Dialogue on perfectionism and the Artist's Way

Hi Gang,

Got a topic I’ve been struggling with and wanted to see if anyone
wanted to throw in their two cents on it. This “issue” was uncovered
in my mind through participation in the Artist’s Way program I
mentioned several weeks ago. I’ll first go into my question, then
follow up with observations on the Artist’s Way program at the end,
for those who are interested.

One of the artist blocks identified in the book is perfectionism:
“Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. It has
nothing to do with fixing things. It has nothing to do with standards.
Perfectionism is the refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop-
an obsessive debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck
in the details of what you are writing or painting or making and to
lose sight of the whole.” Of course, this is just one paragraph, and
the author elaborates further on this concept.

I should state that this program is obviously not specific to
jewelers. This is used by actors, writers, painters, musicians, etc.
My take on this is that some of these other disciplines are much more
subjective, and what some might consider lack of perfection in these
fields can be interpreted as artistic license. My feeling is that
patrons in the field of jewelry have expectations, and there are
traditions in the field of jewelry that makes our field different in
this respect.

Would you folks agree with this? Am I holding onto this block - which
I do obsess about - or is the field of jewelry and metalsmithing
unique in the expectation of perfectionism in a creative field?
Thoughts? Comments?

Okay, I promised “periodic” updates on the Artist’s Way when I
embarked on this a couple months ago. As a reminder, or for those who
missed it, The Artist’s Way is a book by Julia Cameron, outlining a 12
week program to “discover and recover your creative self.” All I can
say is, “Wow!” I’m on week nine now, having skipped a week being out
of town with in-laws and repeating one week I felt I had glazed over.

Since I’m doing it alone, I am trying to look at myself and my
situation objectively to see what applies, and what’s relevant. I lot
of the stuff is eye opening and really hits home. “She’s got my
number”, I’ll find myself saying! Some of it is very subtle, but
profound. Because the program is geared toward a variety of
disciplines and a broad audience, I find some of the things don’t
apply… but then wonder if I’m just in denial.

For example, the subject of jealousy. Apparently some blocked artists
are jealous of those who are successful, and possibly less talented,
and this can evolve into a “block.” After doing some soul searching (a
lot of that involved in this program), I don’t think I have that
block. Those who are successfully where I’d like to be in five years
have my admiration, and possibly envy, but I don’t believe I’m jealous
of them.

Two key components of the program are writing three handwritten
“morning pages” every day, and doing an “artist date” with yourself
every week. It’s tough to sit down and do the pages every morning…
especially when you have projects lined up on the bench… but it’s
valuable. I hate spending the time on it when I’m “chomping at the
bit” to get going, but it has some odd therapeutic value. Throw this
in with my regular morning routine, and it seems almost impossible for
me to get out to the studio before 11:00 AM! I’d like to keep this up,
even after the 12 weeks, but the time becomes an issue. You just have
to be as disciplined as possible to do it. I have skipped days, and
cut days short (less than three pages).

You can usually churn out 1-1.5 pages on auto-pilot. After that, you
run out of fodder and have to start digging in your mind, and that’s
when you start hitting pay dirt. I found (through one of the earlier
chapters) that having CNN or the news TV on is bad for this, because
all the chatter makes it difficult to hear the inner voices.

I think I initially overshot the objectives for the artist date. I
was in pursuit of Art, not art. Since my inner artist is seen as a
developing child, this should be more of a “play date” than a
high-brow encounter with cultural masters. The artist date should be
fun, not an intimidating encounter with Artists who have degrees,
credentials and honors in a world whose values I don’t understand.
From the book, regarding academia: “… many talented creatives are
daunted early and unfairly by their inability to conform to a norm
that was not their own.”

I usually read my new chapter on Monday morning, then do morning
pages. I reread the chapter with a highlighter on Thursday, and work
on some of the tasks (exercises). It’s most difficult to do morning
pages on the weekend when my wife and daughter are at home. I’m sure I
can’t see some of the progress I’m making because I’m too close. Only
after putting the program into use for several months will I really be
able to observe the result.

If you’re having difficulty realizing your creative reality,
especially if you can’t figure out why, this program is for you!
Paralyzed by procrastination? Unable to to get moving? You may well be
blocked - and by identifying and working with these blocks, you can
remove them and the related conflicts so things move in harmony. Not
forcing, but allowing and facilitating the creative process.

