Critiques: Bashing, Fawning or Otherwise
As most of you know, I used to sing for my supper. I sang classical music, or opera for lack of a better term. I took lessons for decades, yes, decades. I participated in master classes. I auditioned ad nauseam. I performed and was reviewed. In short, I was constantly given feedback on my singing at every turn. Either my teacher, the master class teacher, the auditioners or the public/professional critics were constantly reviewing my performances or lack thereof. I have received so many rejection letters, I cannot even number them. In fact, I have kept all the acceptance letters because as they were so few and far between, it behooved me to keep them as reminders of some good notices. I’m saying all this because it means I have developed a pretty thick skin over the years from all this feedback. And to be honest, my worst critic is myself.
There has been an interesting conversation in the sewing blogosphere of late about overly kind praise for projects that might not actually deserve praise, be it for lack of fit, poor pressing or an unflattering silhouette. I am a firm believer of if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything. Actually that reminds me of the recital receiving lines back in my music school days. After recitals, the performer would come out to greet the audience informally. We would wait in line to speak with the performer. If the performance was lacking or just plain bad, you had to think of something to say in a hurry. The default response was, “Your dress was amazing!” Or, “You looked amazing on stage!” Nothing about the actual performance. Why would you dampen their high right after the performance?
However, if that person was a close friend and/or asked me for an honest appraisal of their performance, I would find a way to say something honest about it, but without being scathing or hurtful. In short, I would be constructive. I would avoid all destructive criticism. What does that do for anyone? And I would only say something if directly asked for it.
A friend of mine recently commented that she knows when a garment is not well-received on her blog by the lack of comments. No one generally says anything negative; they just choose not to leave a comment. I have noticed that phenomenon with some of my garment posts as well. I think that’s a great way of giving feedback without being hurtful. Don’t you?
As I said in my last post, I know that I don’t know much about sewing despite being five years into it. Five years seems like a lot until you compare it with someone like Ann Rowley from Stitcher’s Guild and Great British Sewing Bee fame who has been sewing for decades. While my construction skills are intermediate, my fitting skills are almost nonexistent. When I need advice on fitting, I ask my sewing friends who are great at it and way more experienced than I for help. I have even asked directly for advice on my garment posts. I have been thankful for all the advice I have received. I learn a little bit more each time. I am getting better and quicker at performing FBA’s. I’m still awful at interpreting drag lines though. But that’s what fitting buddies are for. My fitting buddies just happen to be an email or a post away, not in person.
So, do fawning, sycophantic critiques help anyone? Probably not. Do unsolicited critiques help? Maybe, maybe not. They may not be taken well when unsolicited. Bashing critiques are, I think, never helpful. They’re just hurtful. It all comes down to etiquette, doesn’t it? I look at healthy criticism as an opportunity to learn something. But maybe I have a thicker skin than most. What do you think?