How to learn from artisans and mentors

My name is Carmel Dolcine, a DE aspirant. At Kathleen’s request (who can say “no” to Kathleen?), I’ve prepared a blog post summing up our email conversation concerning ways we can learn from artisans. I’ve had some interesting successes and failures in this area. The purpose of this post is to share information that may help DEs become better students and protégés.

Gaining invaluable education from an artisan is a complex endeavor. The process may lend itself to some form of institutionalization, however, the burden of the formalization of the process is going to be on the individual or group interested in learning a particular method of craftsmanship.


The initiative must be taken by the student to observe the particular nuances and expectations of the artisan’s world. For example, I am working on and off with an artisan specializing in leather carving. He is nearly 80, very spry, and has earned the right due to his age and success to be temperamental and intolerant. He had a conniption the first time my hand held device vibrated then rang while we where working on sketches for my first piece. Consequently, I decided to leave the gadgets and gizmos, and everything else from the 21st century in my car during our sessions.

Every time you enter into the workshop of an artisan, you are walking into a parallel universe where your usual standards of etiquette and communication are null and void. Especially for egocentric institutionally educated designers, the adjustment can be very difficult to make. The honorable treatment of elders and authority figures is no longer a permanent fixture within the psyche of most of my peers.

I think some of the problem may be historical. The tasks of design and manufacture prior to the industrial revolution was performed under a man or woman called an artisan. Prior to the industrial revolution, the finest garments and architectural marvels of the world were designed and manufactured by artisans. Within recent history, the role of artisan has been split into three newly created disciplines – the designer (creator of the concept or vision in fashion), artist (producer of embellishments in fashion), and artisan (constructor of garments in couture/haute couture/bespoke). Somehow, the designer gets all of the recognition and praise, while artists and artisans toil away in the shadows. To increase the probability of success, self-financed DEs may choose to increasingly personify the old definition of artisan not only as designers and manufacturers, but as repositories and teachers of the tradition of fashion industry entrepreneurship, business management, and craft.

Education is a personal responsibility and the mentorship to apprenticeship model of learning may prove to be the most successful and durable means to prepare DEs for success. We’re so used to schools marketing themselves to us offering both undergraduate and graduate/continuing education studies. We are also used to structured curriculum. We don’t really know how to:

  1. Approach artisans who are really unique and admire what they do in a simple “pure” way,
  2. Recognize how an artisans’ skill can add value to our lives if we incorporated it into our businesses in ways that do not in any, way, shape or form compete with their businesses,
  3. Respectively in a culturally sensitive manner form bonds based on trust and respect that enables artisans to value us and teach us fundamental and advanced aspects of their craft on their own terms, in ways that they are accustomed to.

We work well in costly educational institutions. We follow the rules, kiss up to poor teachers, and get good grades. However, we don’t know how to go out into the world and find persons with significant life experience to teach us invaluable lessons of both craft and life one on one. Case in point, I knew a young lady -Jennifer- who wanted to study embroidery and sewing with my Aunt.

My Aunt was a recognized embroidery expert (no I failed to learn the craft before her passing, I was in school wasting money in university when I could have really been educated by her). I got a few names of people my Aunt had mentored and sent her the information.

My Aunt lived near Lyon in France; she lived previously in Spain, Portugal, and Venezuela among many interesting places (I’ve lived a lot of places too, but am of French ancestry). I sent Jennifer to one of my Aunt’s former pupils – Charisse, who was living and working near Lyon and traveling back and forth to the French Antilles. Production was in the Caribbean (Martinique) and the shop was in France.

I told Jennifer to help Charisse in any way she could. I told her to be particularly attracted to menial tasks, because such help was needed around the home and workshop. It is understood in such environments that her work would be rewarded by Charisse with teachings that may be invaluable to her design career. Charisse would not charge anything for lessons. If she liked you and you respected her, then she taught you as much as you could absorb. Charisse gave pupils free meals and lodging as well.

Well, as you can imagine this great opportunity for Jennifer did not turn out well. The main problem was that Jennifer did not modify her behavior and levels of expectation to suit the mentor-protégé model of education. Jennifer had a design degree, a know it all attitude, and was a wannabe socialite – I found all of this out much later.

She did not offer Charisse any help around the house and workshop. Jennifer brought a ton of patterns with her. She annoyed Charisse and the people at the compound with questions about her own projects. She was relentless.