Anyway… just thought I’d give an update to those interested. Please
feel free to email me if you have any questions or comments!


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

1 Like


Found your update on the Artist’s Way very interesting. As to the
particular question of perfectionism, it is an issue that I think
about quite a lot, without much benefit to myself or others. Art (and
teaching jewelry) are what I do, who I am and have always been. I
have not made the progress I feel I could/should have, though,
because I also opted to bear four children, and to care for my mother
when she needed it (for several years).

I have always been obsessed with the details-- anal, as some would
have it-- and unable on the whole to do “loose” work, though I often
admire this ability in others. So it isn’t that I only like tight-ass
work. Why am I so concerned to be flawless? Clearly, that is an
impossible goal. Partly, I suspect it is a “personality disorder”, a
way to try to hide one’s (my) fallibility, or some such. But should
one aspire to do less than all one can? How much is enough?

I don’t have an answer, but, clearly, the greater the pursuit of
perfection, the slower production will be, though I’d say not
necessarily artistic progress. If you look at the work of the greats
(Lalique being my particular idol), can you say they were not
perfectionists? I don’t believe this is different in other media. I
was a potter for more than 20 years before I started doing jewelry. I
was as “tight” a potter as I am a jeweler.

I have recently examined work by some of my admired contemporaries,
and been relieved to find things I would consider eggregious flaws in
my own work, which took much examination to even notice in other
people’s, and I’m not a casual examiner. I don’t know whether that
will make me feel freer or not. I will only say, in closing (anyone
still there?) that as I gragually feel less emotionally bound in my
life, I feel less bound by perfection in my work.

Interesting subject–thanks!–look forward to further updates.

It’s been about 3 years since I did the Artist’s Way, also alone. I
think at first I interpreted this section as you seem to be doing. I
believed that I am a perfectionist because I have strong ideals and
standards which I feel are shared by my clients. I worked over my
perception of perfectionism (consciously and in that subconscious
level where our unanswered questions go to get mulled over) and I
wrote about it in the morning pages where the real answers eventually
popped out unbidden as I wrote without censorship.

I began to allow as how “being stuck in the details” might actually
be a block for me as I identified some of my behavior:

I saw me stalling myself with negative self-talk like: how can I do
that “fun” stuff if I can’t even finish this right? . . ., I don’t
deserve to do “fun” stuff till I get this #&*!! worked out! . . . this
piece is NOT leaving my hands until . . . ) I justified
(rationalized) “perfection” as essential. I saw that this prevented
my progress to the more challenging work which I desired to do.
Inside, the creative me was looking forward and upward envisioning my
awesome yet-to be realized work but I was frightened of the new
territory and the mistakes I would make. More accurately I was afraid
of the criticism (external and self-) I knew would accompany the
inevitable mistakes/failures.

How did I work out the block without compromising standards? I still
have strong ideals and standards and feel that my clients expect and
deserve integrity in my products. Now, however, when I come upon a
less-than-acceptable element which “defies” solution, instead of
grinding on and on trying to “brute force” it into submission – an
obsessive approach which can be blinding – I permit myself to set
it aside for a while.

This is good advice we’ve all heard and offered. But when you
recognize that there might be a purpose served by repeatedly failing
to follow the suggestion, a deeper understanding is called for.

My choice to refocus at these times is a conscious delegation of the
problem to my unhampered subconscious which is more suited to solving
it. I trust my subconscious to continue working out the details and
the approach; because I’ve short-circuited the self-criticism I know
that I will be able to return to the completion with a positive
attitude. After all, while that problem is steeping I am allowing
myself to build the steps (creativity is being spoken) toward my
vision, discovering and affirming as I work on the “fun” stuff.

When I go back to the problem I make the choice to do what is
necessary which most often involves careful application of the
metalworking principles I already know. Occasionally I find a
redesign is necessary and, rarely, I may decide to start from scratch.
As I finish the piece I acknowledge my good judgement and increasing
skills in problem solving. I also try to take the time to distill
what I have just experienced and store it in my mental “tool box”.
There have been some jewels.

I find that stepping back allows me to judge the end product
objectively and determine when it really is “done”.

    . . . Am I holding onto this block - which I do obsess about -
or is the field of jewelry and metalsmithing unique in the
expectation of perfectionism in a creative field? 

My opinion, for what it’s worth, is:

No, it’s not specific to jewelry and metalsmithing.

