Monday, November 28, 2011


There is a really difficult mind-space for people that hold themselves to high standards when, while learning a new trade or skill, they realize what the best work looks like (i.e. what they desire to make/do) but are unable to perform at that level yet. Often the gap is because these people are still learners, operating in an area where true mastery requires years and years of experience. For some reason, though, it is hard to accept that apprenticeship equals failure on an intrinsic level, that if we don't make bad work there is no way to learn how to make good work.

I know this. I can even write about this. But it is SO HARD to embody it, to release the pressure I self-impose to knock it out of the park with every project that comes along. I want all of my work to be amazing, not necessarily for the praise of others (although this is definitely nice, however another minefield in and of itself) but because I am used to being at the top of whatever I'm doing. I know I'm capable of doing impeccable work, and it's hard to accept that it's okay if I can't right now, for whatever reason, in whatever capacity.

I think people doing jewelry or metalsmithing at a high level are particularly prone to this issue. Our field is all about perfection, precision, doing it right the first time because often that's the only option lest you go back to square one with a particular piece. Our eyes are meticulous. We see all of the flaws. Making can be maddening. We get so invested in our work, put in so many hours... It becomes especially hard to look at a piece after blood and sweat and tears (literally. really. i cry nearly every week and can't feel the tips of my fingers) when you know certain things should have been done differently and/or better.

I need to remember - I think all of us in the progam could stand to remember - that other people don't see jewelry through the same discriminating eyes as we do. Other people see the beauty, the creativity, the materials. Not that this is license to do shoddy work, but to remember on those pre-critique mornings that someone out there will think this is the best. piece. ever. made.


Dad said...

Ted Williams, the best hitter in major league baseball history, in his best year with the Boston Red Sox, only batted .400. That means that he was successful only once in every four times he tried to hit the ball. And he was the best in history at that particularly demanding task.

Another telling anecdote about Ted Williams. The comedian Billy Crystal was talking to Ted about a time in the 1950s when he saw him play at Yankee Stadium. Billy said to Ted "Whitey Ford was pitching and he struck you out." After a pause, Ted Williams replied, "Yes he did. It was a fast ball, high and inside." Not only did Williams remember Whitey Ford striking him out during a routine game at Yankee Stadium, he remembered the specific pitch that got him. That would be my idea of an obsession with perfection.

Stacie said...

I was photographing my work today and all I could see were the imperfections...but then I read an article saying how people like the look of handmade because it isn't machine made perfect.

And I sighed.

Ali la Loca said...

~Dad - 1 in 4 is crazy-making odds.

~Stacie - Photographing jewelry is the worst. Every little flaw just jumps out at you, not to mention the headache when your images is just a tad out of focus. Still, better than no photos, right? :)

The Blind Observer said...

I can understand this completely, often we're our own worst enemies by being overcritical and too demanding of ourselves. And indeed, the frustration involved after having to go back to the beginning and starting all over again can faze even the best of us occasionally.

You're doing well, I'm impressed with your work. :-)