Never compare your beginning…

I am not a jewelry designer. I just want to get that out there. Oh sure, I know a good design when I see one. And I know how to string beads, make a crimp, and can make wrapped loops with the best of them. But given a pile of beads and some findings I always tend to just string them along, put the focal in the middle, and put a clasp on the back. I tend to be very matchy-matchy with my designs and seem to be incapable of doing anything that isn’t perfectly symmetrical.

I tend to look at the work of others like Kristi Bowman, Nina Bagley, and Kimberly Rogers and then lose hope completely as I stare at my pile of beads and components. But what I forget is that these talented and accomplished artists didn’t get that way overnight. Their first (or tenth) necklace wasn’t a masterpiece. There is a lot of experience and yes, practice, that goes into great accomplishment.

Scottish mountains with motivational saying, Never compare your beginning with someone else's middle.

I let the perfectionism monster destroy my will to create.  I figure if I can’t create something phenomenal the first time, every time, then I won’t even try. I’ll just put it back in the boxes until I get hit with some mysterious stroke of genius and come up with a brilliant design.

How silly! Do I really think that brilliant designs just happen? Do I think I can get better at something by avoiding it?

I have got to learn to stop being so hard on myself. I need to learn to let myself make mistakes. And I need to learn from my mistakes. And to do that I need to practice. So I’ve decided to underake a couple of (to me) really scary challenges. I want to push my design comfort zone.

I’ve joined the 7th Bead Soup Blog Party. I’ve already sent my Bead Soup to my partner, Arlene Dean. And I’ve received her Bead Soup mix. Isn’t it lovely? So many wonderful textures and colors. And I’m intimidated, I admit it. I don’t even know where to begin! But I will have to try. And it will give me experience and it doesn’t have to be perfect. I will learn from this. And that’s the goal after all!

Beads I received from Arlene Dean for my Bead Soup Blog Party.
This is my Bead Soup from Arlene Dean. I need to use at least the focal and the clasp to create something from this by April 13th. Easy? Well, in theory, yes.

I also just signed up for Jeannie Dukic’s 5th Do Over Challenge. This one is a bit different. She will send participants an unloved necklace that she made and we will re-work it to make it more lovable. All participants will reveal their creations on a blog hop on April 21st. It’s a bit different challenge than Bead Soup Blog Party, but it will still stretch my abilities.

What are the areas that you feel are your weak spots, and how do you face them? What do you do to challenge yourself?

33 thoughts on “Never compare your beginning…”

  1. I found this article at the most perfect time.After years of not making jewelry, I started back after the death of my husband. I needed something to express myself. Then a couple of weeks ago I felt overwhelmed. I agreed to make a piece for the community theater. How could I do this? I’m not good enough. Every doubt ,every excuse crossed my mind.I found your site looking for a better way to finish my piece.Everything on your site excited me but also made me feel not good enough. Then I read this article.I may not be able to do the things you do(yet), but I am better than what I was a year ago.I have also figured out that we all have on own style.There are many aspects to art and we choose which path we wish to take.I also learned this as an interior designer.There were times when I would have to pass the job over to a friend of mine because the client wanted something that my style did not lean to. Not that I couldn’t do it but I felt I could not give it the 100% needed when it went so much against me. I owed it the the client to give them the best for them.I have now put your sute in my favorites and go back to it often. Thank you for all you offer.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this, Jo Ann. I’m so sorry about your loss, I can’t even imagine how hard that would be. Creative pursuits certainly do help us get through. I hope you’re not still feeling that you’re “not good enough”. We’re all exactly where we need to be on our journey. Of that I am absolutely sure. And yes, we are all good at different things, in different ways, and at different times. I suppose there’s some sort of psychology that our culture has taught us to compete with others in everything, but it’s not productive for things such as personal development and the development of our art and artistic voice. You’re the best you that anyone can be, and it’s not like there’s a roadmap and expected course for how you’re “supposed” to be doing it, either. I guess we all just need to sit back and enjoy the ride, wherever it takes us!