My Aunt chastised me about the behavior of the “poor child” as they called her. Three weeks into a planned summer-long apprenticeship, Jennifer was asked to leave Charisse’s home in the Caribbean.

Jennifer was angry about spending extra money in a hotel while waiting for a flight. She was angry about traveling alone to Paris and then onward to the States. She felt that Charisse didn’t know what she was doing and was difficult to communicate with. This is the problem. The artisans only know about competence and labor, humility and loyalty, dedication and diligence – they don’t work well with the weird mix of ego, incompetence, and grandiose ambition most people have (especially in North America and Western Europe) in today’s world.

Mentorship relationships are hierarchical. I leave you with questions we must ask ourselves:

Are we ready to be mentored?
Are we ready to work in roles where we may feel vulnerable?
Are our self-esteems so fragile that we fear the scrutiny of our elders?

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24 comments

  1. Marie-Christine says:

    Oh now.. while all of this is perfectly true, it’s not the whole truth either. In France, there are indeed still many apprentices in all forms of craftsmanship, from sausage-making to gold embroidery :-).

    However, it’s a lucky apprentice who gets a master who actually wants to -teach- them something. Apprentices are used to sweep the floor, yes, and do menial tasks, but for years on end. They’re most often treated as future competitors, and maintained in a position to be as little competitive as possible. They’re mostly a source of near-free labor, and it’s rare for one of them to actually keep working with the person who takes them on, to be valued as a colleague and taught sincerely and completely. It seems often much more satisfying for the mentor to bitch about how the young just aren’t as they used to be, and how they’re just lazy shiftless and no-good. Let’s not forget also that the mentors are not the least bit trained in teaching methods, and often are miserably incompetent at it even if they try (only to blame the student more).

    Of course there are exceptions. My local butcher and his apprentice-turned-employee sing and joke all day long while wowing the customers. But the exceptions don’t change the underlying general structure..

    But then again, this is a country where mothers only reveal to their daughters the secret ingredients to their recipes on their deathbed, so is it surprising?

  2. Andrea says:

    Wonderful post! I think that the mentee lost out on a golden opportunity. It is very rare that an artisan (at least where I live)is generous enought to give of their time and skill. Too bad.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Grace says:

    This is an excellent post. Thanks for sharing.

    It is similar to the training of scientists. We get stuck with menial tasks in lab at first, while working on didactic projects in class. Only after proving ourselves for months or years are we finally allowed to spread our wings.

  4. Esther says:

    Thank you for the post! I have been thinking a lot about his lately. I fear that much knowledge is being lost because the design schools don’t teach it and few students/apprentices are willing to do what it takes to work with a mentor. I have been reading A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Van DeMille. He discusses how education needs to return to the use of the classics while working with a mentor. I have been trying to think of how to apply his ideas to my own design education.

  5. J C Sprowls says:

    This is an excellent post. I think it’s utterly appropriate to ask yourself “are you ready for [insert_whatever]”. But, I’m equally in love with the flipside of the coin that M-C calls out:

    M-C says: But then again, this is a country where mothers only reveal to their daughters the secret ingredients to their recipes on their deathbed, so is it surprising?

    I’d like to add to that. Insert: “their favorite daughter” – often causing dissension among the surviving family.

    Europeans are reared with heavy focus on tradition – from artistry, to work ethic, to family & social behavior. To the outside onlooker this is part of the cultural charm. As M-C says, it is equally a blessing and a curse. It’s not so different on this side of the pond, either. It’s because of this intent focus on tradition that European trades and culture have a firm foundation – though, tremendously and subtly complex at the same time.

    I’ve been through several mentor/protege relationships. The two most advantageous were my with my grandmother and a Korean tailor. I’ve said before that my apprenticeship with an English tailor was trying – at best. My time as a patternmaker in Milan was equally trying; and, I have “battle scars” to prove it – literally.

    What made my good experiences good was two parts: a) my grandmother wanted me to be good/successful, and b) the Korean tailor was aged and sad that his son refused to pick up the trade. In effect, I was a surrogate outlet for their pride and passion – a functional relationship. The others resented me because, well… it was their “tradition” to resent, devalue and humiliate the underling. They didn’t know better.

    As M-C points out. A defect of the guild system is that mentors are not ready to teach simply because they are accomplished artisans – it takes a special personality. And, it is also true that proteges are viewed as competitors for at least 5 of the 8 years they are paid the apprentice’s pittance. The most dedicated protege will only allow themself to be victimized by their mentor for so long – typically, until a door opens, elsewhere.

