Bench Press: Perfection is not the point

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” ~ Salvador Dali

I’m not afraid. I’ve been tapping away at my silversmithing for just over two years now. Perfection is a remote threat.

The view from Porthleven Jewellery Workshop

For me, jewellery making started as a fun activity idea my mother advanced on a holiday in Cornwall. She’s always concerned herself with giving me space to be myself within the fray of mass parenting (for those not in the know my husband and I have a blended family of six between 6 months and 11 years) and this started as such a project. She’d picked up a flyer and decided that a ring making workshop was a thing for me. I was sceptical but went along for the ride – a break is a break after all – and we arrived in Porthleven. After a quiet lunch at the Rick Stein Restaurant, we idled our way down to a little shack on the harbour, to work with Carly from Porthleven Jewellery Workshop, on a set of silver stacking rings. I surprised myself with the enjoyment of bending and forming metal and a love of hitting things with hammers was kindled.

Our day in Porthleven

Back home I signed myself up for a City & Guilds class, just a little level one course, but I started to pick up skills

Then came a brief hammering hiaitus as my pregnancy with my youngest, a return to work after the twins and being with all my babies took primacy. Maternity leave has given me the luxury of taking another class in the Autumn term and I’ve been able to carry on into spring, building steadily albeit with my workshop time being in class only.

Now, the class has moved onto enamelling. Initially a thing I looked forward to – I was inspired by idea of bringing colour to the metalwork. The colours of some of the pieces we saw to inspire us made me think of the sea, so I sketched out a little scallop with the idea of creating a little shell-shaped pool of dappled blue shades in the base of a hammered bowl. I could see it in my head – I felt I could carry it off too – a little dish of pretty art.

Did it end up that way?

No. It looked like a scrap of mistakenly enamelled junk. Disappointing in the extreme. My hammering efforts had made the metal too thin, so it curled up under the heat of the kiln. I’d chosen the wrong enamel powder so it appeared opaque and without any of the watery dream I’d envisaged.

Sketch versus execution. Mortified.

What should I do? Give up?

My ego was all ready to reject it, maybe this isn’t the technique for me. I’ve failed to pay attention to some of the fundamentals of physics inherent in metal work and it has shown me up, ergo I must be rubbish at this. But really, that’s not how life, thus learning, works.

What I really need to do is get a grip of myself and grow up. It was a first attempt at executing an idea in a new technique. I’m learning and this piece reflected just that. The design idea is sound and now I just need to try and, if needed, try again, to get this just how I want it.

Perfection isn’t the point of learning – the point is refining. It’s about taking a skill and getting better. I will get there, but I’ve got to do the work and put in the effort.

Ruby at work.

Bench Press is a first-person view of the struggles with staying inspired, finding the time and energy and developing skills in silversmithing and jewellery making written by Ruby Patrick. Ruby is a mother of four, step-mum to two more and a student. She is a long way from being the artist she wishes to be but gets a step closer every time she puts on the apron, picks up the tools and does the damn thing.

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