Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sublte Shifts

About a month ago, I began working with a personal trainer. We meet every week or two for about a half an hour. I needed someone to be accountable to in order to make sure I would get myself to the gym on a regular basis. One of the downsides of working at home is that there is that it is too easy to stay home! Getting myself out of the house and to the gym has been a challenge. For three weeks this summer, I made it to the gym about four days a week, in large part because I was out of the house already bringing my daughter to camp each morning. It was easier. But when camp ended, I needed to create something that would motivate me to keep it up long enough to build the exercise habit into my life again. Thus, the personal trainer.

Linda, my trainer, is terrific. One of the things she does each time we meet, and with each exercise I perform, is to monitor my body position. Posture and body position are as important as repetitions and level of exertion. It is important in order to make sure the right muscles are engaged, and to reduce the risk of injury. I find myself throughout the day, at the gym, walking the dog, or just walking down the street, checking in. Knees soft, abdomen tight, pelvis tucked, rib cage lifted, shoulders back, and head up. From knees up to my head, small adjustments as I move my body into proper position.

What I have noticed, as I make these shifts, is that they affect how I look, how I move, and....surprisingly to me, how my knees feel, and my balance. I am left with a sense of discovery. So this is how it feels to be more coordinated or athletic in how you move through the world. As someone who never felt coordinated or athletic in any way, and I still don't,...there is a better sense of what it must be like.

And, it brings me to my point. The power of making subtle shifts. What makes the difference between the work of an artist that knocks your socks off, and someone who has not yet reached that level of mastery? I propose that it is small and subtle things, that cumulatively end up in a place that is refined, balance, and complete, in a way that other work is not.

The master has learned the nuances of the material. How to adjust there pressure just so, to accomplish with ease what they set out to do. That nuanced sensitivity takes time and hands on effort to develop. It does not come with the first time you sit down and do something. It is entirely possible to do most things adequately at first. But to master it, it takes an attention to details and nuances that are not seen by the amateur. It takes an understanding of when and how best to finish a piece. It takes a strong sense of design and balance. An ability to edit.

All these things may happen in almost an unconscious manner with a master of their craft. They are taken into consideration as they move through the process of creation. At one point, they were done with effort and concentration. And there is still effort, but it becomes second nature, and full anticipation of where they are going and what must be done. My goal in the gym is for those positions and movements to become second nature. And in the studio, I continue to learn about how to move my work to a place were it is fully balanced and aligned.

What do you think? Have you seen your work develop in a way that reflects an increased understanding of material, process, design, or finish? Are you integrating that understanding into your approach to design, and material? Does it give you a sense of accomplishment?

If not, maybe it is time for some focus on the essentials in the studio. Where do you need more attention? What are your weaknesses? Do you need someone to help you reach your goals?


Kathi said...

good food for thought Judy. I know my cane construction has developed nicely, now I just need to work on letting that inner part of me work as I create finished projects.

Elaine said...

I was discussing this - or a related facet of it - with a good friend tonight. I am gearing up my craft related sales and marketing efforts to meet a specific goal.

I was trying to explain how at the start, reaching that new goal is a lot of work, a lot more exertion. A lot more paying attention.

In time, you're able to meet that goal with a little less exertion and it doesn't require every single moment of concentration. You build momentum up.

Funny how that can describe so many projects in our lives.

As for my weaknesses - I am working on my networking. I joined a few groups on and offline that specifically match you up with mentors. While I am technically proficient and fairly experience, networking and people-tech wise I am deficient. It needs work.

And every time I go to some event or meet anyone I am reminded of that. But onwards and upwards.