Let's stop rushing to the destination.

"This is REALLY not turning out as I thought it would." (overheard at a recent workshop)




I teach a lot of workshops. Many of them are for super beginners. By that I mean those that have never even touched the medium we are working with before. I call these 'beginner friendly' because I'm trying to encourage everyone to try something new. To come to the workshop with no preconceived notion of what they will create. To be open to the process. To enjoy learning.


This works for some. They are open to it.


Others ... not so much.


Perhaps it's that I'm based in Ottawa and there are a lot of really smart, motivated professionals living here who sign up for my classes. They want to 'make the most' of their downtime. They want to learn something BUT they want to make something really nice on their first go. They want to be able to take a photo of it and put it up on their IG right away and have hundreds of likes. 


So what happens when I suggest at the outset of my workshops that it's about the process, the journey and NOT the destination? That they MAY walk out of the workshop with something they aren't so keen on? Something that looks NOTHING like the examples I'm showing? 


Here's what I'm learning about the process of teaching others to sit down and make stuff by hand. Even the ugly stuff.


People are busy. They have made this (excellent) decision to carve out a little time for themselves and have signed up for a workshop. They have blocked time in their calendar. They have told their family and friends that they are DOING THIS. They make their way over to Ply Studio at the appointed time. They descend the stairs into the twinkly, welcoming patio space outside the studio. They see their kit of supplies, other smiling faces. They hear music and laughter. They settle into their spot. They are READY to learn. 


With a smile on my face, I introduce them to the wonderful world of {choose your workshop topic} and show them examples of what they will make.


And then.


I tell them I want them to take a deep breath. Slow down. Enjoy what they are about to do. And I break this news to them ... what they make tonight MIGHT NOT look very nice. It might look NOTHING like the examples I just showed them. They might feel like they have 8 clumsy hands as they try to do what I show them.  


They might be frustrated as all get out.


But, it is my deepest desire to move people from decision about trying something new and then over the hump of 'this is frustrating - I don't like it' to 'LOOK WHAT I MADE WITH MY OWN 2 HANDS!!'. 


Sometimes these phases all happen in one workshop. More often, these phases are spread over time. I hear from some past workshop participants that they go home and forget about their project for a little while. Others go home and work long into the night and send me photos the next morning. 


Some are hooked from the first stitch and others need a lot more encouragement.


I am here for both ends of this spectrum and everything in between.


Marlene is a recent 'grad' of our glass mosaics workshop and she has given me permission to include her sentiments about the process and perfection. They perfectly frame what I'm getting at here ...


"Though simple in design and technique, this was one of the first times that I’ve tried something new and did not aspire to create something equivalent to that of an artist practicing the craft for decades only to be terribly dismayed by the results.  


Many years ago, I read that the Amish purposefully include an obvious error in their quilts as recognition that only God is perfect. Though not religious, I adopted this practice in order to incorporate a little whimsy in my quilts and to serve as a private “message” shared with the recipient who is invited to search for the deliberate quirk(s).


In this (glass mosaics) project, I adhered one of the border pieces askance to signify “this can no longer be perfect”…so enjoy the process and be happy with the result, come what may. I did and I am!"


Yes! So lovely! 


Here's another example, this time from my own experience with spinning yarn on my spinning wheel. When I first started creating my own yarn, my experimentation often led to weird and yet beautiful skeins of yarn. They were lumpy and bumpy and colourful and full of anything I could get my hands on.


As I improved in my technique, I was able to coerce those 'mistakes' out of my yarn to create something a lot more uniform. And then I realized something ... it was actually harder to create interesting and bumpy and lumpy yarns after I became a better spinner. That lack of uniformity in my earliest handspun is actually more intriguing and harder to create when you have spent more time at the wheel. 


Lesson? Enjoy being a novice and the learning and experimentation that comes with it. The beautiful and unique 'mistakes'. One day you'll look back and realize you actually DID enjoy the process of trying something new. And your measuring stick for improvement will be those first projects that frustrated you so darn much.


Let's enjoy that messy middle and stop rushing to the destination. After all, it is commonly agreed that the anticipation is often better than the realization anyway. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published