After hearing about all of the doubts that were floating around in Beadland, I decided I really wanted to see how other artists dealt with these issues and ask some questions, with the hope that I would be able to put not only my own doubts in perspective, but perhaps share with others who might feel the same way. It's taken me a long while to get this written, as I have been going through some family stuff that has kept me really off balance, but this morning (taking into consideration that I am now going through yet another *I suck* time) I was finally able to concentrate enough to sit and write. I looked to a few of my favorite artists for their thoughts last month and they were all stunningly generous with me, allowing me to write my blog post and include both their words and some of their amazing art. Sherry Hutchinson Serafini, Marcia DeCoster, Heidi Kummli, and Diane Hyde all spent some of their very valuable time on this and sent me thoughtful responses.
This is what I asked each of the artists: I am wondering if you feel like you had more false starts and/or self doubts in the beginning when you started out, vs now, or if it feels like it has been consistent throughout? Have you had any recent cases where you just scrapped an idea after you started, or did you push through to finish the piece and decide you didn’t really care for it? Do you still have some of the self doubt issues while working or before starting? How do you handle them, and what would you say to someone else who was having them? And, as far as false starts/RipIts go, did you feel that you learned something from each, or that they were pretty much wasted time? Is there something you say to yourself when you get to a certain point of dislike in a project that helps you to keep pushing ahead? And... if you have a UFO or RipIt Box, how big is it?
Diane said, "Every piece you create is an opportunity to learn, but even so, I always have to remind myself of that. I have an ongoing love hate relationship with everything I make. It almost becomes a formula; I have a brainstorm, I sketch it out in specific detail with side notes, arrows, and little diagrams, gather all the beads and components, and finally start it. Somewhere along the way my thoughts take over in a never ending dialogue with my inner creative, happy muse. I become indecisive about individual beads, color positioning, fringe placement…..it goes on and on. The piece starts to morph in a direction I never saw coming, and all of a sudden I’m a little disappointed in the whole piece and wonder what the heck went wrong here? In my early years of beading I would abandon these false starts, stuff them in a drawer or baggie, and move on, but over the years I’ve learned to keep plodding on with these projects. Somehow if I give them more time they sometimes get better towards the end, and occasionally I actually like the final results. But on the darker side I usually see the parts that could have been done differently, or a little better, a different pearl here, etc. As an artist it’s just part of the process to look at your own work with an overly critical eye. You just can’t listen to all of it all of the time. The funny part is the few times I have created a major piece for a competition I am totally ok with (no total loathing) it either doesn’t make the cut, or doesn’t place in the final judging. It’s like a divine comedy - you throw yourself into a creation for weeks, months, a year….and it’s rejected by the very people you wanted to impress. On the other end of the spectrum the pieces I am not completely happy with or am ambivalent about seem to get chosen. From that I have learned when I am at odds with a piece it’s a good sign. Go figure. All I can say is just keep going no matter what! Love it. Hate it...it’s all going to make you a better beader. Perhaps I'll even go visit my graveyard of unfinished projects and see what's there."
The Gatekeeper, by Diane Hyde
Heidi said, "As far as false starts more now than when I began 30 years ago I think it's about the same. I don't ever scrap a false start I push through. When designing my jewelry line I often come up with a better way to make something thus the first piece isn't as good as it could be but I finish it and sell it anyway. By playing with different approaches on designing my line I can make it more efficient to make and better quality. If I am designing a larger piece I have an idea in my head of what I want but as I get into making it things usually change as I work on the piece, something doesn't look as good as I thought or fit just right. I have made a few larger pieces that don't quite come out as nicely as I though but I always finish them. It always surprises me that these are usually the ones that sell first, lol, maybe I should screw up more often. If you're going to put so much time into something you should a least finish it. I don't have much self doubt when starting apiece but rather excitement and the challenge of how to make it happen. Always follow your heart and lay the components out a head of time so you can see how they will look together, by doing this you can exchange things where needed. My mistakes are my biggest teachers, I always learn from them; I never think of them as wasted time. As I said I never give up on a project especially if I have a lot of time in it just push though because someone else will love it. I don't really have any ditch projects I suppose I do have a few things that I didn't put too much time in and for those I trim them and set them aside and will incorporate them into something else."
Free Bird by Heidi Kummli
Marcia said, "Actually I think I may have had less false starts [in the beginning], but less good work. I wasn’t as discerning about color, or the engineering of a design and would often plow ahead and then be disappointed in the result. I think because I teach beadwork for a living, the teachability of a piece needs to be a significant factor in most of my current design work. Sometimes a piece feels too simple to have enough of what I like to call ‘teachable moments’. If I can teach you in fifteen minutes and then just say ‘Now do that for the next ten hours’ I don’t think it serves the student very well. So sometimes I will start out a design and realize it is not going to serve it’s teachable purpose and I’ll move on. Pushing through to completion is the harder answer though because there is always (or almost always) that point of doubt, or that consideration for multiple directions of how a design might evolve and we hope to choose wisely. However sometimes the outcome of the design decision doesn’t become evident in its failure or brilliance until we’ve invested many hours. I think it’s a common theme. Certainly with the building of fundamental skills over time it is easier to realize your vision in beads, but there are still times I don’t know the best way to approach the design and then the self doubt can take over. I’m quite sure a more competent beader, or a more artistic beader would have the answer. Through the community of beaders that are now connected on the internet, I’ve come to realize there is a certain fallacy to this. I think no matter where we are in our design journey we can be dwarfed by those we perceive to be better then us, although I think the majority share the same struggle. We look at someone else’s finished piece and think that they somehow got there effortlessly, when they likely went through many of our same issues along the way. To another artist experiencing design insecurity I would say we each have our own path to follow. When you are in the mode of self doubt try to stay present in your own work and not be influenced by what you perceive someone else’s process to be.
