Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Jumping Out of Your Comfort Zone -- Take a Class!

Last year, I decided to reduce my craft show circuit from about 20 shows and knock it down to only five.  I wrote a separate blog about it, figuring it would keep me accountable.  The idea was to take a bunch of classes, try a lot of new techniques, and hopefully expand upon my current style, or maybe even develop a new one.

My usual style, with beads by Jane Perala

What I ended up finding out was classes scare me.  

Now, I looooove a trip to Barnes and Noble.  LOVE to peruse  I have a ton of beading magazines and a healthy bookshelf FULL of how-to books -- everything from metalsmithing to micro-macrame.

one of my many, many bookshelves

However, the vast majority of those magazines and books go unread.  

I always have an excuse, which usually has something to do with not enough hours in the day.  There's always a deadline.  Or a school function.  Or the weather is too nice to stay indoors.  Or or ... and or.

So the only way I can really ever learn anything is to sign up for a class.

Attending class is a very humbling experience for me.  First comes knowing what to wear.  I know everyone will be wearing something SMASHING they made themselves -- probably from a two-week art retreat in the Italian Alps, which may or may not involve wrapping wire for three days straight on a hair-thin mandrel or encasing the fur of a unicorn in resin.  I'm totally joking around, but you get the level of my anxiety, I'm sure!

Unicorn shoe by Bete Noire Forge

Needless to say, I've been making jewelry around eight years now but I am THE newbie in the class.  Not just a newbie, but a rank beginner -- the person who cuts things wonky  (accidentally), pounds her thumb with a hammer (repeatedly), and sets things on fire (allegedly).

the inauspicious beginnings of ... something... at my class with Stephanie Lee

I'm the one who sits with shoulders hunched, looking with wild eyes at my neighbors confidently tackle their projects, armed with the perfect tools, the perfect packets of ephemera, the perfect ideas running through their heads.  I glance at the teacher, and all the teachers I've met -- they know That Look.   

And they stop and help.

Not only do they stop and help, but they encourage me to continue to ask for help -- not to the point of nuisance, but just often enough for a few seconds-worth of "is this right?".  And then I move on.

Sometimes it works out OK in the end, and all it takes is one class.
pendant I made during a class with Tracy Stanley

Sometimes it takes a couple of classes before I get things down.  For instance, the first time I took Barbara Lewis' enameling class, I burned things up.  Blechy beads.  Nothing salvageable.  So when she showed up in my neck of the woods nine months later, I took a refresher course, and it finally just... clicked.  I got comfortable.  I relaxed.

my second set of beads from Barbara Lewis' class
I still worry every time I take a class that I have a neon sign over my head that blinks "Caution!  Does Not Know Anything!" and "Doesn't Have a Clue!" over my head.  I am still awed when I walk into the class and see the amazing art around the students' necks.  And I still often wonder what was possessing me when I signed up for the class in the first place, because I feel I don't belong there.

Which, of course, is the entire point.  Why would you take a class if you DID belong there?  It's all about learning something new, isn't it?

necklace I made in Stephanie Sersich's class

Jumping out of my comfort zone means I REALLY take a cliff dive into an entirely new realm of jewelry design.  All of the classes I take are so far removed from what I normally do they require a different zip code.  However, after taking the class, I'm never sorry I took it.  I always learn something, even if I (allegedly) caught the piece on fire once or twice.

My challenge to you -- jump out of your comfort zone this year by taking a class in something that is totally unlike your norm.  Be it jewelry or cooking, sign up, take a deep breath, and jump.

I promise someone will catch you.

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site lorianderson.netShe writes the blog Pretty Things .  She lives in Maryland.


somethingunique said...

Hi Lori, what a great post all those classes sound like so much fun after getting over the anxity.(and i'm sure you are not alone in that department) my challange to myself has been to take a class since i am a pro cook (not chef)that leaves jewelry i promise myself if i have a very good festival season i am treating myself to a real live biggest bead show ever with a bunch of workshops it would be a dream come true for me i too have several bookshelves full of books & mags as well as about 20 binders of stuff i have printed but i imagine there is nothing like a hands on class ttfn L:)

KristiBowmanDesign said...

I so get it Lori! Another thing I often do, is take a class then buy everything necessary to do it at home then never do it.

I can't wait to take Barbara's class in Portland, I've only had minimal success on my own. Like you I think I burn everything. We are not alone eh? :)

Shirley said...

What a wonderful post! I am always the newbie, but I'm the one who is so excited I can't sit still and pay attention, and I bug everyone around me asking questions! I love taking classes not only for the new techniques, but for the socialization too. And just getting to hang out with people who think I'm perfectly normal in my obsession for beads. :)

Cristi Baxter Clothier said...

Awesome post, Lori! All you class pieces look phenomenal, seriously you shouldn't beat yourself up like that ;-)

kjramstack said...

What a great post! I stress about what to wear before a class too - but in my case it's with knitting. I think it's so important to keep learning. Every winter I take a class to learn something new. I have more than enough hobbies to fill 3 lifetimes but I enjoy the challenge of learning a new skill. And in the process of learning how to make something (and realizing that it's WAY harder than it looks) I've gained an immense appreciation for those that can create something and create it well.

Jennifer Cameron said...

Taking classes would be really silly if we already knew what we were doing....

I have taken several classes and can honestly say I've never given a single thought to what type of jewelry I was going to wear. Weird, huh? I guess because I am more worried about being comfortable (who can concentrate with a giant rope of beaded bliss around their neck anyway? Not me!)

