Friday, June 7, 2013

The Evil Fear Bully

♫•´**•♫•*♫•*♪  "Long, long time ago..." (cue Don McLean)  ♫•´**•♫•*♫•*

About 30, or so, long years ago, I started my jewelry adventure by taking some metalsmithing courses at a nearby community college. I really enjoyed it and within a few years I had a pretty nice metalsmithing workshop set up.  I made quite a few earrings, a bangle bracelet, a nice ring with an oval moss agate in it, and a belt buckle.  I only have 2 pictures from that time, (excuse the picture quality).

I made this belt buckle for my brother.  Pretty dull design concept, if you ask me, now.

These were earrings for my mother.  These turned out pretty and I stenciled the little wooden box with my mother's initials and some heart decorations.

It was fun to make gifts for people, but I had a hard time coming up with design ideas and eventually I just stopped metal work and sold all my equipment.  Over the years, I tried my hand at several other crafts, but once I started beading, all other crafts took a backseat to my passion for beads.  

Fast forward through the years. In high school my daughter, Naomi, took metalsmithing classes from the same person who had taught me at the community college nearly 30 years ago. Naomi took to metalwork like a fish to the water.  She went on to study metals at the University of Washington and she is now a professional metalsmith.

Recently, I've become interested in exploring ways to use metals to enhance my work with beads.  So for Mother's Day this year, Naomi gave me a jeweler's saw, blades, a bench pin, some metal and an offer to help me get started.  Or more accurately, she offered to help me get re-started. 

I hadn't done any sawing in over 2 decades and I felt as rusty as an old saw blade. Frankly I was a bit afraid of trying this again.  Fear of failure dogs me like a shadow. It often seems easier not to try, than to risk feeling like a loser.  Do you ever get those feelings when you'd like to try something new?  Can you feel the fear trying to hold you back? 

My mother had a lot of artistic potential, but  poor self-esteem and fear held her back. That makes me sad, so when I get these familiar jitters, I just grit my teeth and make myself move forward.  I do it in honor of my mother and I do it for myself and for my daughter Naomi.  

Fear is an evil bully and I will fight back!  I can fight back by openly sharing my successes and failures, knowing that both are necessary ingredients in the process of learning. Maybe you jump into everything with both feet.  If so, hurray!  But if you are a bit of a shrinking violet, you have to face the Evil Fear Bully head on.  We can do it together.

Soooo, last week I headed up to Naomi's place and she gave me sawing lessons.  I had beginner's luck on the first piece.  It wasn't always easy to saw accurately, right on the line, but there is nothing wrong here that can't be evened out with some trimming and filing.

Next try.  Ha!  Total mess up!  This one is not even salvageable. A few years ago this would have left me feeling dejected.  But now, we just had a good laugh about it and I tried again.  I'm going to keep this piece in a little shrine I have in my studio, so I can remember where I started.

I cut out several shapes that day.  I wanted to learn how to follow curves on the ovals and how to saw angles, such as those in the squares below.  You can also see that I worked with two different gauges of metal, to get a feel for that, too.

Next Naomi showed me how to fix up the rough edges and sand it smooth.  Naomi evened out most of the uneven edges on the first shape I'd sawed out and then I sanded the edges smooth.

But on this copper piece, I did all the cutting and the finishing myself.  I was so proud of this little square.  LOL!

Before I left that day, Naomi used her Dremel to drill holes in my little collection of cut shapes.

On the way home I bought 3 metal stamps and I'm collecting stuff around the house that I can hammer on to add texture.  That's my agenda for the next two weeks:  texture and patina.

Are you gung-ho to try new things, or do you get hung up in fear of failure?  How do you conquer the Evil Fear Bully?  Share your thoughts and experiences, so we can encourage each other and grow.

Linda Landig Jewelry - ArtFire 
Linda Landig Jewelry - Etsy 


  1. Well since you asked Linda I'm definitely in the 'gung ho'camp and dive headlong into trying new techniques. I always approach it as an opportunity to play rather than set out to make a specific item and btw, mangling a piece of metal is not failure it's just the lower level of proficiency that goes with the starting something new...I bet you didn't get behind the wheel of a car the first time and expect to drive did you?I have have a pot of 'low proficiency' bits and bobs but you'd be surprised how many times something in there catches my eye and eventually takes on a new lease of life - they're all just waiting for their time.

    I've just taken delivery of a pack of ceramic clay to try some modeling and I have no idea if I have any talent whatsoever but know for sure it's going to be great fun. So my advice would be to stop setting expectations of yourself and have fun with it...perfection is subjective and overated :0)

  2. I really like the idea of calling mangled bits "low proficiency". It puts those beginning attempts on a trajectory toward higher levels of proficiency. Whereas when you label something as a failure it is like a big red stop sign.
    Can't wait to see what you create with clay!

  3. I can totally identify with the Evil Fear Bully! I love to try new techniques and do regularly but hate it if I make a mistake, I feel like I've failed. Then I have a little chat to myself (in my head, not out loud!)and allow myself to make these mistakes as that's how I learn what to do and what not to do.

