Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Tale Of Craft

    For many years I had a thriving side business as a costume designer.  I had a long and loyal client list.  My clients knew that they were going to get not only a garment that was designed, and constructed exclusively for them, but that fit, finish, and detail, would all be given high consideration.  My work was not quick, nor was it cheap.
    Every once in a while I took on someone new.
    I was approached by a gentleman who wanted to become involved with the Renaissance Faire, and desired to have a wardrobe of Elizabethan menswear made so that he wouldn't be wearing the same thing every day while engaged there.  Under the best of circumstances, that period's men's clothing is time consuming to create, because the number of pieces, and the level of potential embellishment can get very high.  And my new client wanted to play a nobleman.
    We decided on how many pieces, twelve in all. There would be three doublets, three pair of breeches, two short coats, one long gown, and three hats.  I told him I would have the sketches and estimate ready for him the following week, and set to work.
    I met with my client again the next week, and sat down to discuss the work I would do in detail, giving him the stack of sketches, the materials list, and the cost estimate.  He looked over the sketches with evident pleasure, scanned the materials sheet, and looked at the bottom line.  Then he pushed it back across the table and said, " You're kidding, right?"  Having met this situation before, I was prepared.
    I responded by asking him how much he was paid to do his job.  I said, "Don't actually tell me, I don't need to know.  But let me ask you this. Do you feel you're being compensated appropriately for the level of education and experience you have?"  He replied that he did, with a questioning look on his face.  "I have many years of education and experience in a highly specialized field, just like you. Is there some reason why my knowledge and craft is only worth 4 dollars an hour?  I have drawn the sketches with my hand. I will source all the materials, draft the patterns, make muslin mock ups to fit you with, cut and sew all the pieces, and do every bit of the decorative work, by hand. 4 dollars an hour?"
    He looked at the table a moment, and then looked up at me and said.  "I apologize. I've never thought about it in this way before.  Like most people I guess I've just taken this stuff for granted. I'm sorry."
    Of course I accepted his apology, and then we went on.  He told me that what I had devised was way beyond his budget, so we chatted a while, and I scaled it all back till we found an answer.  I would do a single outfit for him, and at a later time, if he stayed with the Renn Faire, he would order something else, and build the wardrobe slowly.
    As we said goodbye and we shook hands, he looked me in the eye and said, "I won't forget this."  Nor should any of us, me included.


  1. Glad he was open to listening to you. This happens far too often. No one wants to pay artists or crafts persons.