Guest series :: Cultivate an appreciation for the slow mastery of a craft

by Admin on 21/06/2012

in Community + Creativity, Guest series 2012

Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Katie knits, sews, spins, cans, and gardens from a small Boston apartment. This year she published her first knitting pattern and her first sewing pattern. She blogs at foxflat.

1950’s style dress, pattern made from a deconstructed vintage garment.

My first big DIY project was a pair of sandals. I was probably seven or eight, sweating out the long days of summer in smalltown Ohio, when I was inexplicably possessed by the urge to make my own footwear. I remember tracing and cutting a sole out of cardboard, and with a hole punch and kitchen twine, devising an elaborate lacing system. In what I was certain was a stroke of pure genius, I harvested patches of moss from behind the garage and glued them onto the soles (beauty and comfort people, these were the whole package!). I laced on my new sandals, pressed my toes into that green moss, and prepared to show them off to everyone in a two-block radius.

I don’t think I walked five steps before they fell apart. Complete and total engineering disaster. As I held the busted pieces, I started planning Moss Sandal Prototype #2.

Why would I tell this story? Well…first of all, I really am kind of proud of that moss idea (I’ve never felt a softer insole). But more importantly, it’s illustrative of the fact that, for me, creating and making is the realm where I am the bravest, the most curious, and the least afraid of failing. It’s the place where I get to exercise my resilience to setbacks. Where I allow myself to experiment without any assurance that it will work out. Where I am reminded that before you can be good at something, you’ll almost certainly be bad to mediocre at it.

My very first attempt at spinning fiber. The woman who taught me said, “I know you think it’s ugly and bad, but hang onto it. Someday you’ll want to look back and see how far you’ve come.”

Shawl knit from handspun.

I am a knitter. When I have the needles out in public it’s not unusual for a stranger to strike up a conversation. One of the most common things I hear is, “Oh I tried knitting but I was just so bad at it.” Yeah but… it’s a complicated string of awkward fine motor movements with at least three moving parts and a million ways to screw it up. Of course you’ll be bad at it. Everyone is. Now if you tried knitting, were bad at it and had no interest in it, that’s another matter (that was my experience with any sport involving a ball, so I understand). But sometimes I think we just don’t have the patience for learning curves. We live in an on-demand world and want to excel at things immediately.

I witness this firsthand in my day job, where I advise and counsel college students. Like me, many of them got through high school without experiencing many setbacks – the good grades and the high praise came easy. Now they’re in my office in tears, holding an essay and the first “C” of their life. I try to help them separate their self-worth from the grade a little bit. A “C” means that there’s room for growth, that you haven’t mastered writing at the college level yet…and that’s okay…after all, you just started college.

Naturally, I am only so-so at taking my own advice. There are a host of things I avoid doing for fear of failure, from the trivial (karaoke), to the life-changing (starting my own business). There are also components of my job that I can’t afford to mess up, such as composing emails to upper administrators or counseling a student through a crisis. So creating is both my refuge from pressure and perfectionism, and my inspiration for boldly approaching the unknown in all areas of my life. It’s where I continue to cultivate an appreciation for slow mastery of a craft, and where I recharge my emotional batteries.

How does creating and making factor into your own self-care? How has it influenced your outlook on life?


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Delia June 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm

This was such an inspiring post. I am guilty of staying in my comfort zone more than I should. I too am bad at knitting but I honestly didn’t give it as much effort as I could have. Thank you for the motivation to try again!


2 Rosalyn June 22, 2012 at 9:15 am

Love the shawl, how do I get the pattern…yummy.


3 Anshu June 22, 2012 at 5:18 pm

again another very thoughtful and lovely post from a blogger. I love how heartfelt these posts are. I also agree that creating is the area where I am more adventurous.


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