I’m unsure whether you mean the jeweler’s or the client’s expectation
or both. The expectation of perfectionism in a creative (or any)
field can be attributed to the creator, performer, viewer, reviewer,
purchaser, etc. I allow that there are degrees of expectation for
perfection. They might range from having a desire/striving to do
one’s personal best to having a feeling that nothing one does should
be second rate and that anything less than “the best” isn’t

Pam Chott
Song of the Phoenix

people - for awhile i wrote interesting material, found wherever, onto
vellum bits & posted them on the refrigerator/freezer doors until i
couldn’t find the door handles. one of the more revealing bits could
have explained the down side of ‘perfectionism’ that wound up with 3
versions: one from a philosopher (probably an englishman before
central heating enabled many britons to engage in pursuits less
philosophical than huddling cocooned in front of a fireplace
composing doggerel for posterity): ‘if a man leaves none of his
pursuits to chance he will do few things ill; but he will do
exceedingly few things.’ ; second is a line from a neil diamond song
that goes - sort of - “… those who wanted it perfect & waited too
long…”; last is the one i tell my partner whenever he gives
unsolicited criticism: “pookie, if you want perfection you will have
to do it yourself”, then i put the project in front of him & walk
out. my take on perfectionism is to laugh, if one sets oneself up as
a judge of something as being ‘perfect’ they must be designing the
emperor’s newest, latest wardrobe.


My choice to refocus at these times is a conscious delegation of the
problem to my unhampered subconscious which is more suited to solving
it.  I trust my subconscious to continue working out the details and
the approach; because I've short-circuited the self-criticism I know
that I will be able to return to the completion with a positive
attitude.  After all, while that problem is steeping I am allowing
myself to build the steps (creativity is being spoken) toward my
vision, discovering and affirming as I work on the "fun" stuff.

After an extremely busy fall season, feeling completely devoid of new
ideas, I am taking a break this month from making or designing
jewelry, focusing on learning about the digital camera and jewelry
photography, and doing some home maintenance, some painting and
recaulking the bathtub.

I find that when I completely shift gears for a while, especially if
it’s a really messy and exacting job like the bathtub, I can feel
jewelry ideas and solutions to problems sort of swimming around in my
subconscious. I know that as this month goes on, I’ll start making
notes and lists, and then sketches, and by the time I resume my work
and start the big cycle of production that will fill my spring, I’ll
be bursting with ideas and ready to go.

Not everybody’s idea of a vacation from work, but it works for me.

Janet Kofoed

Hi again folks,

Thanks for the response, both public and private!

I continued to struggle with this question, even after I sent the
mail out a couple days ago. While banging away in the studio later in
the day I may have stumbled across the answer to my quandary.

We’re (or I was) discussing perfectionism as it relates to the
process of making jewelry. The context of how this perfectionism issue
arose is in the creative process. I may be mis-applying the issue. In
my thinking now, the process of making jewelry involves two distinct
activities and skill sets. The design process is the “creative”
portion, where the question of perfectionism (in design) is much more
subjective. The process of making the piece is more of a technical
process and not necessarily a creative one… even though you are
actually “creating” something.

Sooo… during the creative design process, perfectionism can prevent
one from progressing if obsessing about the perfect curve…
redesigning the same piece several times because something just isn’t
right. Then when we move into the phase of making the piece, it’s less
creative and more technical, with well defined techniques and
standards for quality craftsmanship.

This still doesn’t answer the question for me about whether a client
is really concerned that a seam is visible in the inside of a ring, or
what degree of craftsmanship is expected. This is probably a question
each artist has to answer on his own… striving to always do the best
job our abilities allow.

All the best,


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)
dave@sebaste.com mailto:dave@sebaste.com


And then comes Perfection Paralysis, or even for that matter Creative
Paralysis. Lately it has been pointed out to me that is all a part of
O/C (obsessive/compulsive) behavior, and a bit of Cognitive therapy
can deal with that.

That seam or design flaw is many times squared in your minds-eye
vision, the customer many times will never see it at all. Once you
mention it, it becomes glaring.

I wish I could free myself from these confines and just let go and do
it. Really is a self locked cell.