  2. Ginger, I could have written this post. I feel the zact same way. And that “blank canvas syndrome”? I usta swear I didn’t have a thought in my head unless/until I looked at other peoples’ work first! I was bereft, positive tht I haven’t an artistic bone in my body, in spite of what other people say about the things I make.

    Lemme share two things with you I got from my best friend that’re helping me as I muddle along learning to (I hope) become a brilliant clayer when I complained to him that I’m not churning out (what I consider to be) brilliant things yet (I’ve been claying just since last summer). Maybe they’ll be some help to you.

    He compared me to a toddler who’s learning to speak. Initially, a toddler has just a handful of words like “house” and “chair,” and isn’t putting together profound thoughts like Sartre and Sagan. He doesn’t have the tools in his toolbox yet. And I don’t, either, because I haven’t learned enough yet how to express what I want to with clay and findings. When I’ve learned a whole lot (like the toddler who masters English), then I can make jewelry that Dan Cormiers and Jean Simmonses can have orgasms over (and the toddler will be a college student who’ll write a thesis).

    The other thing he gave me will help everyone here. It’s a two-minute video from Ira Glass on storytelling that applies to ALL arts and it’s about how you’re gonna get better. I swear, it’s brilliant and will help:

    Between these two bits of advice he gave me, I have hope, something I didn’t have before. I hope these help you, too.

    And for what it’s worth, I think your work is lovely and your posts fascinating. Keep it up, chica! You’re on the right track!

    1. You speak great words of wisdom here, Binky. Your analogy of a toddler is exactly perfect. And the video? That’s fabulous! I’ve read the words before, but seeing it graphically and hearing his voice really makes it come to life. I’m saving that link to post on its own someday.

      Your words about hope pique my interest. I hadn’t really thought of it like that. But if we each think that there’s no point, that we can’t be any good, then you’re correct, we have no hope. And being human, I think we all need hope in order to go forward. Hope that we’ll get better, hope that we will triumph, hope that tomorrow will be more happy. So well said! Gosh, that makes me feel so good. When I think of what is possible instead of what I can’t do, it truly does make the world seem limitless! Thank you for commenting!

  3. What a marvelous, thought provoking dialog you have started, Ginger. I was almost afraid to comment, as I thought to myself “I can not express myself as well as everyone else who has commented has.” Then came the headslap. What was I saying! … Am I even too afraid of not being as verbally expressive in thought? … in creation, both vocal and physical? What a cathargic moment, I could spend hours wondering why I am that way … or get up out of bed and get into my studio? I think I will opt for going into my studio today.
    I find it strangely soothing that other artists, who’s work I admire, feel the same doubts, fears and need for approval that I do. It is a connection that I personally feel is nurturing in a way.

    1. I can relate to this, very much. For years I didn’t comment much on blogs because I didn’t think what I had to say was relevant enough or good enough. Now I know better. Every voice has something to offer! As for why do we self-sabotage? Well, we artsy types all struggle with it greatly. There’s a great book, the War of Art that talks about this very thing. I have now read it and found it very inspirational for handling this very subject.

  4. This is a fabulous blog subject and a wonderful sharing of personal feelings and ideas at a very gut level. I applaud Ginger for her courage in putting the subject out there and for all who have responded for some really helpful insights.

    1. ladyflowersbysusan

      This whole thread has really helped me with a new task I attempted this weekend. I was setting up my WordPress blog ( and it was overwhelming at times. Remembering the wisdom herein I did the things I could do, stretched where it was possible, and when I got that drowning feeling (like reading how to set up a slideshow on my blog) I said, OK, I’ll come back to this later. And I will. But I will master the things that need to be mastered first. Thanks to all for keeping me focused on doing the next right thing as I expand my skill set.

      Oh, and I got signed up for the Do-Over challenge that Ginger mentioned. Yay!

