutely one way or the other.  CAD/CAM or hand made or mixing the best of both?  I am beginning to think that we need to learn the computer software and the technologies if they can help make our work better and faster. 

Harriete