Friday, June 3, 2016

The Art of Failure: If at First You Don't Succeed...

by Sherri Stokey

Ever have one of those days?  Yesterday as one for me.  I couldn't wait to get home from work so I could work on a macrame idea that had been taunting me.  It was a totally brilliant idea, too; one that would revolutionize macrame knotting to be sure.  I've had this idea for a bracelet for a couple of years now and I can picture in my mind what I want it to look like, but no amount of mental problem solving has led me to the method for actually knotting the piece.  Until yesterday.  It started with a tiny little burst of "what if..." and ended with me mentally working through the entire design several times throughout the day.  I'm sure my "real" job suffered from my distraction, but some days are just like that.  And when I finally got home to my work board, this happened:

And no, this isn't what I had in my mind at all.  Not even a little bit.  I tried to salvage the session; you can see where I switched tracks after an inch of knotting on the bracelet.  It takes a while to get the cords all set up even to experiment, so once I decided I didn't like where this piece was going, I decided to make the best of the situation and at least try something else.  And guess what?  That didn't work like I wanted it to, either!  At that point it became obvious that the planets just weren't aligned properly or there was a blockage of the universe's karmic chi or something.  Whatever the reason, my mojo had flown the coop.

Yes, folks, you heard it here:  I fail.  Not everything I try works on the first (or sometimes second or third...) try.  Sometimes I can't ever get it to work.  Sometimes my skills just aren't on par with my imagination.  Want proof?

That whole project was a disaster from the start with the hundred-odd cords which ended up knotted and stuffed under the focal stone to fill the gap under it caused by the ugly, odd high bezel.  I did learn how not to do some things from the whole experiment.

This pink monstrosity was an attempt to work with Superlon's micro cord and for size reference, the metal frame is an earring finding.  It was tiny and tedious and just didn't work.  It was much better in my mind, I promise.

This hot mess happened when I was trying to work out my Zig Zag bracelet.  The curves were just awkward, so I abandoned the pattern and started trying out different curve methods.  At least this one has a happy ending, as I did finally work it out:

Sometimes my failures aren't even totally my fault:

Okay, I guess technically I did leave my cord hanging off my work board onto the carpet where the vacuum could get it, but the poor bracelet didn't do anything to deserve this.  

And then there are some failures that are really heartbreaking:

This free form piece was supposed to be an entry for a collaboration challenge working with Laurie Ament who makes beautiful lampwork beads.  It just didn't have the "wow" factor I was looking for and I think it's because I started with the wrong colors of cord.  There just isn't enough contrast with the turtle and no amount of fiddling fixed it.  I haven't had the heart yet to cut it up.

All in all, there are about fifty billion ways something can go wrong and only a handful that work up into something beautiful, so I guess we need to be a lot more appreciative of the successes.  

Last night I finally gave up and watched Roots.  I'll take another run at it today.  How about you?  How do you deal with failure?


stacilouise said...

heartbreaking when things don't work out. I cringe at the amount of wire I cut up sometimes!!!!

However- I really love that freeform piece!!!! Her beads don't pop, but its a beautiful piece none the less!

Margaret Zipkin said...

It takes courage to admit our mistakes - and even more to put them in glorious photos on the internet! Thanks for sharing your learning experiences, Sherri.

Donna Geurin said...

Sheri, it does make me feel better when things don't always work out as we plan. But I have to say they are beautiful pieces of work. I do not how many times I have started over, or ripped out all the way. Still beautiful work.

Alicia said...

Wow, that freeform piece is stunning! Yes, I didn't even see there is a turtle (I thought it's a simple bead), but still wow.

It's heartbreaking to see all those experiments that didn't succeed the way you wanted them to. But I wouldn't call them "failures". They are learning experiences. As long as we have them, we are still learning, and growing. A world where each experiment will be successful would be plain boring :)

Angela Skellams said...

I love that freeform piece - especially with the frog blending into it's surroundings.

Ann Schroeder said...

Unfortunately, when I fail, I usually give up and never try again, or at least not for a long time. I really appreciate posts like this to remember that artists I admire don't just make everything perfectly the first time!

Carol Dekle said...

Thank you for posting about your failures Sherri! It shows how much effort and thought goes into your designs. I think our failures make the successes all the more sweet:)

Shaiha said...

I have that issue a lot. I will design out a piece in my mind and when I start it I find out that it just won't work. Thank goodness my designs don't take as much set up time as I usually end up designing on the fly when that happens.

juliebstudio said...

Your work is beautiful even when you make mistakes. I have a technical question- Do you leave all the threads hanging or do you wrap them some way to keep all the threads from tangling? It's an, ongoing problem in itself!

Sherri Stokey said...

Back in the days of the huge plant hangers, we used to bundle up the extra cord and secure with rubber bands, but I don't do that with micro macrame. I tried it, but even with the tiniest bands I could find it was just too bulky to work in such small space. The bonded nylon cord I use doesn't tangle as badly as you'd think though. Unless you have that giant mess of them :D

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