      1. Isn’t it amazing how easily we get derailed? I tend to get very overwhelmed when my to-do list is too big because I have trouble thinking I should be taking care of it all…right NOW. I really do have superhuman expectations of myself sometimes. But like you said, master the things that need to be mastered first. One thing at a time. How do you eat an elephant? Just like anything else. One bite at a time.

  5. Laurence (Timeless River Studio)

    How courageous of you to open up publicly.

    I find that this and other things that hold us back are a matter of self love. If we fight these parts in an attempt to tame them or silence them, they will thrive underground and surface again, sometimes stronger. The energy we put in fighting them is not available for anything else.

    Loving and accepting these parts for the great gifts they are giving us, embracing them and integrating the gifts in our life will deactivate them, this is my experience. The perfectionist wouldn’t be here if she didn’t have a purpose (were we allowed to make mistakes as children and what was the consequences for making them?).

    I never give myself challenges anymore because it really kills my creativity by trying to push through what bothers me. But by doing that piece of finding the gifts of what I don’t like and embracing that part of me with love and tenderness I see the blockages literally fall away, slowly or quickly depending on the depth of what is going on.

    Each blockage I encounter in my life is a gift because it allows me to “bring back home” a part of me that I was separated from, it is the door to more self love. This process is what has completely transformed my life in the last years. Life is such a gift.

    1. Oh Laurence, what a wonderful and heartfelt comment. One of the lessons I learned after a particularly hard patch of life was that we tend to push our feelings under the surface, like pushing a balloon under water. One balloon, no big deal. Twenty balloons takes a lot of concentration and takes all your energy. I think the same analogy holds true for inauthenticity in ourselves. The more we try to be something we are not, the more energy it takes. It’s harder to be someone else than it is to just relax and be who we are. I think this also goes back to the fear I was talking about on previous comments. When we live “white knuckled” in life, it doesn’t allow the natural energy to flow through us. Just like Anita was saying above. I’m not yet good at embracing my awful parts. I recognize intellectually that it’s like you say, even the bad things are parts of me and embracing them will deactivate them. It will take their energy away. But knowing it and living it are two different things. Life is such a gift, indeed. It’s hard for me to let go and feel it, though. I’ll get there. I’m on that journey, at least!

  6. Ginger, Thanks for getting a wonderful dialogue going! It seems that you (and I) are not alone in this and there is so much depth in people’s posts and sharing. I’m awed by people’s honestly and willingness to share.

    When I first started my PC journey about 16 years ago I was so paralyzed with fear to the point of inertia that ALL I did for almost an entire year was mix up color sample recipes, like THOUSANDS! It took a year to get hands to actual pieces.

    I just checked back in my saved posts and thought I’d share this one I made at Polymer Clay Central several years ago:
    I’m an artist/musician. I find that when I set out to create something with the idea of trying to please someone else (an audience, a boss, customer, buyer, or to gain recognition) I can lose the “fun factor” in the creation, my muse (or inner child) goes into hiding, and my creativity tends to wane. At those times I do my best to go back and do/make something just to please myself and to allow myself to immerse in there pure joy of the creation process.


    1. I love when people share like this. I’ve always thought that most of us are more similar inside than we realize. I knew about your initial fears with polymer and how long it took to get started. I find it amazing now because you are so accomplished! Just goes to show you that we’re all on a journey. And you described it well about how your muse will go into hiding when your people-pleasing self comes out. I find the same to be true. Interestingly, I find it’s worse in areas where I feel the least confident. In areas where I’m quite accomplished, I never have the self doubt. (Which has gotten me in trouble!)

  7. Oh, so very true. I just read that quote to my perfectionist husband. It took him a minute to get it, then he grinned and said, “It seems so crystal clear, the foolishness of that kind of thinking, doesn’t it?”

    Challenges are always scary at the beginning, but I’ve never entered one that I regretted, once it was done. 🙂

    Happy creating!

