I can’t tell you how many times over the past couple of weeks I’ve gotten the question “Where’s your response to the #FairFiberWage discussion?” Mostly I can’t tell you how many times because I don’t remember. But I can tell you what my response has been; “It’s coming.”
This discussion ended up happening at an inopportune time for me. Or maybe it was perfect to prove a point about the work a teacher does to prep. I was smack dab in the middle of getting my teaching prep done for Wisconsin Sheep and Wool when everything started to unfold. This was two weeks of trying to make sure the classes were ready. No wait, I wanted to update that class, and freshen that one…. Did I have outlines done? Were the handouts printed, filed, ready to go? Did I get the fibers and yarn preps all done? Didn’t I want to do new samples for that class? Did I order all the materials I needed?… You get the idea, right?
I do have my normal work that needs to be completed for Spunky Eclectic but some of that even goes by the wayside so I can prep for teaching. Why? I want to make sure that I’m earning my pay. I want to make sure that when asked a question, I have an answer. I want to make sure to cover so much material that there may not even be a need for questions. I want my students to walk away having a good experience and having learned a bunch. Having made great yarns or weaving. I want them to feel like they can tackle the next project even when I’m not there to help them through it.
So this discussion has been marching on, but I wouldn’t say it’s been going on entirely without me. I’ve been commenting, retweeting, reposting on FB, and making my contribution in that way. I’ve not been silent but I have been doing my marching a little more quietly and a little in the background than I normally might.
I believe in fair fiber wage. I believe that teachers, vendors, farmers, and really, everyone in the community has a stake in this. I believe this all benefits everyone. If I was already 100% prepped for the show (hasn’t happened yet) that far ahead, I might have jumped in sooner. If I wasn’t so tired from writing and doing my job, I might have been able to jump in sooner. Ifs…. All of it.
Truth is, I’m a professional. When I sign up to do a job, I get there (even if I need to jump through some hoops like I did with Wisconsin this past week**). I put on a good show. I teach to the best of my ability and continue until the students stop asking questions. I’m a professional. When you pay my wage, you’re getting ALL my years of experience. You’re getting every inch of my ability and every ounce of my professionalism. This means some personal things, like blog posts, get set aside and moved to the future.
I’m not a diva or a princess as has been suggested elsewhere. I require food and a place to stay where I can recharge. My first day of teaching at Wisconsin was done on 4 hours of sleep. That’s not ideal, travel was unusually rough, but I was going to get to my job dammit! If I had had a roommate it’s possible I couldn’t have functioned. I needed sleep. Time to recharge. Time to make sure my classes were ready. You who hire me, you want to have this. You want me to be ready and fresh. Simple requirements. No fancy red carpet. No caviar. Just simply time and space to recharge.
There aren’t many professions outside of the arts where we expect people to take a low pay, inhospitable conditions, or disrespectful treatment. I’m not sure why the arts are thought of so lowly. Especially the arts that provide some service. Now, I do have a longer post brewing in my head on this but it’s going to take some time.
This is my start of talking about #FairFiberWage on this blog. There is more to come but I’m flying today (the day I wrote this I flew, I had to wait for Jay to read through to make sure I was coherent) and I didn’t want my voice to be missed any longer. This fiber community is just that, a community. I look forward to all of us getting together and working together like I know we can. It’s like a huge metered square afghan, we all have a square involved and we know how to make the best damn blankets.
**If you didn’t read my travel saga on social media already here it is in a nutshell. Because of storms in Chicago flights were delayed. I was flying from Maine to Chicago to Madison. We sat on the plane (yes, on the plane) in Maine until about 30 minutes before my flight was scheduled to land in Madison. Needless to say, that wasn’t going to happen. I got to Chicago about 630ish. The event planners and I decided it would be smarter to rent a car and drive to Madison as the airline wasn’t guaranteeing I’d even be able to get to Madison that day. Best to have a little drive and get there to meet my contract, right?
I deplane in Chicago, tell the gate person my plans (and that I needed a checked bag). He said baggage claim would help me. I leave TSA check in and the baggage dude says “We don’t do that” and “If your next flight leaves on time (probably won’t but it might) you won’t have time to get back through TSA. Rent a car and meet your bag in Madison.” Ok. So that’s what I do. Get a rental, drive to Madison and my flight indeed was delayed. I waited for my class materials in Madison baggage claim for 2 hours. At 1030pm (after leaving my house in Maine about 12 hours earlier), I left the airport in Madison to drive to my hotel.