Hi, All-

It seems to me that there is a distinction between technically
competent execution of a piece and “perfection.” The former is a
matter of technique and practice; the latter is (often) the imposition
of ego on the creative process. For myself, when I become too
critical, and try to get a piece “perfect,” that is when I ruin a
stone or in some other way screw up something that was actually
flowing fairly well. Maybe we should strive not for “perfect” but for
good, and not impose so much editing on what we create.

Lee Einer

Dave Regarding perfectionism - 30 years in the commercial jewelry
industry tells me that there are precious few who truly regard
perfectionism a good trait although many will “demand” it, most will
actually mean they want the best they can get without losing speed and
quantity (also addressing your time issue-11:00 start). I have won big
designers competitions and got myself a degree in fine arts. As I like
to call it" peeing in the big dogs yards." (I no longer

play these games) What I take away from these experiences is the
experience itself and the pushing of my own abilities as far as I
could, you don’t need

them to do this. I also find that perfectionism often gives way to
reality. That is to say do the best you can with what knowledge,
skills, tools, and materials you can muster. Things don’t always go
the way we want them to. I have had to let pieces go that weren’t “up
to my standards” just because it was all I could muster at the time.
Redo after redo seems to kill my joy in doing the piece. Again, my
view (not having read the book) is to build on th e past experiences
and keep moving forward with new creative work. Visiting no t dwelling
on the past to help the actions in the future and miring oneself down
in the present for the sake of perfection doesn’t contribute to

movement. Perfection comes with experience. There’s probably more to
say, but I tired of typing. . ---- - - -Marty

In answer to Dave’s question about other areas of creative endeavor,
this writer certainly believes that perfectionism is equally an issue
in my art. While perfectionism isn’t a real problem in my day job – I
would compare writing trade magazine articles to doing repair work: it
may use the same skills, but in a very different way – but I
certainly have been trapped by excessive perfectionism in what I
consider my more “artistic” endeavors. Although my time for writing
fiction is limited (two kids and a thriving freelance business have a
way of doing that), I do have aspirations of one day finishing a
novel. But in my first year or two of effort, I probably rewrote the
first dozen pages 20 times. This was not terribly productive – after
several years, I had the same dozen pages I started with.

I realized that getting it just right had become an excuse to avoid
figuring out what was going to happen next – which might lead to
finishing, and then I’d have to risk letting someone read it, and I
might even --heaven help me! – have to try to sell it. I decided
what I was going to have to do was simply keep on going, and never
mind getting that first chapter perfect.

So now I close my eyes to the inconsistencies that inevitably creep
in, and continue to forge ahead with the rough draft. I will certainly
have to go back after I finish the draft to do major league editing,
but that’s an inevitable part of the craft of writing. The final
product may or may not be perfect – or even adequate in the eyes of
publishers – but at least I will have written a novel, which I’ve
always said I wanted to do.

Anyway, that’s my two cents worth…


Hi All,

A good friend of mind had a saying that always intrigued me. He would
say: “The enemy of good is perfect” Although I strive for excellence,
I’ve given up on perfection. It doesn’t exist. Trying to acquire it
becomes a fool’s mission. One man’s opinion…Bob Williams


In the stone cutting world masters are judged on their ability to
perfectly execute a design so that judges using magnification and
super accurate measurements can find nothing out of specification on
the stone. Cutters spend hundreds of hours completing one stone.
This is not reality. I competed a few times and arrived at the
conclusion that the competitions were not operating in the reality I
existed in. In Germany master stone cutters are certified by their
ability to cut a stone to a certain quality in a fixed amount of
time. That is reality. Perfectionism is not a good goal and should
not be measured as the ultimate in achievement. I have very little
respect for awards from perfectionism competitions. Show me multiple
artists works which stop me and make me look and you get my respect.
Show me one and I sigh and walk on.

Gerry Galarneau

Teresa… try that way of life that I chose to overcome
perfectionism…I mentioned it earlier…Strive not for perfection but
for excellence. I there a person on this Board, that in their quest
of perfection, hasn’t really screwed the piece up beyond repair. But
when you stop at excellent…you can see those minute flaws that no
one else will ever see… This is the way I unlocked my cell. You can
e-mail me at @Tom_de_Grom if you want to find your key.