    1. Isn’t it funny how even as perfectionists we can see the folly in this way of thinking. But are we able to grow past it? My perfectionist husband (yup, I have one too) works so differently than I do. I am a forest person who gets distracted by trees. He is totally a tree person who gets distracted by polishing and perfecting one apple on one tree. I think in both cases we are using the distraction to keep us from making mistakes. Which of course keeps us from creating anything big. Pure foolishness! Yes, I know the challenge will be a good thing. But I’m still aware of my own internal dialogue about it. Interesting, really.

  8. Hi Ginger~
    I have a big box of polymer clay experiments and mistakes. I keep them for two reasons. First, to remind me how far I’ve come in the 3 yeas I’ve done PC and secondly because every once in a while I can tweak one so that it becomes useful in a design. Since clay can be baked again and again, many have gone on to be filler for new work. The same for bead work, look back at some old pictures and see just how much you have progressed, then be kind to yourself and remember that YOU are the only you in the world, don’t worry about how someone else does it, do what give YOU joy, regardless of who else likes it. ~ Tammie

    1. Oh yes, we all have that box. I have several! I think part of the problem here is that I recognize my lack of progress. I tend to stagnate rather than grow, because I’m afraid to be wrong. Afraid to screw up. I’m better about it with polymer. But then maybe it’s because I’ve just rolled up my sleeves and done more of it? I know that I’m the only me, and I create for me. But it’s me who is unhappy with what I do. And that’s what gets me. I’m learning to recognize that my dissatisfaction with myself isn’t so much because I make bad work, but because I am AFRAID that I will make bad work. Oh fear, what a silly thing!!

  9. I can’t wait to see your challenge pieces, especially the “Do Over.” I’m in desperate need for “do over” ideas on some of my works 🙂

    I think perfectionism is a chronic disease that we may be battling forever. It gets easier for me to see new techniques or projects as a stepping stone rather than expecting masterpieces, but it probably will never feel “natural” to not want to create perfection out of the gate. The disappointment and the comparison to other people’s art is always there for me.

    But I’m doing better than the days when I quit trying! For example through my whole childhood, I LOVED to draw. When I started college, I majored in art history. and that is where I realized I would never be a great artist. I haven’t drawn in more than 20 years. I do quick idea sketches, but never finished works.

    Polymer is giving me a fresh start and I am trying not to be allow the path to unfold and not be so driven by the destination. Posts like yours give me a kick in the pants to stop obsessing and start creating!

    1. ladyflowersbysusan

      Marie, I LOVE your notion that experiments with new techniques are STEPPING STONES to the next phase, next fullness, of your work as an artist!

      1. Interesting…we tend to focus on product and not process. So ironic because none of us is a finished product and we’re all on a journey of process.

    2. Marie, I also had the same experience about art. I wanted to be an artist but fully recognized that I didn’t have the talent to “make it”. And I have always suffered from “blank canvas syndrome”. Also known as “new journal disease”. Where I’m afraid to make the first mark because I’ll ruin it. I have so much trouble fully realizing that art, creativity, or LIFE is a process. I always think I should be doing it “right” the first time. My husband used to draw, but hasn’t done anything for 20 years. One day he realized, that if he’d just done one drawing a week in that 20 years, how accomplished he’d be! We hold ourselves back in fear of the mistakes, but by not letting ourselves make mistakes we never create anything either. I wonder where we learn this…it does seem to be common to us all in one way or another. Did our parents or teachers model it? Were we told we had to be perfect? Interesting. Of course knowing all this is one thing…how do we get past it…that’s quite another thing.