    An apprentice does not need to be humbled. They need to be turned away if they lack the ability to suspend what they think they know to accept an alternate point of view. Mentors who inflict humility and pain upon their protege demonstrate they lack the same ability to collaborate and function. As my grandmother used to say: “You are what you hate.” She also used to say: “Remember that next time you gotta gripe about someone!”

    These are common complaints I hear from LCF students trying to apprentice on Savile Row. I also hear similar in other industries (e.g. barred from advancement, etc.). I always offer the same advice: your career path is up to you. You must seek out opportunities, even when they are outside of yourself. Where opportunities do not exist, create them (i.e. launch a “boutique firm” and build a name for yourself).

  6. Darby says:

    Let’s not trash “grandiose ambition.” I wouldn’t be here today if my grandparents didn’t follow their dreams for a better life in America… I’m sure it took alot of guts and, sure, grandiose ambition on their part to travel across the ocean to a brand new place where you can’t speak the language, and have to make a whole new life for yourself, with little or no help.

  7. dosfashionistas says:

    When I graduated from college, my first job in the fashion industry was as assistant designer in a small children’s wear company. The designer, who had no degree but who had been a successful designer for many years, promptly told me that I should forget my education. I knew nothing, NOTHING. My education was just beginning. She was right.

    She also told me many other useful things over the next year or so. One that comes to mind, and that was invaluable to me in later years, was that I should make a great effort to make the pattern as perfect as possible. Because no one after me would (make a great effort or care about the result).

    This was more years ago than I care to say. But my education continues still. I find much on these pages that forwards it. Kathleen, thank you.

  8. Eric H says:

    Great post. I’m currently reading Dengjian Jin’s The Dynamics of Knowledge Regimes in which he is going through a rigorous comparison of US and Japanese cultural influences on the way knowledge is created and disseminated. In his terms, Americans are contractual and individualistic, while Japanese are contextual and communitarian. So far, however, he has not addressed the teacher-student relationship except to say that Americans tend to have specialists (PhDs) doing research within a dedicated R&D setting (perhaps a university) while Japanese tend to have generalists working with a team to improve their work processes.

    By contractual, Jin means that we understand that we are trading value for value. A mentee has little or nothing of value to trade, save for a good attitude and willingness to tackle menial jobs. By contextual, Jin means that they understand that they share experiences which build or reinforce tacit knowledge. Here again, the mentee is not bringing anything to the table since all of the tacit skills are in the possession of the mentor. Either way, the mentee has to be prepared in a way contrary to everything they have experienced in the post-Spock (Dr. not Mr.), post-boomer world where everyone is special and children should never be denied their every desire.

    Could it be that the younger generation is too steeped in the Hollywoodized version of the mentor-mentee relationship in which the mentee has something to teach the master? Think Karate Kid or any of a number of similarly cliched films.

    It’s true that not all mentors are able or willing to teach, but it is equally true that not all would-be mentees are able or willing to learn. Sometimes, it is only a matter of clashing personalities. Learning/teaching is a shared experience which may yield only in proportion to what both bring to the table.

  9. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    I think that’s sad! (That this girl was so lacking in whatever that she had to leave the apprenticeship.)

    I have read more than once about the House of L—? in Paris that all the haute couture houses use for embroidery and appliqué and other embellishments. I really hope that house keeps teaching people. I mean, everyone says haute couture is dying, but it would be sad to lose that skill set. It would be sad for us as humanity to lose any skill sets of such things.

    There is a club/guild up here that’s for tatting, so at least tatting isn’t dying out completely.

    When I was in school (grad. 2004), we had to do internships with companies in the fashion industry. I wish I’d chosen a different company, like going to Nike or Columbia or somewhere (even though I’m not big into sporty stuff) because I was doing stuff with a small boutique owner and basically learned nothing. It wasn’t because I wasn’t willing to learn or suspend my “institutionalized” education. She never taught me anything about being a DE, running your own biz, designing your own stuff. All I did was cut stuff out, bundle it, sew some of it, press a few things, and sweep the floor. Really. It wasn’t a case like the above apprentices who did menial stuff then learned something.

  10. Lisa NYC says:

    Great topic.