    This morning I had to finish the first silver hollow form piece I've made by soldering on a little heart and the bail. I was convinced all last night that I'd mess it up, I sometimes struggle with soldering the "easy" bits like bails and jump rings as they are fiddly, but I didn't and it went fine but the fear of failure was lurking. It's only through gritting my teeth and just doing it that I'm progressing.

    Sometimes it's only when I look back that I realize how far I've come despite the Fear (of messing up) Bully. Making mistakes are allowed and sometimes lead to wonderful new design ideas :D

    1. I think you make a good point, that the more we grit our teeth and push forward, the smaller the Fear Bully becomes. Then, as you said, when we look back we're amazed at how far we've come.

  4. I jump in with both feet. When I mess up, I share it on my blog and have a good old laugh at myself. I don't give in!

    1. You go, Wendy! I'm moving in your direction. I shared my mangled metal oval and had a good laugh.

  5. Hi Linda! I just love this article! I am afraid that I'm one of those people who's just.....afraid, I suppose! I always want things to turn out right the first time. It has held me back most of my life. I am only now beginning to accept that, if I want to learn, I MUST allow myself to make mistakes. Thank you for making me feel better!

    1. I am so happy my post helped you feel better. That is exactly why I wrote it. I thought that if I could be honest about my fears and show the inevitable mistakes I make along the way, that it might encourage others to do likewise. There is such a lot of pressure in our culture to plaster on a big smile and adopt a confident, successful veneer that may not be a true fit for everyone. It doesn't mean that the more timid among us are any less creative or talented, it just means that some people need extra encouragement and extra chutzpa to let their light shine.
      ::stepping off soapbox now::

  6. What a wonderful article, Linda--and a terrific comment by Lesley too. I am a perfectionist--always have been--and have had to struggle with it in my creative life over the years. Trying new things is always scary for me, but I push myself forward and try anyway. Well, most of the time. ;) Oddly enough, I'm just getting started with metal work these days too (well, metal work beyond chasing and simple soldering). I have no experience at all with cutting sheet metal and just bought my first metal shears and some sheet last week. So we'll be on this adventure together. And, Lesley, a while ago I bought the basics to start working with metal clay--talk about having some great role models in my Facebook friends alone! I just have to remind myself to breathe, let go of the expectations, and remind myself that I'm really NOT as uncreative as the little devil on my shoulder often tells me I am. :) xoxoxo

  7. Love this attitude! Never give up, never stop trying something new, always believe you can do anything!

  8. Great post, Linda! I think you have to embrace the fear when learning new things. I took a couple of metalsmithing classes, and still was scared out of my shoes to try to solder something on my own, without a teacher near by. It was the same when I learned torch-fired enameling with Barbara Lewis. It is those first few steps after a class that are the hardest! Happy to see you going forward with the metal! You will have great fun!

  9. Great article! I think our culture tends to view everything in binary terms (yes/no, good/bad, etc.). Many of us are conditioned into this mode of thinking, when in reality, life - and creativity - is a much more nuanced and complex experience.

    I'm a "jump in with both feet" gal. I really don't think in terms of success/failure. I am never 100% satisfied or 100% dissatisfied with what I make. So its a continuum, more of a process than a binary stop/start, good/bad, beginner/expert type of thing. Like anything else in life, we get better at (whatever) the more we work at it. It also helps to think in terms of sketches and drafts. For new work or ideas, I often say "this is a sketch", or a "draft". This is a way of saying (to myself) that I will continue to develop work or idea. It will change and morph over each new iteration. I look back over early sketches and drafts and i'm often surprised to see that out of the pile of not-so-good stuff, there are gems in there.

  10. Thanks for this post Linda! Your article and all the great comments have been really inspiring to me. It's actually quite reassuring as a fairly new jewelry designer to know that I'm not the only one who sometimes get psyched out by the fear bully!

    I think I have gotten much better about not letting my fear of messing something up hold me back...but it sometimes still gets the better of me. There are so many cool techniques and skills I want to learn, and I have to let my rational side override the emotional because it's unrealistic to think that everything will be perfect the first time. I have to work hard to let go of perfection and just jump in and try.

    Whenever something comes out close but not perfect, my husband always says "it's a natural product, results may vary." It makes me laugh since he really means hand crafted, but it's true. I'm not a machine that can mass produce things with perfect repetition... I've made something with my own two hands and that's something to be proud of.

  11. I love to try new things. Last week, I tried polymer clay beadcaps and while I made many mistakes and it took me forever to make them, I learned a lot from what I did wrong. I used scrap clay so I didn't feel so bad when they turned out just so-so. I know that next time I do this, I'll be much better.

  12. Linda this is a great post. I think most of us struggle from time to time. I love learning new things. I admit I sometimes drag my feet but once I've made up my mind I just let go and jump in with both feet. It is wonderful that you and your daughter can share this together.

    1. I love sharing the love of jewelry design with Naomi, and I also love that we have each found our own unique expression of this shared interest. She was a really patient and positive teacher when she helped me with the sawing! :)

  13. I tend to jump in with both feet and usually try to teach myself. Sometimes with pretty disastrous results. lol! Even after making lampwork beads for about 8 years, I still make some big turds, so I wouldn't expect myself to have perfect results trying something once or twice.


We would love to hear what you have to say, please leave a comment.