Internalize Learning Paths with Studio Practice

We take for granted the effort behind mastery: we experience a master chef’s meal and feel satiated; we listen to a master pianist and know enjoyment, inspiration; we watch a master woodworker in action and admire the result.

Thousands of unnoticed hours include burnt entrees, lackluster arpeggios, or nicked wood. It’s only in awareness of the practice moments that we lift ourselves from good enough to beyond ordinary, from student to master.

The mere act of attending a class does not presume incorporation material the instructor collated for the project. Techniques, like habits, require practice, repetition, and acclimatization. 

During a recent needlepoint circle, I listened as one participant shared why her canvas looked so smooth. Paraphrasing, this is what I recall:

“First of all, I have a frame. I place it in the stand so that both my hands are free to stitch. In one hand I hold my laying tool. With the other hand, I move my needle and thread through the canvas. Before I use any threads, I separate them so they lay smoothly on the canvas.”

It dawned on me that my friend Priscilla was summarizing her process developed over several years. She emphasized the need for the proper tools and the techniques to use them. Left unsaid was the practice of using the same tools and techniques for untold hours of needlework, requesting feedback and repeating the procedure.

All too often a class offers a quick glimpse of a solution to one project. If one doesn’t explore, she might assume no other options exist. 

Faced with an abundance of personal time and fewer classes during the global pandemic, I realized I’d gotten lazy in my learning. During my studio de-clutter effort, I found a second burnisher buried in a plastic box from some three-day class requiring it as one of the tools. That long-forgotten burnisher caused me to reflect on a Keum-Boo class which I’d enjoyed earlier this year during open studio work. An ancient gilding technique, Klum-Boo refers to a process of applying thin gold foil to sterling silver. 

My Keum-Boo class (for which I purchased a burnisher) came and went in early 2020 without an exceptional product or superior design emerging from my effort. I enjoyed rubbing (burnishing) my thin gold foil onto sterling. I loved the patina that blackened the silver so my gold stood out even more. 

BUT…I did not and have not to-date practiced my learnings. The simple wave of gold foil on the earrings pictured with this post is a design I love; yet, that same design pales in comparison to the instructor’s presentations. Am I surprised? No, because I’ve made one pair of Keum-Boo earrings and produced a few other simple pieces during the same session. I’ve only begun the art of Klum-Boo.

Techniques, like habits, require practice, repetition and exploration for acclimatization. In the earlier conversation, Priscilla described a needlepoint process, the result of dozens of needlepoint projects and years of a precious hobby. But it’s deliberate practice, a sustained, purposeful and systematic approach to learning that will truly let one acclimate anything.

With two bunishers in my studio, surely I have the incentive to practice Keum-Boo. It makes me smile, considering it might be that simple to expand this technique using my studio practice. I promise to practice. I look forward to the opportunity to  experiment, explore, get feedback, and internalize…in short, to acclimate the learnings of Keum-Boo.

How might deliberate studio practice make a difference in how you nurture your creative side?

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