    I strongly believe in the “pass it on” mentality. At the age of 16, I learned professional sign painting from an 83-year-old man with one arm. He often had to remind me (an over ambitious teenager) to be quiet, look and listen. The position paid beans and was located on the wrong side of the tracks…but I spent long hours in his dingy workshop and gained knowledge which my friends who went to graphic design school could only dream about.

    My second mentor was an accomplished Calligrapher. I spent countless hours trying to adapt everything in my left-handed world…not an easy task when most pen nibs were made for right-handed people. She taught me visual balance (for lack of a better term, but most importantly…she taught me patience.

    Another important mentor many of us share is Kathleen…it seems I can learn the most if I accept the fact that I know NOTHING (because really I don’t…LOL). She has given me the foundation (and continues to) we need to succeed. I’m so glad I didn’t bother with design school (not to discount design school, but I’m terrible with structured learning)–what I’m learning here is far more educational IMHO.

    Recently my husband “mentioned” his client (one of today’s leading women’s designers who has been mentioned here on FI several times) would be willing to “show me the ropes” if I want. I am hesitant due to fear of the unknown (and making a fool of myself). The prospect of learning from this designer is intimidating, to say the least. Hopefully I’ll get up the courage soon as it may be a once in a lifetime opportunity. We’ll see…

    Speaking of mentors, I think it is so important WE pass on what we know (no matter how little)…it could be as simple as suggesting Kathleen’s book or teaching a sewing method to a new DE. I find the more I pass on what I know, the more opporunties I am presented with to further my education.

    With friendship,
    Lisa

  11. Roseana says:

    This was a really fascinating post, and so are the comments. I think when seeking a mentor, it’s easy to assume that your main relationship is to the information or “secrets” you’re seeking. But it’s a relationship between people, and all that entails.

  12. Kathleen says:

    This in particular resonates with me:

    Mentorship relationships are hierarchical.
    Are we ready to be mentored?
    Are we ready to work in roles where we may feel vulnerable?

    I think, that in the manner in which “we” inculcate the young, particularly lately, teaching them they’re “unique” -snowflakes are all unique but they’re still all snowflakes, or maybe just flakes :) – that they don’t need to really do anything to deserve admiration. They’re worthy of it simply by virtue of their existence. The increasingly common designer as rock-star mentality exacerbates the complex. Their self-esteem knows no bounds; recent studies demonstrate that self confidence is at an all time high while competence has decreased. So no, I don’t think that many are ready to be mentored. Imbued with over the top self confidence, the very idea of being placed in a vulnerable role is an anathema. They feel entitled to a relationship of equals.

    I think part of the problem is that the confidence one gains through institutionalized instruction is misplaced. Simply by virtue of having paid good money, coupled with successful marketing by aforementioned institutions, matriculation is seen as sufficient value and competence. One becomes entitled; position attained, drudge work is beneath them.

    I don’t deny there are people who use the menial labor of others but I don’t think they deserve being described as mentors either. Vote with your feet if it’s not going anywhere. That said, there’s more to it, the humility and vulnerability Carmel mentions. I can say for certainty that I watch how people accomplish menial tasks. Do they do the dirty job properly, quickly and carefully? If not the first time, what of the second and third times? How long will they do the job until they do it correctly? Pattern making is much like this. Some of the work is not fun. It’s tiresome and boring but it must be done well. If a person cannot sweep the floor repeatedly -with integrity- my estimation of their capacity plummets. Why would I throw further investment of my time at them? I’ll have them sweep the floor repeatedly until they’ve learned it must be done well. One is ready to progress once they no longer need to be monitored. After which, they’ll still need to sweep, otherwise, I’ll have to do it myself (theoretically speaking of course, sweeping is a rare event around here). If you cannot trust one to perform menial tasks properly without oversight, you cannot teach them that which they don’t have within themselves. It’s a lot of work if you constantly have to check up on people, more so with patterns than sweeping floors. There is no trust. If I don’t trust you, I’m not going to give you anything.

    I wish I could claim to have been so wise that I always knew this but no, I had to learn this the hard way. I was one who thought floor sweeping (literally) was beneath me. I was aghast, insulted. I sulked. I made economic arguments; a sanitation worker earned a lot less than I did; my time should have been spent more cost effectively. My early attitude created a deficit in my account balance. I had to sweep a whole lot of floors for a long time to dig myself out. It wasn’t until I learned to do it well, with joy rather than resignation that I was trusted to do something truly useful. I’m just glad I learned this lesson quickly.

