Friday, March 09, 2012

Plateau or Perhaps a Wall

This has been a hard semester, perhaps the hardest yet.

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.


alphawoman said...

Have I told you recently that a pair of your earrings I purchased several years ago is my favorite! I wear them all the time. They are blue and at times I think they are pink!! I just love them.

Ali la Loca said...

Thanks, Alphawoman. I know exactly the pair you are referring to. I loved those stones so much!

Sally Shaw said...

Hi Ali:) You don't know me. I'm Sally and I found your blog a few weeks ago searching Mozambique jewellery/silver because I'm going on an amazing dhow safari in the Quirimbas next month and I was interested in the silver jewellery (jewelry...) I know is made and sold there with a view to finding out more, maybe buying, perhaps selling it on, who knows. ANYWAY, I fell in love with your blog and read the whole lot through over the past weeks!!! I've been waiting to catch up to you in real time. It's actually an amazing concept/scenario, cuz the blog is like a novel, right. What's going to happen next ... all the work changes and growth, the fabulous trips, then the wedding and move back to SF. It was like reading a fairytale ... and now I can email and comment to the heroine? Who ever thought the world would offer such an experience. It's kind of like the hero walks out of the big screen and you chase after him and realise he's real:) Which I am doing now ... just to say PEP TALK PEP TALK. We don't like to see our protagonists suffering too much! In any event, so many similarities in our stories yet we're very different. I'm planning on moving back to the States in May after much soul-searching and 15 years and a great career in South Africa, and your blog helped me to know what I want, to listen to the right voice. Dunno when I'll make it "home" cuz home is definitely where you are RIGHT NOW and I think I'd be foolish to try to expect more than the happiness I already have, but change is also good, and maybe making circles like that drawing toy we used to have, where the lines overlap and spread out in perfect geometries, changing colour. I forget what that thing is called but such memories did you blog inspire me to!!! I am so inspired by your hard work and creativity and passion. So ya ("ya" haha) 4 studio classes may be too much pressure to expand creatively so take it easy. That's what I wanted to say. Wink. xx. And THANK YOU. I'm definitely a future customer. (I wonder whether I'll find trade beads as far north as Ibo Island but maybe ... if you like me to look, let me know:)

Ali la Loca said...

Oh my goodness, Sally, where do I even start? Thank you so much for your comment. The timing couldn't have been better and you've just given me the most amazing surge of "pep" ever!

I hope you have a lovely holiday in the Quirimbas, that is still a spot on my travel wish list. The silver jewelry from Ibo is to die for, defo a massive influence on me and my work even now. And the ilha beads...sigh!

Feel free to pick up some beads and send them to me so I can make you a custom Mocambique necklace! Seriously, it's the type of work I love to take on. :)

Ok, I am off to enjoy a nice lunch with Rico before another session in the studio. Happy to report I'm finding my balance again. Yaaaa!

Ps - the drawing toy is the spirograph. I loved them as a child.

Meg said...

You are a totally awesome jeweler and I know you will get past this with flying colors. AND I'm so excited to start talking about my necklace, but I can wait until your summer break. Still! so pretty!!!

Ali la Loca said...

Meg, thank you. Seriously.

I am excited about your necklace, too! A February baby so that means amethyst. When you get a chance email me all the birth months for you guys so I can start looking at stones and laying out a design.

This is the sort of project I love! Not at all stressful like school work. :)

Sally Shaw said...

A spirograph, of course:) That sounds like a plan ... I'll see what I can find washed up on the beaches in the Quirimbas to pass on to you to work your pretty magic for me ... just as soon as I get to chicago and start to miss Africa hehe. And just so long as I'm not kidnapped by pirates or eaten by a zambezi bull shark in the meantime. cheers!

Sally Shaw said...

A spirograph, of course:) That sounds like a plan ... I'll see what I can find washed up on the beaches in the Quirimbas to pass on to you to work your pretty magic for me ... just as soon as I get to chicago and start to miss Africa hehe. And just so long as I'm not kidnapped by pirates or eaten by a zambezi bull shark in the meantime. cheers!