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Re: [BKARTS] The Pepper Challenge



On Jan 22, 2006, at 1:39 PM, Signa Houghteling wrote:

I think this has gone too far. Maybe I'm a middle-class wimp, but I think
a lot of this is just plain cruel to anybody who so earnestly believes in
his own work. 'Way too personal. What happened to civility?

If I have been uncivil, I do apologize. I learned long ago that what I put on paper isn't "me." It is simply what I am capable of doing at a particular point in time. Consequently, a critique of my work has nothing to do with my self worth. It is only a critique of my work. My remarks have been intended to be directed to an evaluation of the quality of work, not the individual who did it.


I have considered translating the discussion to another arena and therefore taking the issue of calligraphy and illumination out of it. For example, if every member of the Dallas Cowboys becomes a fervent convert to and adherent of some particular religion, does that mean that they will win the Superbowl next year? No, because skill, which is the result of training and practice, is what makes for excellence. Religious passion does not. Religious passion will not win the Superbowl. If I pick up a book with a loose text block, crooked headbands, glue all over the endpapers and cover, but which the binder claims to be the equal of Sangorski and Sutcliff's bindings solely because he/she made the book in the grip of religious passion, am I to subscribe to that? No. Some empirical judgement as to quality must enter into the evaluation of work.

Can I say that again? Skill, which is the result of training and practice, is what makes for excellence. Some empirical judgement as to quality must enter into the evaluation of work.

If I am shown an inept piece of work, done by a beginner, I am polite. As I said, beginners need to be treated gently, and when teaching I have learned to praise first, then criticize. If there is nothing more than a beautifully written R, that's what gets talked about first. It is a different matter altogether when a poor piece of work is repeatedly presented bearing self praise of the highest order. I think that is a type of dishonesty to which I don't care to subscribe. Is that less than polite? I don't know.

Earnest belief in one's own work has nothing to do with it. My bookbinding skills are minimal, but I may absolutely, totally believe that my bookbinding is the equal of Jan Sobota's work. It is not, and you would be right to tell me so, particularly if I repeatedly and publicly claimed that this was the case. In that case, your criticism would send me to get the necessary training and to do the necessary practice.

Surely there is some arena for discussion of a standard of quality in the field of art and craft. Is this not to be considered that arena?

Sally Jackson

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