I agree with your thought. My brother always said he found the
beauty in “hand made” pieces to be just that - they were hand made,
had slight imperfections so you KNEW they were hand made. If they
were “so” perfect, they approximated machine made items which had no
"personality". Very loose interpretation, I realize, but I personally
feel the same way. I do my best with each piece I make and that’s
essentially all I can do. I am so far from being “perfect”. I found
out long ago that I can’t walk on water - I sink to my eyebrows- so no
need to try. No matter how much I practice, I’ll never walk on water.
I just keep trying to improve my jewelry skills, and when I look at my
current pieces compared to my earlier pieces, I am amazed at how much
improved they are. So presumably they will continue to improve over
the coming years, but perfect? I don’t think so. Will they ever be?
Hardly!. Would I want them to be? No. Because then they wouldn’t
reflect me. Kay

Good Morning Dave and all -

. . . well, hope I didn’t get too carried away here again (another
long post - good grief!), but I will go ahead and send off my
definitely more than 2 cents for this morning. . . . good topic. :slight_smile:

To me, a gentler approach to the “perfectionist” trait (which seems
to be fairly common in our field) - is to learn to live with and
accept the fact that being “perfectly imperfect” is fine! Taking this
attitude has helped a LOT in keeping the joy of our work in the
equation for me.

The “creative” and the “technical” parts of our work are definitely
integrated - because of the nature of our medium. We have to design
pieces that will work within our capabilities- if we are the ones who
fabricate the pieces. To me, one of the satisfactions of being
independent is to have the opportunity and flexibility to take more
time in developing an idea (and not be clocked in and under the
watchful eye of one’s employer). I wouldn’t call that approach to my
work “perfectionism” so much as giving oneself the gift of time needed
to develop an idea or design. Reworking and taking time can sometimes
be a recreational part of the process - rather than always hustling
(although, i do a lot of that as well).

There comes a time in working a piece that I have to stop and say . .
. okay, it is done - and move on. However, sometimes I will labor
over a piece and redo the imperfections and stick it out to my
satisfaction. That approach is usually idiotic, but sometimes I’ll
take this stubborn “pushing it” approach when I’m on a deadline (and
very often, I find it more difficult to “not” be this way when I am
doing a special order for an individual). Fortunately, the outcome of
this more stressful approach to completing the work is usually fine.
However, when I have the luxury of enough lead time - I’ll put that
struggling piece aside and continue with something else. Usually,
after taking a break and then coming back to the work - it will very
often come together almost effortlessly. That always fascinates me -
and I wish I was able to put myself in that connected place at will -
but, uh uh . . . so far, no such luck.

For me, creating work and then putting it out before the public is is
definitely more manageable than creating work for a special orders -
pleasing a particular individual. When doing special orders, I
especially have to tell my “perfectionist” side to settle down and
remember to just proceed with the work at hand. One time - a customer
wanted me to design a “perfect wave” (those were her actual words of
description - but she wanted my abstracted interpretation of her
vision of a perfect wave! Yikes.). After 3 honorable attempts to
satisfy this individual - I actually had to humble myself and hand the
project back . . . too hard! It took a little recovery time on my
part, but because this person had such a strong vision of what the
perfect wave needed to be - I was never able to satisfy the project.
I have the highest regard for jewelers who are skilled at
communicating and filling special orders and also an extremely high
regard for skilled bench jewelers (and stone setters!) - who execute
the designs of others!

I’m sure I will always strive for the quality of craftsmanship and
design that is a natural and wonderful part of our work.
Extraordinary craftsmanship is very exciting to me - but I have had to
learn to work with and accept my own limitations of talent and skill
and available working hours at a particular point in time. It is an
evolutionary process that I am certain will continue for the duration
of my efforts in our work. It is a mindset of acceptance and striving
for quality at all times - but knowing when to consider the piece
finished and move on.

A recent exploration of working with larger forms in experimenting
with the hydraulic press brought an extremely liberating “stretch” (in
the literal and experiential sense) of work. The choice of
deliberately leaving this exploration in a “finished” state of being
"unfinished" was very freeing. My hope is that the freshness of this
experience will continue and somehow merge with my personal attraction
to work that is technically and beautifully finished. So, I do
recommend tackling an experience like that one - to have the
opportunity to observe the results of presenting work in a very
different - somewhat crude or unfinished (in the true metalsmithing
sense) form . . . it was a very expansive experience.

When I put something out there that is actually just fine and yet, I,
personally, can see all the imperfections - I have to tell myself to
keep still. There are so many different individuals in the world and
customers respond to work from their own perspective and so, it is
always interesting to see who might be attracted to a certain piece.
I also do tend to attract customers who appreciate craftsmanship -
because that is also important to me - and I am always in awe of
jewelers with exceptional skill and design. So, although I know that
my work is somewhat elementary, I will still persevere and do so with
joy -and occasionally will no doubt want to melt something down or
throw it out the window.

