work and dignity

day out with my sweetie 059I heard a new-to-me take on the Adam & Eve – temptation – fall – original sin -story that spoke to my heart in a profound way.  This is one of those stories that is heard so often that we can almost share it verbatim.  We can certainly share the gist of the story – the children of God turn their backs on him through doing the one thing he asks them not to do, they lose their close relationship with God, are banished from the Garden of Eden and are sent to labor: Adam through working the land and Eve through bearing children.  Since then there have been a couple of things that happened: Eve is essentially Blamed for giving into temptation (thereby letting Adam off the hook?); sin enters the world disturbing life as it was known; and work, which once was something pleasurable, now takes on the quality of drudgery – it’s hard.

Mark Hart, in retelling/re-presenting the story, made a couple of points that I found fascinating – like that the “serpent” was something much more cunning and attractive than a snake.  And that Adam was right there with Eve and he stood by and did nothing to protect her or intervene on her behalf as she faces this temptation.  Something I’d never noticed before.  Had you noticed that?  What I struck me as even more profound was that Mark explained how God, a very loving Father, gave Adam and Eve a remedial education in Love, the dignity of work and the beauty of person-hood.
Labor pre fall: Part of the point of the earlier Genesis conversation God gives Adam work, caring for the garden, naming animals and so on.  God gives dignity to work.  How cool is that, it’s never changed.  That dignity remains. I love that.
Labor post fall: Labor retains its dignity however it becomes blatantly sacrificial and it becomes work.  Neither Adam nor Eve sacrificed for each other, resisting temptation or protecting one another. Oh my goodness I’d never noticed that before.  We must sacrifice in order to make all of this work.  And more deeply, love becomes even more sacrificial.  Eve’s labor is now sacrificial/painful.  Adam’s work becomes laborious and difficult.  Being human, Married Life and Raising children becomes sacrificial for both man and woman.

rainy days and mondays 003One theme that I see over and over and over again in the quilting world is that quilters (generally women, though there are a lot of men who experience the same thing) is that our work is undervalued.  Because the work is undervalued we feel “less than”.  There is something undermining through the whole process.  Well there are a couple of things that undermine the whole process:
1) we forget that work (love) is sacrificial
2) we forget that there is an inherent dignity to work
3) there is a general perception that because quilting is part of “women’s work” that it is of less monetary value
4) diminishing comments do not help
5) quilt making takes some serious smarts and labor
6) the “arts” have always been undervalued

it’s important to see these things, embrace them and start to make changes.

Dear Quilters, let’s do something to make some good changes.  Let’s take the most positive and basic step of valuing the work that we do, that other quilters do.  When we don’t resonate with someones quilt let’s stop making snarky comments.  Let’s see what we can appreciate about it, the level of craftsmanship, the overall use of color, the number of hours and the level of skill that went into making that quilt.  Recognize that this quilter is taking the risk of revealing/baring her soul and entering the quilt show, be gentle dear friends with her heart.  Yes she’s opened herself up for criticism, but really – do those negative words need to be said out loud?  Would you want your heart ripped up like that?  Is this the quilting legacy that we really want to pass on to the quilters who will stand on our shoulders?
We all recognize that there are hallmarks that show our prowess as quilters.  Good cutting, good seaming, good color choices, good quilting.  You know it’s even more than those skills. We know what it looks like and we know it takes time to develop those skills.  For some quilters it takes less time to get good at these skills, for others it takes longer.  Each quilt maker is an individual and needs to recognize that they don’t need to look like every other quilter.  Some of the most beautiful experiences I have as a teacher and quilt shop employee is watching quilters relax through the process as I give them permission to make their own choices and BE comfortable in making them.  Yes each quilter needs to develop the experience and recognize that it takes time.  I see your potential and want to encourage that!

Let’s properly pay our teachers for what they are offering us – their time commitment and skill.  (yes this seems self serving as I am a teacher for hire however this has always bothered me) Just because there are bloggers (including myself) who offer tutorials on the internet doesn’t mean that paying teachers less for their accumulated time, skill, being away from their family and their studio is a good thing.  Not paying them, grousing that they’re asking too much or (I’m going to say this out loud) paying them less than the male quilters Robs the quilters not only of their own personal dignity, it Robs them of the opportunity to make a living.  Causing them to suffer, wondering if continuing on in this particular profession is a good thing.
We can change this dear quilterly friends.  Let’s offer one another the dignity inherent in our work!

Happy Quilting!


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