Thursday, December 17, 2009

Learning from mistakes...

One thing I'm realizing about myself is that I can sometimes be oblivious to things that must be obvious to the people around me. It's not that I'm an idiot, really. I just get enthusiastic about something and lose myself in the process, not considering pragmatic details.

I learn best by charging forward, then looking back at my screw-ups. Well, I have always believed that I learn best that way. Should I reconsider? In the early 1990s, I did a group apprenticeship with a potter/sculptor, Pam Sinclair. Each week, she set up a project for our small group to work on. I inevitably did something different, moving into unknown territories. Then the next week, I'd try what the others did the previous week. My projects were less consistent than everyone else at first, and Pam was often frustrated with my out-of-context questions, but by the end of a year I was selling my work in a New Mexico gallery.

With mosaic, as with most of the art forms I've tried, I'm basically self-taught. There has been a lot of trial and error. Over the years, I became more dedicated to mosaic, buying books, joining online forums, taking a few workshops, and now attending an annual conference. Because I'm being paid for my work, I need to meet a high standard for quality and integrity. But every job is different, with new challenges, usually unexpected.

As I mentioned in previous posts, the recent cold spell caused delays with my current project. I was unable to grout in freezing weather, and when it warmed up a bit, it was still cold enough to slow the curing process. I have a certain window of time to work, while Anouk is in school, and lately there have been obligations in the afternoons and on weekends, making it difficult to follow the grouting through the way I should. I've managed to find people to pick her up for me on a couple of these occasions, but the time it bought me wasn't enough.

It was only yesterday, while standing on a tall ladder in the cold and rain with tarps bungied overhead, whipping around me in the wind, I realized that I should have postponed the exterior portion of the installation until spring. Granted, the contract was signed in early September and I thought it would be done by October, but when it became clear that it would be pushed into December, I should have put a hold on it. I was too eager, both to see it through to completion and to get paid.

Yesterday, one of the doctors said the clinic is interested in having me put lettering up on the building to match the vines. I was still on the ladder in the wind and rain at the time. I said that would be great, but I warned him that my pricing will be higher. I explained that I was following though on pricing revisions on the advice of a coach, and had been tracking actual expenses on this job, and would be making appropriate adjustments in future. I added that I would need to wait for better weather, also. He seemed just fine with that.

So, while I may stumble over myself more than most people in order to move forward, each of these little falls teaches me something to do or avoid next time. I am constantly growing as an artist and business owner, and slowly gaining confidence with my work. I can't say enough about the NW mosaic yahoo group I joined a few years ago, as the members are all extremely generous about sharing information, advice and feedback. Whenever I'm stuck, they give me a push (or a pull, or a kick when I deserve it.)

From now on, no exterior architectural mosaic during winter. And I'm cutting back on this whole holiday bazaar frenzy that took so much of my energy this year. It's time to focus my time and work harder and better on mosaic. One step back; a big leap forward. On one hand, I look forward to becoming an expert mosaic artist who has already been through it all and knows exactly what to do. On the other, these challenges keep the work interesting. Besides, I realize there will always be challenges because I will never stop trying new techniques and approaches. That's the nature of the job.

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