A few months back, I decided to take a wax carving class as the recommended "next step" in jewelry design. The class was tedious, slow, and frustrating at first. The process of sawing and filing a small block of hard green wax from a larger block into a perfect little rectangular prism, then drilling a hole for the saw, inserting the blade and cutting a circle out of the prism, filing out the hole to the size of my finger, and filing the outer part into a dome shape took 8 hours. All measurements had to be exact, in millimeters. Then carving it into a design took another 5 hours. Once the grunt work was done, the carving was enjoyable, even exciting. I could do that part at home, 10 minutes to a half hour every night, as the teacher had recommended. The process made me realize that some things (still) take time. I started to understand the medieval guild system, and the need for a master to have apprentices in order to ever get anything accomplished, and the need for apprentices to begin by doing the basic work and observing the master. Working for too long was not advisable. When my eyes went blurry or my hands started to cramp, it was time to stop. Rushing to get something finished would inevitably lead to mistakes that could not be reversed. Wax carving is one of those things that you must simply allow to take as long as it takes.
After the wax class ended, I had created a lovely silver ring with two snake heads and a really huge brooch with my initials. I decided my next challenge would be soldering. I'd welded quite a bit in college and thought my prior experience would make it relatively easy to pick up this semi-related skill.
Boy, was I ever wrong.
Hours upon hours of dropping the nickel tweezers to avoid burning my fingers because I'd held the flame on the tiny silver pieces I was trying to solder to a small brass plate too long. Burning the tweezers so badly they snapped anything i tried to pick up into the air. Cursing like a maniac in the open studio hours on Sundays. Four hour stretches of getting barely anything accomplished.
This is another thing that's going to take time. Time to learn, and time to do.
The professor, who I also had for wax carving, is a master jeweler. He has been teaching at the school for more than 20 years, and making jewelry for longer. His soldering demonstrations take minutes, while we struggle for hours to make the slightest progress.
During class, and on the weekends when I struggle to complete my projects, I am filled with feelings of hope as things begin to stick, and wild, maniacal desperation when everything starts to melt off again. But after a few classes, in everyday life, I began to feel an incredible sense of well-being.
I became aware of the joyful fact that this soldering class, this voluntarily-elected exercise of trying to make tiny pieces of metal stick to a small metal plate with a torch, is of absolutely no consequence to anyone. Nothing is at stake, no one is depending on me to master this skill. I'm not enrolled at this college and I don't need to worry about a grade. And this is the most stressful, difficult problem I have in my life right now.
How wonderful is that?