Monday, June 25, 2012

Failure:the key to success; building your own tool kit

  I'd love to boast that the title  of this post is a quote I learned from reading some heady tome from  Winston Churchill or a bit of folksy wisdom from Abraham Lincoln, but nope: Honda commercial. It doesn't make it any less true, however. I have been thinking a lot about this post for a long time now. What I am about to write may seem to be counterintuitive to someone who teaches classes and will soon have a book to sell.*Will my words kill the golden goose?*
  I have been doing cakes so long I used to write inscriptions in hieroglyphics (snare drum, ba dum bum!) but seriously folks...Back then if I had an idea about something I wanted to do, I had to use the only resource available: my brain.The same goes for any art project. Much trial and error , probably way more error, and you develop a wealth of skills, kind of a tool kit.Being of little means as a child also meant that if I wanted to make something , I needed to be extra creative.I would draw on paper towels if there was no paper to be found. A sketchbook was a special treat for me.At that time I was also really into miniatures. My brother  Randy worked in furniture production during that period and he made me a tiny chair.I decided I needed to also make a chair. Being 8 years old- ish  and having no carpentry skills did not seem like it should be a deterrent to me.I worked all day long on that chair using tools plucked from my dad's shop, all the while repeating the phrase: "If at first you don't succeed, try and try again".I don't even remember now if  at the end of the day  I had managed to produce a mini chair, but to this day I still think about that effort and my mantra,"try and try again".
  I don't know when mass market craft stores hit the scene but almost overnight,instead of shopping for art supplies , stores filled  themselves with "kits". I'm sure they were designed for convenience, but what they successfully actually did is create a society that was robbed of that "try and try again" experience. Taking the  guesswork, the failure out of  a project also insures that you will also be without the experience of truly LEARNING something.I have learned far more from my countless mistakes than from my successes.You may be able to make one project well , per the instructions but what about the next project? Will you need a kit or tutorial  for every project? I'm betting that these Big Box craft stores are counting on that.
  I once read on a forum, a person had taken 3 cake projects on and needed tutorials for all 3!This is a thinking I simply cannot understand, but I will try.Perhaps this tutorial culture that is fostered by Youtube and cake forums, etc... is so pervasive because of fear of failure.I'll be honest, failure is scary. It's stressful. It will give you grey hair.I'm never happy when a cake  cracks or some thing falls off, but I analyze the situation, I correct it, I LEARN from it, and you know what? the next cake is better for that experience.My work is so diverse, I almost never make the same cake twice, so honestly, every week I utter the words "I have no idea how to do____________". But that's my fear talking. I do know, and I know because I DO.I make a lot of work, I make a lot of mistakes. I'm building my tool kit.When I have to make, for example, a  Marlin fish, maybe I have never done one before, but I have done other fish, which at one time I had never done before, but I just went for it. I did it, I tried things out, I  made mistakes, I LEARNED from them.
  I am not saying you should never take a class or read a book or watch a tutorial, but they should only be tools that supplement your own tool kit.Don't be afraid to try something new, create your own techniques, even have a few cake disasters.I promise you you will be a better artist because of them.
  *Health check on that golden goose from earlier: still alive and honking!*