Happy Labor Day to readers in the US! I hope you all get a long weekend like I do, and use some of it to make fabulous things. This weekend, fittingly enough, I’ve been following the #FairFiberWage hashtag on Twitter. The gist of it is that professional fiber arts teachers (knitting, crocheting, spinning, etc.) must have advanced qualifications and expertise, but are expected to put up with working conditions that are subpar compared to other professionals. These conditions include low wages, being paid by the number of students (but still expected to teach even if the class is under-enrolled), being asked to share hotel rooms or stay at strangers’ homes when they travel, being expected to front all their costs and be reimbursed months later, and more. This post from Abby Franquemont lays the problem out well, and her followup post is also worth a read.
I realize that for many of us in libraries/education, bringing in expert makers is already far from reality. Figuring out who to ask, getting approval to bring them in, scheduling something with them, and making sure all the myriad little details get worked out can already seem like a burden when you’re out of your area of expertise and you have 1,000 other responsibilities clamoring for your attention. Throw in questions of coming up with money… well.
It’s much easier for those of us who have some skills of our own to volunteer to teach beginners’ sessions. In my case, that mostly means “Learn to Crochet” workshops. My college seems to have a strong community of aspiring and novice crocheters. I can offer such sessions to my community without charging for attendance, because my library lets me claim it as part of the job for which I am already receiving a salary and benefits. Plus the demand for anything beyond that seems to be low; I don’t know of many very experienced crocheters on campus.
Still, it’s fun to dream of the day when we’ve built up enough of a community around a certain type of making that it would make sense to bring in an expert professional to lead workshops. If I ever see that day with crocheting, I think my approach will be to look for an academic department to team up with on campus, and find someone to co-author a grant proposal for me. Maybe math or art would go in on it with me, or biology if we were looking at crocheting coral reefs or something. My college offers a number of internal grant opportunities we could try for, and administrators always love interdisciplinary collaborations. There must be external grants we could try for, too, if it came to that.
Anyone know of a funding source I should keep in mind? Or, have you had your own run-ins with people who don’t understand that professional makers deserve a living wage? Leave a comment, or tweet @makerbridge!