  10. Kudos to you for being so aware of what’s going on in your life and for doing your best to make some changes. I think perfectionism is a characteristic of most artists, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing because it causes a striving that helps the creative process. What happens though, is I think it’s really easy to to go too far and BECOME the set back and see it as a millstone and failure rather than a stepping stone to learning. Hugh Prather said it this way:

    “Perfectionism is a slow death. If everything were to just like I would want it to, just like I would plan for it to, then I would never experience anything new my life would be an endless repetition of stale successes. When I make a mistake I experience something unexpected.”

    1. Oh, I love that quote. And that might explain why I’m so frustrated with my own perfectionism right now. I can see very clearly how it’s keeping me captive. And it’s keeping me stale. Yes, there is a dichotomy between being detailed and perfectionistic enough to create good work vs being too tied up in the details to get anything accomplished. And sometimes it’s hard to know where you are walking on that line. Some self-checks are always a good thing.

  11. Laurel Steven

    There’s a saying, “Don’t compare your insides to other peoples’ outsides.” Meaning be careful of comparing how you feel about yourself or your creations to how others’ work looks to you. It’s never a fair comparison. For me, creating asymmetrical pieces was a learning process. I discovered I could build a necklace in small “sets” of components, and then play with arranging them. Then you can edit for balance. But it does take practice! You’ll get it, I’m sure.

    1. Exactly. That’s perfect. “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” That also touches on another philosophical point I’ve been pondering lately about how we as a culture put more emphasis on the outsides than the insides and we judge people for how “polished” they are and not for their true value/nature/ability. Interesting. Thank you. As for the asymmetry…I see what you mean about “sets” of components. That’s another way I can look at it. Lots of food for thought…

  12. Nothing wrong with symmetry, but I understand your wanting to push yourself to do something different. I’m sure you will come up with a great design and I can’t wait to see it. Just relax and have fun with it!

    1. I looked at the necklaces I have done in the past. And they’re not really all that bad. But I am tired of the same “formula”. The symmetrical matchy-ness of them. So yes, I do think it’s more than I want to do something different. But you’re correct that the important thing is to have fun. Each piece isn’t a dissertation…it’s a piece of jewelry. I need to remember that. It’s supposed to be fun.

  13. ladyflowersbysusan

    Ginger, You are one of the sanest persons I have ever “met”. I admire your approach to this challenge.

  14. I have one of those bead trays for bracelets and necklaces. I think I would take this batch of beads and just gently toss them on the tray and see how they land. then start pushing them around.

    I so understand your matchie symmetrical thing you got going on. I was there a few years ago and never dreamed I could get into abstract. I am talking about my mosaics. But it is all the same for art in general. I remember a wonderful person so inspired me with her abstracts I finally jumped in. I started small just a little abstract here and there. Now all I want to do is abstract.

    So the switch can be done. I can still go back to matchie matchie but do prefer the less structured forms now. Love the bead board as you get to see what you have created and make changes easily before stringing. They are not expensive if you do not have one.

    Those are pretty beads. Chris

    1. I have got to get to the point where you are with the mosaics. Where you just start to “paint” with your idea and have faith in the process and just let it happen. I need to trust myself more. I did pour all the beads out and pushed them around a bit. I came up with a couple pairs of earrings (matchy matchy!) but that focal just has me thrown. I also need to add in other elements as well and I’m wary that I’ll just do what I always do. Match and symmetry. I really want to go out of the box. I do have a bead board. Well…I have a couple of hibernating projects on it, I think. Confidence. I need some of that. Practice will help, I think. Thanks Chris.

  15. Heidi Oosterhof

    I think it is very courageous of you to chalenge yourself so publicly. With such an attitude you will never fail!
    Happy beading,
    Ps. What a pretty beadsoup!

    1. Well, I’m sure I will fail. And then I’ll pick myself up and figure it out and try again. I find that since I started this website I’m more productive because of the very reason that I am public with it. I’m one of those people who say what they mean and mean what they say. And once I say I’ll do something, I have to do it. I think failing in that way would be worse than making an ugly necklace. 🙂 I’ll give it a go after spring break and see what I come up with. I have nothing to lose, really.

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