One point that Julia Cameron made in her book (and I did go through
the process that she presented) is that in order to make good art one
has to make bad art - or something along that vein. In other words
the “doing” is what is important. This has been very helpful to me in
being “generous” with myself to be less rigid with preconceived ideas
of where the work needs to be (the “perfectionist” perspective) . . .
and will hopefully, then, keep the work fresh. So, my “job” is to
show up at the bench and proceed! The creative process is certainly a
whole lot more fun - when I remember that “perfectly imperfect” is
just fine.


just a couple of thoughts on perfectionism one - if the piece
accomplishes your original goal as far as the idea being executed in
a fashion that “reads” its not necessary for the work to be
technically flawless. i have seen many flawlessly executed and
technically perfect pieces that had all the emotion of a rock!
conversely we all can recall those pieces that we’ve seen that were
way less than perfect but just sang with style and inspiration. my
second thought is that jewelry was meant to be worn. So remember, the
minute a piece is worn it can be scratched, dented, etc., etc., then
the annally retentive finish you labored so hard on is gone forever.
It is far better to create a piece that has verve and emotion and
doesn’t need to be perfect to get your idea across. Of course that
doesn’t mean you should deliberately do technically shoddy work. Far
from it. All I can say is that the design should carry the day. If
there’s a small flaw that doesn’t detract from the idea leave it be
and remember that handmade is just that and to try to emulate the
perfection of a machine would be defeating the whole purpose making
your handmade creation in the first place.

Talk to you later Dave

Dave in answer weather a client cares about a visible seam or not -I
have found that in dealing with clients, you have to take a very
individualized approach. Some may reel in anger over this minor qlich
and others just want it to fit and hold up - I’ve seen rings with
seams come in that have been sized back in the 60’s and are ready for
reshanking, so the visible seam can hold up, it just may bother some
folks - but then these are the same people that are bothered as a
rule of thumb. the angry client has probably been an angry person in
general and the happy client is probably a happy person most of the
time. Many times it is not you, but the client and you cannot always
change an attitude, that may be a lifestyle or just focused at you at
the time, no matter what you do. do your best and let (and even
sometimes the client go). Obsession can make you crazy and broke-so
can lots of other stuff, but at least enjoy it. No reason to be crazy
and broke and miserable. Crazy, broke and blissful

in sunny FT. Myers, FL.

Reading Cynthia’s response somehow triggered a mind-blowing memory,
and if I could get my arms around this, maybe I’ve figured it all out!
Several years ago my work was accepted into a fairly prestigious
uptown gallery. As I was delivering the goods and displaying them, the
gallery assistants were going through my “portfolio.”

One of the guys picked out a photo of a sterling silver overlay
pendant in a bear claw pattern with a turquoise cab set in the paw and
said he loved it. I told him that I probably still had it, but didn’t
bring it because it wasn’t up to “my standards.” I went on to explain
that during the process of soldering the two sheets together, I had
overheated the metal and it had warped. He said he’d still like to see

On my next visit to the gallery I took the piece along. I showed it
to the guy, and he could not buy it quickly enough. Noticing I was
somewhat perplexed by his reaction to my “damaged goods”, he said that
was the characteristic he really liked about it! It was OBVIOUSLY
handmade, and that was the appeal it had. How’s THAT for mind

I’ve seen featured work of other artists in publications and see how
they are artistically incorporating this primitive or crude sense into
fine (i.e., expensive) jewelry and I wonder how they can get away with
it… at the same time recognizing my reaction as a possible
limitation in my artistic development.

Like Kay mentioned, all these years I’ve been trying to make
everything look machine perfect. Could it be I’d sell a lot more if
my work was crude and had the look of something I would have done in
high school? Oddly, I get positive comments on a recent photo I took
one of the first bezel set pendants I ever did for my Mom when I was
in high school. A huge copper piece with a 30x40 blue lace agate - I
see it as so tacky and garish - and yet it evokes a positive reaction
from people to this day!