I have only been nervous about one class and that was the one I took with Susan Lenart Kazmer last June at Bead and Button. It was the class I most wanted to take in the world, but the one I was horribly nervous about. The nerves were completely unfounded because she is the nicest most down to earth person who laughs and jokes. a lot. We had to use several skills I didn't have (sawing sheet metal among them) but I think most of us were in the same boat and she never once made us feel stupid for not knowing something. Or needing to be shown again. Or when one of the students laid the kiln on top of the kiln's cord without realizing (not me, but I was the one who smelled it, moved the kiln and put out the fire. LOL!)

Classes are an adventure ;o)

Spirited Earth said...

i'm not a class goer for the most part..however, the class i took at our local beading shop set me on the path to making my own ceramic beads :-)
now i'm considering a class in pewter casting and learning how to work PMC this summer.

stacilouise said...

LOVE it! You are so good at encouraging us all!
Thanks Lori!

Orion Designs said...

I had this exact experience 3 years ago when I took a book making class at Volcano Arts. I was the only person in the class who had never made a book. I had That Look for 5 days!

I'm going back there in a few weeks for a class in cold connections and I can't wait!

DVArtist said...

This post actually made me giggle. You are so right. Books and magazines sit on my shelf too. I have also downed show time to two very good shows a year. After 30 years of shows I am pretty much done. Slowing down and finding a new avenue it is so much fun.

Anonymous said...

Great post Lori! I needed something uplifting today and your provided. Thanks so much!

Unknown said...

Beautiful work Lori! Im a hammering girl at heart!

Unknown said...

Never compare yourself with others!

The people in those classes, who are not making mistakes, do not need to be in those particular classes, learning that particular skill. They are keeping themselves back for whatever reason.
Because we all should be making mistakes, messing stuff up and making things look really ugly.

That is how we learn.

Sherri said...

I agree sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zone and take a class. I love learning new things! I recently took a wire ring class and I'm so glad I did!

Green Shoot Jewellery Designs said...

This is such a good post, I took my first class last Saturday and whilst I was really nervous, I was so proud f myself after x

Holly said...

Oh goodness Lori, this post certainly touched a nerve...with a lot of people! And I'm right there with you - I'd be the rank beginner, nerves exploding, worrying to beat the band. But after all, isn't anything new and different out of our comfort spot? And aren't we really here to learn? I like to think so atleast.

Alice said...

Besides the short basic beading class I took, I've only done one online. Still, I was nervous about the rest of the class getting way ahead of me, and showing their lovely work, while mine never seemed look the way I wanted.

I do wish there were more classes in my area, but then I would just be more nervous.

Great post Lori! It's good to know others have similar anxieties.

Deb Legg said...

I've never made a piece of jewelery in my life (except maybe a macaroni necklace in kindergarten).

I am so grateful that artists like you keep expanding your talents. It's the rest of us that benefit!

Your work is always lovely.

moonlitfantaseas said...

I have never taken a class, not for lack of wanting too, but could never find the money to do it, but now with no job to go to, and a small inheritance, I have both time and money for it, so I have signed up to take the painting with fire class with Barbra Lewis, in September.......and I can't wait, I already have the kit she offers on her web site, but I want to learn from her in person, before I attempt it on my own!

Torque Story said...

What a lovely sentiment, Lori. I haven't taken any jewelry classes yet, but I started working on a master's degree last year to keep my mind agile, and I love everything about it -- not just the content of the classes but being around much younger people and seeing how they think, having homework and caring about getting an A on an assignment!

Miss Val's Creations said...

I know this feeling well!!! I felt so bad for my pottery instructor during class 1. Everyone else seemed to be doing fine and I was struggling with the wheel and getting stressed out! The great part about classes is when you get the hang of whatever it is you are doing....that creates a proud moment! ~Val

Heather Powers said...

Thanks for sharing this Lori! I took a class with Tracy Stanley on the Bead Cruise and it was eye-opening to experience the classroom as a student again. I forgot that pressure and uneasiness that goes with learning something new. After I got into it, it was fun to learn the 'right way' to do a few things. :)

roseworksjewelry said...

I already have once this year - I took a tai chi class and had a blast! Hmm - I should try to do this again at some point...

Susan Marling said...

I am so with you on this post only I haven't been selling beautiful jewelry for 8 years. I worry what to wear, am the one with the dunce cap, but I am always happy I tried and it always works out(so far at least). Thank you for sharing your experiences. Your pieces are great.

Cindy said...

Lori, you don't give yourself enough credit! Having sat next to you in class recently, I have to say you work efficiently and with confidence. You inspire your classmates around you. I hope we have the chance to be in class together again one day!

Rebecca said...

What a great post! I have been dying to do some kind of class involving fire (either lampworking or silver-smithing!) for some time now so perhaps this post will give me the push...I think it's great that you donn't get disheartened if you don't get it straight away - it's so easy to be put off when that happens (I know that both from being the student AND the teacher!) and it's advice I'll hang onto. LOVE the pendant you made in Tracy Stanley's's just awesome!

Mystic Indigo said...

This was priceless. My first metalsmithing class I took I nearly blew up the studio by leaving gas on. It took be 3 years to attempt the torch again. I have been asked to TEACH a class now, and it scares me to death!!

Lady Bee said...

This post had me laughing out loud! Loved how you infused humor into this lesson.

I do not make jewelry, I craft other things, but I think this advice is great for any crafter!

Thanks for the laughter & encouragement!

Lady Bee

Leslie Brier, Brier Design Studio said...

I can so relate to this post! I go in wanting so badly to make something beautiful, and realize that I have a little (read huge!) learning curve before that can happen. My fearless teenage daughter has talked me into taking a self-portrait class at Art and Soul. Your words have inspired me!