Where’s my atelier?

Some frustrations in recent years have revolved around an intense desire to make beautiful things running into a lack of skill or time to make them combined with a lack of available skilled people to pay to do them for us. Several friends and I have formed an unofficial ‘atelier’ (the common Brazilian-via-French term for an artist’s studio) where we do all sorts of little projects. The atelier isn’t even in a fixed location, though we sometimes work at each others’ houses and we share materials.

Some recent projects have included: experimenting with making arrangements of artificial flowers, painted gold, in imitation of the metal flowers found on baroque Brazilian altars; making rosaries; designing embroidery for altar linens or chasubles; sewing altar frontals; redoing the decoration on old chasubles; and making robes and dresses for religious statues.

Some of the work has been partially outsourced to shops, but there we frequently run into our own problem. The professionals are so overburdened and behind schedule that it can take many months just to hear that they haven’t yet started on your project…

Most of the professionals are family businesses, with a mom or dad being the main artisan, and the kids and spouse helping out with simpler tasks, accounting or deliveries. In other words, there’s really just one person doing all the work, and they don’t want to turn away anyone who wants work done. There’s also a tendency here to give priority to higher status people or people with urgent deadlines (ordinations, for instance) so the line is constantly being jumped by priority clients, leaving others in a never-ending tail end. Thus the desire to do it my darn self…

I then realize my own line is just as slow that of the pros. In a fantasy life I’d have a workshop full of diligent elves making all my ideas to order. It feels a bit of a shame to have a head so full of ideas and not enough hands or skill to make them.

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