On Friday, we were talking about the importance of developing a set of skills for whatever-it-is you want to make. I was talking about my childhood frustration in making things~~
After the frustrations of childhood and my inability to build a boat from two 2×4’s and a coil of rope, I quit making things. I entered adulthood, and who needs the added pressure of Being Bad at Glueing on top of the day job and trying to learn to make casseroles? In fact, I didn’t make much of anything for years until I began to write for a living, which is also when I began to interview artists and talk to them about what they did and what excited them. That was when I realized that you could actually learn to do stuff, like making books and soldering jewelry and creating things out of clay. It took a while to find instructions–this was before art retreats, before the internet, way before online classes and tutorials and webinars. This was, yes, in the dark ages. But I ordered kits and instructions and slowly, slowly, learned to do everything I wanted to do. I learned to bind books “the right way,” spending an entire year making books every. Single. Day. I learned to solder until I could do it “the right way,” working at it over and over, trying different kinds of solder and various kinds of flux, trying soldering irons and soldering guns, including the one my husband gave me for Christmas one year, one that was so powerful it terrified me. I worked with polymer clay, making batch after batch of stamped pieces, pieces with transfers, pieces embossed with texture and images. I painted it, I drilled it, I sanded it. I made art quilts–big ones, little ones. I bought an old machine and learned free-motion embroidery.
In short, I worked. I developed sets of skills, one for each thing I thought might be The Thing for me. I worked at it long enough and intently enough that I could do whatever-it-was to my satisfaction, until I could look at the thing I made–the soldered necklace, the quilt, the clay jewelry–and say, “Yep, I did that. And it’s not bad.” In the process, I learned what it was that called to me (working with fabric) and what didn’t (pretty much everything else). But the most important thing I learned was that creativity, the desire to make stuff, that passion and drive, can’t go anywhere by itself. People talk about the frustration of wanting to make something but not being able to bring to life what it is they see in their heads. They have the ideas, they have the tools and supplies, but they just can’t figure out how to make it happen. Perhaps it’s the myth that the truly creative person doesn’t need instruction or classes, that they can just sit down and create whatever they imagine on the first attempt. Don’t believe it. The people who draw effortlessly? They draw all the time, every day, ever since they can remember. The workshop instructors who make what they do seem so simple? They’ve been doing that thing–riveting, glazing, sawing, painting–far longer and more intently than most of us can imagine. Making stuff from nothing is hard work, and to be able to take the wisp of an idea and turn it into something concrete that other people can see, you’ve got to have the skills required. Once you’ve mastered the skills and made them second nature, you don’t have to agonize over cold connections or coptic binding and can focus, instead, on creating. On bringing to life what you see in your head.
So here’s the key: if you know what it is that calls to you–paper, or fabric, or metal–learn how to do everything with that material. Read books and how-to articles in magazines. Watch online tutorials. Take workshops, both In Real Life and online. Ask questions. Practice. Make mistakes. Try again. If you’re not sure what it is that you want to work with? Then you get to do the same thing, but with a variety of media–you get to find out about soldering and quilting, weaving and paper-making. You find out about everything that seems remotely interesting, and then you narrow it down. And then you focus and learn everything you can. And practice. Always practice. It’s mastering the skills that allows you to bring your dreams to life.
And that leads right into discipline, which is what we’ll talk about next time~~
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