Friday, September 21, 2012

When it Counts

Practice, as the old saying goes, makes perfect. And in jewelry fabrication, just like anything else, practice is necessary to get consistently good. Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 Hour Rule indicates that it takes about a decade to become great. Great, not just consistently good.

That means that I'm a little less than a third of the way, on my path to achieving greatness (and of course "greatness", like prosperity, wealth, happiness, is personally subjective). I wish I'd started earlier (don't we always) but it's really amazing to me how much my skill set has changed even in roughly 30 months.

This? Could. Not. Have. done this when I first began to fabricate:

What used to happen when I turned on the torch was that I'd stick some solder where I thought it should be, heat up the metal and...hope for the best. I'd had the classes, listened to the instruction, written copious notes, but all of that was no substitute for actually *doing* the task.

So sometimes the solder would go where I wanted it to. Sometimes it wouldn't. Sometimes it flowed the wrong way and I had to file it off. Sometimes it flowed the wrong way and I couldn't clean it off without ruining the piece. A good friend of mine told me, "You can clean up or you can cover up". Sometimes covering up is the better option, but sometimes covering up doesn't work. And you can't really clean up a textured surface without losing the texture. 

Sometimes I thought the solder flowed, but I couldn't really tell. And when I picked up the item from the soldering brick, the join wasn't actually joined. Or the two pieces that were supposed to be soldered together...weren't. I spent a LOT of time working on joining two separate pieces of metal together. My own personal mountain, that.  :)

I couldn't tell when the metal was ready, heat-wise, for the solder to flow and overheated a number of pieces. I melted some, too. I ruined some designs because of solder flowing in the wrong direction and had to remake them. The scrap jar was full of wasted metal.

But little by little, I began to notice that things...worked. And they were working on the first try (um...usually). The designs got smarter - and by this I don't mean that I am making such brilliant designs, but that I designed to incorporate less clean up (thus less labor cost) and figured out what worked and what didn't. What I could do more efficiently. How to make fabrication work for me. Because everyone has their own issues, their own preferences, their own ways of fabricating. The basics remain the same, but the ways we do them are individual to each of us.

And now, with these more complex pieces, these new designs that make me finally feel like I am doing something new and different in the jewelry world, these pieces that are so far from the simple pieces I first made, I feel like I am peeking over the wall and catching a glimpse of the view on the other side. And that feels SO good. Especially for a girl who was fairly convinced that she'd never get there.

So when it counts, as it does when I'm making these pieces:

I'm glad that I've put the time in and had all of that physical learning, all of the the trials and errors, because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to execute these. It would have been an exercise in frustration and I think I would have felt like such a loser. But now I'm able to design and create things that are so much cooler than I ever thought I could. And that's worth ALL the time and effort it took to get here.  :)

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