"Rip apart? Surely you jest? You do know that I am the girl who doesn’t even put beads away at the end of a project, I add them to a vase, so ripping apart, that never happens. But I do have a bowl of false starts that I save. I don’t think I always take away the lesson immediately, but I do often revisit the bowl to see if some snippet of beadwork might serve me now by taking it in a different direction, so in that way the false starts do continue to add value. Pushing ahead is often driven by a deadline, although having said that, I try to make sure that what I end up with is a project that I am going to feel really good about teaching or sharing. I want there to be teachable moments, I want the engineering to work so that it is comfortable to wear and functions well and I want colors that work beautifully together. As a piece develops if any of those things is out of synch I will start again."
Bollywood Cuff by Marcia DeCoster
Sherry said, "No, because I didn’t have any expectations. I was just doing what I like to do and people were encouraging me to exhibit. I was asked to teach, and yes was terrified at the prospect because I wasn’t quite sure how to convey exactly what I was doing. I push thru in most cases. I do feel it’s the journey not the destination. Not every journey is a rewarding experience, although almost always a learning one. If a piece really isn’t fun for me though, I just don’t do it. I don’t like wasting time or being bored. I pretty much just nose dive in without serious thought. I just enjoy the process. To someone else I would tell them to just follow their inner voice and create what pleases them. If they find the piece is irritating and not working out, walk away from it. Put it away. I’ve put away pieces for up to a year and came back to find that I was ready to work once again. Usually it is something learned if I think about it. Seriously....I don’t dwell on my art. It is what it is, some pieces are not as good as others, but they each tell me something. Whether it be a color combo or a construction issue. If I really don’t like a project, I simply don’t finish it. Why waste a second of time on something that makes you nuts. UFO’s are usually beaded or painted pieces that I’ve worked on when playing with different techniques. Not a large project. So my box is a big one as there are days where I just want to mess around with different approaches. We have all had moments of self doubt, but dwelling and fretting over it isn’t a good thing. I believe in ‘just doing it.' If I had to pinpoint a moment when the boredom sets in it would be towards the end of a project. Not out of dislike, but being anxious to start a new one. Bead embroidery takes foreeeever......so by the time I get to the closure, I’m all ready thinking of the second, third and fourth piece!"
Sedona Sunrise by Sherry Serafini
And since all of the lovely ladies above took the time to answer my questions, I thought it only fair to sit and write down my own answers, too...
I think I've been consistently off balance, with doubts all the way through to where I am now, although I get them much more heavily when I am stressed in other areas of my life. Yes, recently I've had a really hard time with several projects and ideas, and although I pushed myself to finish one project (my triangle necklace pictured below) I have several more staring morosely at me from my Pile O Things. The triangle necklace is done itself, but the planned tutorial is on hold until I can figure out how to reproduce my bezel, and there are several things about it I still don't care for, design-wise. I have self doubts continuously while I start and work on my pieces. If I were talking to someone else who was doubting, I would probably tell them to sit quietly for a moment and try to think of what it is they really want to convey with their piece. A season? A feeling? A piece of architecture? A living thing, human, animal or vegetable? And then to just set to work with the beads, and see where it went. In other words, to let your heart and talent guide you, even when your brain isn't agreeing with you. If someone is afraid of starting, I always say the same thing - don't ever be afraid to play. Just PLAY with those beads, and let go of the caring of what happens - it's ok if it's ugly, it's ok if it doesn't turn out perfect, it's ok if you missed stitches or broke a bead. Do little exercises if you think it will help; make a swatch of work all in one stitch, and then make another swatch in a different stitch. (I make rope swatches, which I can finish later or not, or make one long rope while switching stitches and beads and so on; many of them look like deranged snakes...) Make something ugly ON PURPOSE. Then look at it and decide what you would do to make it beautiful, and make a second one, using your 'beautiful' ideas. Or, ask some of the beady people around you to help you brainstorm; the other day I did just that on Facebook, asking my friends what they would do if they had some of my flower components to work with, and one of the ideas that came up is something I am now exploring as a possibility for finishing that project. I feel that each and every stitch has taught me something, whether I liked my result or hated it, and that each one was worth it if only for the lessons learned.
I would like to thank each of you wonderful ladies so much for sharing your thoughts, feelings, and process with me, and allowing me to further share it with all of Beadland. Each of you touched on something that rang very true for me; Diane's 'divine comedy' remarks, because yes it DOES feel that way; Heidi's 'mistakes are my biggest teachers' comment, because I feel just the same way (even when I'm frustrated); Marcia's 'we look at someone else’s finished piece and think that they somehow got there effortlessly' because I have done this time and again, even though I should know better; and Sherry's 'just doing it' because I think I need to do that much more, rather than the fretting and fussing I indulge in. And in asking these questions, and reading through the answers, and writing this post, I feel so much LESS alone and doubtful. It happens - but not JUST to me. It happens and the incredibly talented, awesome artists who answered these questions went through some of the same feelings and LOOK what they are creating!! The doubts and false starts may keep prodding and showing up, but I won't give up - and I hope you won't, either, if you're having any of your own doubts right now. Now, off to see if there's anything I can do with this....
Flower Component by Me...