As an afterthought, I thought I’d blow an hour since I can illustrate
this story! Ain’t technology grand?!? I scanned the photos of these
pieces and popped 'em up on a Web page. But wait! As an “added extra
bonus”… I also threw in a sneak peek inside my studio! :slight_smile:


I digress… to continue, Cynthia’s application of Julia Cameron’s
guidance to “just show up at the bench and do something” has got to be
the lesson. Another sound-byte that has helped and I should take to
heart is “I’ll take care of the quantity… and God (or the Great
Creator) will inspire me with the quality.” Another one that can be
applied to either the design or making process.

I am apparently not a good judge of what people want or what will
motivate them to fall in love with a piece of jewelry. I’m too close
to the subject to make that evaluation, and have developed my own
tastes… which apparently sometimes conflict with those of my
customers (copper and blue lace… what was I thinking?). I should
just enjoy being the conduit through which all these wonderful things
are made, and let the buying public sort it all out. Maybe there’s an
owner for every piece we make, and it’s just a matter of being
persistent enough to find them. The need for perfection must be a
projection of my own ego, not what customers really expect.

Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts on this matter! It has
helps me put this question to a somewhat unsettled rest. Now, out to
the studio with me!


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)
dave@sebaste.com mailto:dave@sebaste.com

Okay, since this thread is going on still, I’ve found myself pulled
to put in my 2 cents. Here it is.

Of course, perfection in the purest sense of the word is theoretical,
not real. Go back and read Plato again. Furthermore, perfection, as
an expression, is irrelevant aside from its usefulness as metaphor or
hyperbole. I would like to suplant it with the word "excellence"
here. It too is, of course, a purely subjective piece of rhetoric.
Where I would mean to use it is this:

A piece exhibits excellence when it displays having met the highest
personal standards of a talented and accomplished craftsperson.
(pardon the awkward political correctness).

So now, it is a case of two things, really. The first goal is to seek
a level of refinement that is appropriate to the context of the work.
No more, no less. A level of refinement appropriate to a piece of
silver and turquoise jewelry is probably not appropriate in an
Edwardian engraved, pierced, platinum bracelet. It would not be the
best use of the materials, and would never explore the extent of
refinement possible in that medium even using only hand methods.
Likewise, to get as involved with a silver and turquoise piece as one
would in the platinum piece would be silly, like carving
Michaelangelo’s David out of cheese. You would never exploit the
best characteristics of the silver and turquiose that way. All you
would have would be a silver/turquoise piece that was not designed to
wear for very long.

The second goal is to seek to meet one’s own standard of one’s best
work. Here’s where the perfection we’ve been talking about starts to
make trouble. If you can’t decide when a piece has met your own
standards of your best work (a standard, by the way, that you can
always raise later), you don’t, in fact, have any standard at all!
The time to raise your standard on yourself is not during the work
itself. It’s when you set out on the new adventure of learning
something new that will make your work more enjoyable to yourself
(which is more important than “better”). You say, “I’m going to
learn something I can’t do yet.” We do this to assure ourselves we
are not dead yet. Seeking perfection, as we’ve been talking about
it, is akin to looking in the handkerchief after you’ve blown your
nose. Morbidly fascinating, but usually disappointing and always in
bad taste.

David L. Huffman

 and remember that handmade is just that and to try to emulate the
perfection of a machine would be defeating the whole purpose making
your handmade creation in the first place. ........ i have seen
many flawlessly  executed and technically perfect pieces that had all
the emotion of a rock! 


I so totally agree with you… When I went to the Arts Council Craft
Show, I was struck by the number of “perfect” pieces of jewelry so
many of the jewelers were exhibiting and they all had the
“originality” and “excitement” of a stick. There were precious few
jewelers exhibiting who IMHO showed any degree of emotional and
personalized jewelry. There were literally hundreds of “perfect”
diamond rings, and they all looked alike - while the few “not so
perfect” art type rings fairly sang with excitement and invited
wearing. So I think, while we all need to strive to do excellent
work, trying to reach perfection is not a good goal. If every artist
through the ages had only produced work that he thought was perfect,
we’d have little art to show. Most art is flawed somewhere - and if
you look hard enough you can find the the flaw. But why waste your

To me trying for the “perfect” piece is equivalent to a baker
measuring every piece of chopped nut to be sure they are all the same
size and weight and texture and degree of moisture before putting them
into the cookies only to realize later that while they were all
perfect in all these ways, they had no flavor!

Count me among those who strive to do their best but don’t attempt to
be perfect.