So I've just been at the wonderful Squam - and what a joy it was. But that isn't what I wanted to talk to you about today. I'll show you a couple of photos about the joy another day.
What I wanted to talk to you about, was one of my classes and a short conversation I had that reminded me, to remind you, to allow yourself the time and freedom within your making to totally suck....
So I did two classes at Squam. I did a colourwork class with the incredible Mary Jane Mucklestone and then I did a brioche class with the incredible Andrea Mowry of Drea Renee Knits. Both were wonderful teachers. Encouraging, generous, interested, and boundary-pushing. Just what you hope for in a teacher. I learnt a lot in both.
But colourwork was really the class where I banged up against my stuff. I wanted to push myself. I've talked about the story I have running around in my head that "I'm not very good at colour". That I don't understand it and that I can't do it very well. I know that it is just that - a story - but I still crash up against the story time and time again.
That said, over many years of putting myself in the middle of situations like this class, I have shifted the story a little. These days the story is something like "I'm don't find colour easy, but I sometimes make things I like". Which is better, but still has quite a lot of expectation and pressure in it.
I want to shift the story. I know that the process of making is a place where I can do that so I try to push myself. I intentionally jump out of my colour comfort zone in order to see if I can see it from a different perspective.
In this case I arrived from the land of Oz with no yarn for my class. I'd forgotten I had to bring it. And so I had to shop (more on that another day too :)). I went to the wonderful Gather Here in Boston on my way up to Squam, and purchased colours for the colourwork class. I intentionally purchased colours that were not just silver, blue and charcoal. I purchased pink and orange and brown and well yes...the odd bit of blue. It was hard and I was still a little jetlagged, and so I stared at the wool for about 2 hours. Pulling balls in and out of the combination to see if I could get something that worked. Confusing and hard.
But I did it and I went to class. And I found it really confronting.
Mary Jane has a rule that you aren't allowed to rip it out - a wonderful rule really as I would have ripped in anger and never learnt the lessons I needed to learn about colour. And this post would not exist.
Her point was that you sometimes don't know what it looks like till you add the following bit of colour, or the piece is done, and so you have to make a swatch to really understand the relationships between different colours. How they make one another sing, look like mud, disappear or suck.
Not being able to rip mine out was painful. I had to sit with things that I didn't like, and things that I didn't think worked. I was trying to step out of my comfort zone and use colours I wouldn't normally. I was trying to be brave and it was hard.
So what is the pain about? Why would it matter? Who cares if it's ugly? Who cares if it doesn't work?
It turns out I do. It turns out that part of the story I have made up about my making, is that I will like what I make, or keep trying until I do. I want to be proud of my work. And having to sit there with work that I didn't like made me really uncomfortable.
Again why? Why am I making it mean something? Why can't I allow myself the time and freedom to suck at it.
Obviously I theoretically believe that mistakes are how we learn and that we are all practicing in the gap, and yet when forced to live with my mistakes rather than being able to fix them I didn't like it at all.
Is it simply my ego? Have I mentally attached the work I am making to some meaning about me? I'm smiling as I'm writing this because it really is a good lesson for me. A lesson that, in spite of all I've written about, and in spite of all I know, my tiny brain still struggles with this the idea that I suck at something.
But we all know that sucking is often a big part of the learning process. We suck at piano, and skiing and spelling while we are learning. Why not craft.
I was speaking to a lovely woman at dinner one night and she was struggling with the same thing in a different class. She was an accomplished crafter and it struck me that maybe she was struggling with sucking because she was used to being accomplished? And that maybe that was what was happening for me....
Allowing ourselves the time and freedom to suck, without allowing it to mean anything, is the only way forward. I know it, I forget it and then I get a kick in the pants that reminds me that this is truth.
So tigers - can you guess which one is mine, remembering that I'm outside my normal colour palette?