    There are certain people out there I’d love to teach. They are crude unfinished talents with tremendous potential. Those I’d teach more readily. I want to give them a few tools, turn them loose and see what they do with it. I don’t want them to sweep my floors; their capacity excites me, I want to see them take these tools and transcend me, be better than I was at their age. Given a head start, I want to see how far they’ll go, opportunities I never had. Does it go without saying that they approach every and any task with willingness, humility and integrity?

    Reducing the experience of what it takes to be successful with a mentor into simplest terms, students must understand their mentors want skill progeny, not skill protégés. Through you, we live on.

    Don’t think I’m not counting on it. I don’t expect my efforts to bear fruition for another twenty years. Right now, I’m teaching a lot of teachers (you). It won’t hit critical mass until this is inculcated to a second and third generation. Revolutionary doesn’t interest me. Ubiquity does.

  13. Nadine says:

    I learned the most interning for some of the harshest employers out of fear of incurring their wrath. It pushed me to go past my comfort zone and get things absolutely right in one try or else be criticized. Not the best environment for learning but I always kept an open mind and open eyes.

    I totally agree that many mentors/intern situations keep the intern working on parts of the whole and never the “whole” so they won’t become competitors. That has more to do with a person’s understanding of generosity and selflessness. My friend who is an excellent handbag pattern maker had the opportunity to work at a high end label with European trained patternmakers. They would never tell or her show her a thing as teacher to student. She learned her craft by watching and applying what she saw them doing in her work and replacing their process with her limited school education. At the end of 5 years she became top notch at what she does. They gave her all the menial work or the things they hated to do for themselves.

    In my internships, I found the boss always gave me the work they didn’t do well and wished a subcontractor could do for them which is ridiculous to give to an intern! So I had to learn on many things I didn’t have the training for. Years later I became very good at them. I had the chance to make so many mistakes and solve so many problems that it helped me become very good at that and now people pay me to do that for them.

    No intern is going be taught how to start their own business while on an internship. They only get to be exposed to a level of business or craftmanship they have not attained yet and can learn through staying in that environment. Being open minded, highly observant and thick skinned is a recipe for success.

  14. Mike C says:

    We’re looking at hiring our first employee who wouldn’t be full-time on the manufacturing side.

    This person will likely have a fashion/apparel degree but will only spend part of their time working on design related tasks. We’re small, so her responsibilities would run the gamut of small apparel company jobs. From answering phones, to shipping and receiving, to managing part of our supply chain, to marker making, etc, etc, etc. We would teach her how we create designs and make patterns – though we wouldn’t likely get into that until she had proven themselves a capable, competent and diligent worker.

    For those of you that have either hired or been hired in this sort of capacity – what was the salary range?

  15. J C Sprowls says:

    Eric H said: Learning/teaching is a shared experience which may yield only in proportion to what both bring to the table.

    I agree with yours and Jin’s assessment of trading value for value. Another nuance that’s easily overlooked in this relationship dynamic, though, is the word: protege, meaning “protected”. The student learns in a protected and controlled environment with clear goals toward advancement.

    The goal of successful mentor/protege relationships is handing off either the business or the trade. In other words, enabling the protege to eventually compete with or surpass the mentor. This is what I mean about a special person in my earlier comment. It’s very humbling to be a mentor because you have to serve the protege. Many aren’t easily suited to these conditions of the relationship the first dozen times they try.

  16. Carmel Dolcine says:

    Great comments.

    I just wanted to thank everyone for such interesting and enlightening comments.

    This is one of the few sites where I’ve witnessed such thoughtful and meaningful discussions – it usually costs me quite a bit in StarBUCKS coffee with friends to get a meaningful conversation going.

    Everyone’s comments have really helped me continue to learn and evolve in respect to how I wish to manage my education presently as a student and in the future as a mentor.

  17. Eric H says:

    A mentor has to keep his/her reputation in mind.
    This will be as important to active mentors who want to attract future students as it will be to retired mentors who have little to fear from competition; both may guard their reputation jealously. Since the student is going forth as an ambassador, for better or worse, the mentor needs some way of judging whether they will represent him/her fairly.

    One way to do that is to assign menial tasks and see how well they handle details. Those who cannot need to continue learning that part (humility), while those who can might move on to something more challenging. It’s a gatekeeping technique that reveals *character* –not skills– and allows only the worthy into the inner sanctum; everyone else just complains about their bad experience. A student who insists on pushing their own ideas is perhaps looking *only* for the resume padding.

