I thought last semester, when I took Production (the class that has the reputation of being the most intense workload in the entire jewelry curriculum) together with 3A (where we learn stone-setting and have lots of new technical challenges) would take the cake as the toughest. But no, it seems Spring 2012 is the winner.
To be fair, I am taking 4 studio classes for the first time in my career at CCA. I have completed all of my academic requirements so all that's left is studio classes until I graduate. Since I have a vested interested in being a full-time student to access scholarships and financial aid, but don't want to pay for classes that don't count toward my graduation, it's 4 studios a semester until I graduate in May 2013.
It's recommended that you do a maximum of 3 studios per semester. It's not unheard of to do 4, but people definitely give you sympathetic/you're crazy looks when they find out. Each class meets for 6 hours per week and you have anywhere from 3 to 18 hours of homework per week per class depending on the assignments.
It's definitely intense, but I don't think the studio workload is completely to blame for my struggles this semester. Rather, I believe I've hit a plateau or a wall or whatever you want to call it and it's proving to be damn hard to break through.
At this point I'm a good enough jeweler that I could quit school and make it on my own. I've gone up the technical ladder, I've got respectable chops. I know how to do my pricing and marketing. I have a client base. I've set up a basic studio. I even have a recognizable style to my work. I'm proud of what I've accomplished, but I know I'm far from "done" (not that one is ever finished growing and learning - I'm referring to what I feel I'm meant to get out of school).
I'm at this place right now that could be very comfortable but instead is uncomfortable and honestly quite stressful. Instead of forward momentum, it seems I'm moving backwards. It often feels like I've regressed back to my Jewelry 1 days. I struggle to come up with compelling designs. Simple soldering or stone setting fails. I feel as if I have the jeweler's equivalent of writer's block. I know I can do it...but I just can't make it happen.
Even worse, I find myself comparing my work and my talents to my fellow students, something I know is unproductive and try veryveryvery hard to avoid. On days where I am having a big pity party, I feel like they are all the shining stars and I am a dull, remedial flicker in the corner. I hate this so much because I am aware that I'm allowing myself to be driven by my ego. I recognize that I make work thinking of the praise I might receive from my teachers and classmates, and become stuck when imagining their criticism or disappointment.
This makes me feel so disheartened. Ideally I'd be beyond ego, beyond worrying about what others think of my work, but that's clearly not the case. I want the praise, I want to be the best, I want the recognition that I am on the right track. And as long as I allow that - or the fear of the opposite feedback - to guide my work I will continue to feel like I'm hitting my head against this massive wall.
In moments of marginal clarity and wisdom, I'm aware that my challenge this semester is to get over myself, to break out of the safe, comfortable zone that I am tempted to work within in order to get praise. I intuit that there is this world of greatness, of massive growth and potential just waiting on the other side if I can only get over the ego and insecurity. I'm aware of this, but not able to totally act on it. Or rather, I'm only able to act on it in small doses, a bit every day, and often many steps back for each tiny advance in the "right" direction.