Always a Master, Always a Student

When I was doing my morning scroll through Instagram, I came across this post from pasta artist par excellence Linda Miller Nicholson, of Salty Seattle.  She shared this photo of her delightfully colorful and intricately made pasta and commented,

"There is nothing more dangerous to your relationship with your craft than thinking you are an expert at it."

Rainbow Pasta from Salty Seattle
Image credit: Linda Miller Nicholson, @SaltySeattle

She discusses that she is constantly honing her skills, and revisiting her techniques:

"I thrive on the challenge of tackling new projects with a little more technical mastery each time. Sometimes I go back to a simple thing. Like for me, these farfalle are old hat, but every time I make them, they come out a little different, maybe a little better.... It's a strange alchemy of art, muscle memory, technical skill, and losing yourself in the rapture of creating. 

For me, making farfalle is like practicing scales on the piano — you play them differently every time, even if you've done it your entire life. That's where magic happens and the simple becomes transformative."

This post really made me think about the fine balance between believing in yourself and the mastery of your skill, while always challenging yourself to improve.  For only in this way does the artist reach that magical zenith of creative transformation and discover the Eureka Moment. Only in this way does the artist achieve flow, becoming so enmeshed with the work that the artist and the process are one, existing apart from the mundane world. Only through this process does the artist uncover the wellspring of creativity.

I'm a firm believer that, as a creative and an entrepreneur, it's vitally important that you have an abundance of faith in yourself, your prowess and your knowledge of your craft. This sets you apart as an expert in whatever it is that you do.  If you're not the expert in what you're doing, then who is? 

But at the same time, I believe that there is always, always room for improvement. What may seem perfect today will be less-than-perfect tomorrow. For such is the nature of creative growth; it comes to life through the quest for perfection. It is the reason Beethoven continued to compose despite his growing deafness. It is the reason Hemingway pared his prose until his sentences contained only the words essential to meaning and, in so doing, created the most eloquent prose in the English language.

As every artist tries to achieve perfection by scrutinizing different elements of his or her creative pursuit, over the past few years, I have been trying to perfect my photography and product presentation skills. I’ve learned about light boxes, cameras, lenses, props, product arrangement, angles, photo editing, filters, colors, and more. Through trial and error, determination, and passion, I have honed my skills.

After I read Linda Miller Nicholson’s post this morning, I was scrolling through my photo feed on my computer, looking for an old picture of some bone beads, and I dug as far back as 2015.  Normally I would just scroll though in a hurry, but something really stood out to me today and made me pause for reflection. I was suddenly struck by how much my product presentation and photography skills have improved over the past 3 years. Amidst the striving and the magic making, I had failed to realize the prowess that I have achieved. I was shocked when I stopped to compare my photos from 3 years ago to the ones I took earlier this week.  The transformation was remarkable!  I vividly remember taking some of these pictures back in 2015, and thinking they were fabulous at the time. And they were. But looking back at my timeline of photos, I realize that by constantly striving and flowing, I have reached a new level of mastery in my skill.
ic:Tassel Photo from 2014
Above: one of my tassel photos from 2014

ic:Tassels and Pom Poms for Jewelry Making
Above: One of my recent photos (2018)

This simple observation, in conjunction with Linda's thought-provoking post, inspires me to strive more, learn more, and hone my skills more, with the understanding that even as a master, I will always be a student.

As Longfellow said,
“The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upwards in the night.”

What’s something that you strive towards? What skill are constantly honing? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject! Feel free to leave a comment below.


Want to create your own creative magic? Download The Art of Mala Making today!

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