Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Importance of Being a Beginner

I went to a metal working class last night at The Studio at Rush Creek. It felt absolutely wonderful to be in a studio atmosphere again, and I loved the class I took. I learned to use a jeweler's saw, a metal punch, a foredom flexible shaft drill, and a whole slew of other things. The class was actually titled Riveted Jewelry, and everyone in the class had a chance to make a pendant. It was so exhilarating to be learning something new and so I was surprised at how inept I felt at the same time. It's hard being a beginner at something. Especially if you've gotten pretty good at your "thing". I felt extremely unskilled, made a ton of mistakes, and generally had a wonderful time.

But here's how my evening went:
  • I cut out the heart shape with a jeweler's saw and snapped the blade.
  • I punched out the silver disk and because I couldn't remember which way was right, I unscrewed the handle, popping out a spring, that thankfully went back together pretty easily (before too many people noticed).
  • I decided to give the edge of my disk a "hammered" look and because I missed the edge ended up "texturizing" the entire disk to cover it up.
  • I used the saw to cut a 1/4" slice off of a copper tube for the center rivet, and lost it on the last cut-twice. So I spent quite a bit of the time crawling around the floor and asking people if they could please move a little so I could get my bit of tube. I realized the second time around I had low ride jeans on so that made the crawling around a little interesting. Crawl, yank up the jeans, crawl, pull down my shirt... you get the idea.
  • I dulled the drill bit (I think) because I forgot to hit a divet to mark the drill spot first.
  • And I filed off a couple of nails, as I was trying to even out my cut on the tube rivet. I'd claim I ruined my manicure but I rarely have one so the uneven appearance of my nails isn't that big of a deal.
It was hard to feel so clumsy again, it was hard to keep asking for help. I remember though, it's how I felt it when I first picked up the wire. Now, the wire just flows for me. I love it. Will I get to that point with the metal working? I don't know. But I do know that before I can be good at it I'll have to let myself be a beginner and let myself make mistakes, and generally screw up a lot. That's how we learn.

Audrey Flack, in her book Art and Soul, relates a conversation with another artist where she admits she did bad art for a whole year when she picked up her watercolors again. She was an extremely skilled sculptor at this time and to be willing not only to put herself back to the beginning, but to go through the experience of "making bad art" for that long is such an inspiration to me.

So be a beginner again, let yourself make bad art, be gentle with your artist self as you learn and make mistakes; it could be the start of something wonderful.

1 comment:

Cristi Baxter Clothier said...

Hey Jen! Thanks for stopping by! I was just thinking yesterday that I hadn't heard from you in a while, so I headed over to your blog to catch up. Small world, huh?

Your pendant turned out great!!! I'm jealous though. I've been wanting to do rivets. I've got the hammer for it and everything.

Your class sounds like fun. We don't have anything like that here in town. Seems as though I have to go out of town for special classes, which is hard for me with 2 little boys here at home.

I gotta catch up on all your new creations and posts.