If you live in the United States and tune into nighttime NBC programming you've probably seen the show America's Got Talent. If you're not here in the land of reality TV, then let me give you a brief rundown of what this show is. There are three judges consisting of Howie Mandell, Howard Stern, and Sharon Osbourne. They sit behind a table that has giant buzzers with huge red "X" signs that they push when they don't like the performers. The talented, and sometimes horrifyingly awful, contestants get about 90 seconds to showcase whatever act they believe is worthy of one million dollars if they win the show. There are singers, dancers, escape artists, animal acts, and some other things that are both bizarre and wildly wonderful. You get the idea.
Watching this show has made me think of the way we, as a modern culture, define talent. All of the acts on the show must be preformed in a 90 second time frame, which limits the kind of talents that can be showcased on the program. It seems in the sense of modern culture, talent and entertainment have become synonymous. If one cannot entertain others with their skill, then is isn't seen as talent by many. Now, there are many talented performers in the world who are both entertainers and talented. This post is not meant to downplay the talents of others, but rather to look at why some talents don't seem to get their share of the limelight. There are also many people who entertain whose talent is questionable at best. (I'm looking at you Miley Cyrus.)
I would argue that sewing is a talent. Sewing is a craft that takes time, patience, and practice to master. It cannot be rushed and even the fastest seamstress cannot make something in 90 seconds or less. Sewing requires you to mix together critical thinking skills, comprehension skills, and math skills and actually create a physical, 3D object. That is a talent. You're never going to see someone on stage chugging away making a coat on a reality TV talent show. Sewing, while it can be entertaining to the seamstress, doesn't really entertain others. Sure, a runaway bobbin unwinding on the floor may entertain your cat for a few minutes, but no one would describe that as entertainment. Setting in a non-wonky sleeve is a talent. Sewing a perfect fitting pair of pants is a talent. Learning how to thread a serger is a talent. Installing a fly-front zipper is a talent. Making a finished, wearable garment is a talent! A talent should not be defined by it's ability to make one a star or to entertain others.
We, as a society, need to redefine what constitutes a talent. Time consuming, laborious tasks such as sewing and woodworking are talents, and those who master these crafts are talented. We need to respect dying arts and restore them to their rightful place as talents. We need to redraw the line between talent and entertainment and realize, once again, that someone can be very talented without also being an entertainer.
What are your thoughts dear readers? Are talents such as sewing being overshadowed by more entertaining talents? Chime in! I'd love to hear your thoughts.
* I think the mass importation of cheaply made, both in quality and price, clothing has also downplayed the role of sewing as a talent, but we'll save that for another post.