A great many women have, or think they have, a taste for art. They can make a pretty sketch, or draw a landscape quite fairly, and so they think they will "take up" art as a profession. And nearly all of them fail of success. The trouble seems to be that they lack originality; they are mere copyists, and too often very poor reproducers of the things they copy.
One branch of art—that of industrial designing—offers golden opportunities to make an excellent living in a pleasant way, but, before deciding to enter it, a woman should be very sure indeed that she has the necessary qualifications to pursue the study successfully; otherwise her time will be wasted, and probably her heart will be so discouraged that she will be sadly unfitted for any kind of work for a long time to come.
It is industrial art of which I am speaking. A few introductory words may be necessary, for the benefit of some persons ignorant in the matter, to show what women are doing, or rather successfully attempting to do, in that line at the present time.
Industrial or technical designing means designing for wall-paper, lace, silk, chintz, calico, oil-cloth, linoleum, book-covers, embroidery, wood-carving, silver-ware, jewelry, silks, handkerchiefs, upholstery goods, and carpets of all grades, from ingrains to moquettes. Up to within a very short period all this work has been done by men, principally foreigners; but talented and enterprising women saw that they were able to do the work equally well, and it is only a question of time when women will entirely monopolize this field of industry.
It will be seen at once that the woman who is ambitious to become an industrial designer must have, first of all, originality. She must have good taste and an eye for color. Drawing must come natural to her. The mere ability to copy pictures, or make sketches from nature is not enough. She must be full of ideas, and for some of the work mentioned (notably carpet designing) she must have what might be called a combining mind—that is, the ability to get ideas from several designs, and by combining them together, make something new. It must be confessed that this kind of ability is rare. Very few men possess it, and fewer women. Manufacturers of carpets and wall-papers say that they have to import nearly all their help of this kind from Europe; they cannot find in this country the right kind of men to do the work.
But because a woman has not this talent for originating largely developed, she should not be discouraged from becoming an industrial designer. If she has even a little talent in that direction she may find, after taking a few lessons, that the study is very congenial to her, and that she has more ability than she imagined. The kind of designing of which I am particularly speaking in this chapter is designing for carpets, oil-cloths, and wall-paper. That seems to be the most popular at the present time, though there is a good chance for skilled workers in the other branches to which allusion was made.
It is surprising what a demand there is for new designs in carpets, wall-paper, and oil-cloths....