  18. Erin Larkin says:

    I very much appreciate this post and line of comments. I intend to re-read it, and give it to my co-worker to read. Growing up in a family of respected artisans (stoneware pottery) and a DE environment of a different kind, I’ve seen many of the relationships described played out, both in my family’s studio and in the studios of other potters. Finding someone who is skilled, respected, and has the capacity to teach is not easy. I know of a talented potter who specializes in a tedious Japanese woodfiring process who needs and attracts interns because of the level of craftsmanship and rarity of process he is known for. He is also completely selfish, an egomaniac, and a god awful teacher with no communication skills. He ran off his own wife and his new intern in the same week! My dad, on the other hand, is a natural teacher. He always told me (in my forced family internship that began as soon as I became more useful than a bother) “I will never ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do, and haven’t done already about a million times”. Sweep floors, mix clay, glaze a trillion of the same thing for days straight.

    Now that I am mentoring 2 interns for the first time, that’s what I told them – anything I ask you to do, it may seem menial, but it has to be done and if someone else weren’t doing it, I would. I think it is a good standard. I think I made a good apprentice to a local fashion designer because of the fact that I grew up in an artisan environment. So what that I was almost thirty and wasn’t paid enough to have a car so I stood out in the cold all winter waiting for the bus? I learned skills on her cutting room floor that led to a salaried job in a creative industry related to both my university education as well as my appreniceship. And this is in a state that hardly has any industry, much less a creative industry. Humility will pay off. Or so I believe.

    Now I need to learn how to really mentor, to really teach. Reading these posts, I am encouraged to toughen up, to raise standards, and demand they earn my trust in their ability to work solo. They certainly have not done so as of yet. It is certainly more work to take on an intern than it would seem. I have been doing their work over, thinking, what am I doing? shouldn’t they be doing it over? oh yeah, it needs to be done right, Right Now. It’s time to set some goals based on this post and the subsequent comments. Thank you for making me think.

  19. dosfashionistas says:

    I am moved to get on my soapbox regarding this discussion about the value of the unique individual, or snowflake.

    Everyone is unique, and special, but what they are entitled to is not admiration. What we are entitled to, each of us, is respect in its’ most basic form. Respect for one another as fellow human beings. Admiration, acclaim; this is something that must be earned. Respect should be a birthright.

  20. AJ says:

    Hope you don’t mind me posting this link here but I just published an interview with a young woman who did this exact thing for 14 months full time and 8 months before that attending the same women’s college classes in the evenings. I let her keep the interview questions for a few weeks and she really put a lot of thought into her answers, covering both the positive and the negatives. Re-reading Carmel’s write-up I realize Lamed left some things out, such as helping with chores and doing everything menial possible to help Blossom, the older woman, including helping her with her gardening. Other than that though, it is a really great read and I know it was spot on accurate because I was there with her part time for 19 of those 22 months: http://www.fashionstudentsonline.com/articles-tutorials/interviews/102-student/204-lamed-baek-19yo-couture-student-studying-in-paris.html

  21. As I read this post and all the comments, I realised that I have many of the necessary requirements of a protege intuitively (rather lucky). I learned part of my craft in bridal dressmaking & draping with a dressmaker who I paid to make patterns and do full dressmaking & fitting. And along the way she has taught me little bits of what she knows.

    I was never asked to sweep the floor or clean, but I started to because I wanted the space to look clean & tidy when clients visited. I would pick up the hundreds of pins on the floor with a magnet and clean mirrors etc. I would also often bring muffins or cake to share for afternoon tea and she started to make me lunch (for free) so I didn’t buy sandwiches on the way and therefore saved money.

    I was lucky because by paying her for her work, she was getting great business from me and I was able to learn about what she was doing at the same time. I have also paid her for hourly lessons on drafting patterns using client measurements from scratch and other things that I wouldn’t have picked up by osmosis.

    We still have a strong relationship and I am hoping to work with her into the future as well. There is so much to learn and she is always learning too by picking apart a garment she needs to alter for a client and seeing how it has been made (as Kathleen suggests us all to do). Or when we have had a particuarly difficult to fit figure/style/fussy client and we finally worked out which method of boning/fusing/layers/pattern shape worked she will discuss it with me or show me what the process was so we can remember for next time we encounter a similar design/figure of client.

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