Friday, February 12, 2010
In Praise of Trying
next silk warp
The opening ceremonies are on for the Olympics and I'm in the studio thinking a lot about 'trying'.
A sage has said that "There is no try. There is do or do not."
Well, he's right - sort of. When it comes down to the wire, when you need a gold performance, you either do it, or....you don't.
But before you get to that place, before you get to the start line at an Olympics or other world event, there is a whole lot of trying that goes on.
No one comes into this world at the peak of their performance. They must acquire knowledge and skill - and then apply it.
People buy a loom (or potter's wheel, or you name it) and then throw up their hands in dispair when they see their initial results. As though the tool was the secret to good results.
Instead of learning the physical skills required to weave (or pot or turn wood) they look for more and better tools, more and better 'tricks'. And yes, buying the best tools and materials and applying 'tricks' will bring a certain level of improvement but if they never learn the basic skills involved, will they ever achieve a gold medal performance? Perhaps.
Let's face it - anyone can weave. Weaving well.....well that's another thing entirely.
Any craftsperson must have knowledge of their materials, know how to use them effectively, be aware of appropriate tools and tricks, when to use them and when not. This knowledge does not come quickly or easily. It is only through the application of purposeful study that skill levels increase.
And making mistakes. Lots and lots of mistakes. Choosing inappropriately and understanding why that particular yarn was a poor choice for that application.
Being analytical. Adjusting your hand motions, your body position, tweaking subtle changes that all the time bring you closer to being efficient. Being skillful.
That's not to say that someone working inefficiently can't do good work - of course not. But when seconds count, efficiency is A Very Good Thing.
Athletes (and I include dancers in this category - they epitomize artistic athletics) learn how to move their bodies in order to maximize output with the minimum of input. They are aware of shaving nano-seconds off their movements. They constantly work to improve their performance. Then they put themselves into the limelight and strive to be the very best they can be at whatever it is they have devoted their lives to doing.
Ultimately their first and foremost competitor is themselves. That's why so much is made of an athletes personal best. And yes, while the goal is to bring home the gold, only one person can do that. The rest have to accept personal best.
Weavers don't have Olympics. But they can enter juried (or non-juried) exhibits. They can ask for honest feedback from others with more skill than themselves. They can be honest about their efforts, analytical about what they have done, question if they could have made more appropriate choices, work toward being a more efficient/ergonomic craftsperson.
And never, ever stop learning.
So while the Olympics are on and I'm thinking about pushing one's boundaries, I'd like to issue a challenge - if you have never entered a juried exhibit, think about entering something this year. Convergence is coming and have a number of exhibits planned. Submit! If you can't manage Convergence, how about your county fair?
Remember that the gold medal is not what it's about. It's about doing your best. And do, instead of do not.