Coming back from failure

So, I’m posting this now because this was voted highest in my informal Facebook poll and because most everyone is isolated at home and it’s new content that may help people in the Times of Extra Crafting.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write this out, or if I should. The thing is, failure isn’t something that people are usually proud of or want to talk about. In this case especially, making art for others makes it especially hard to talk about when things go awry. I’d never want to belittle a gift for someone, they should have the freedom to appreciate it without the flaws flaunted.

This happened a while ago and I’m not going to get into specifics because that’s not what this is about. This is more about recovery than failure, to be honest, because it would have been easier to run away than it would be to come back to it. But also, this is about my recovery because I kind of feel like I need to write this out to come back completely. 

What happened, in a broad sense, was real life chaos paired with me taking on too many projects (i.e. not paying enough attention to my limits), and a healthy side of personal drama, came together to make me feel incapable of tackling anything. But of course, I still had those too many projects on my plate, most with due dates and still had to deal with the real life things or they would get worse. I had a really rough time for a bit and that affected my productivity. 

I powered through all of the difficulties of feeling unmotivated, overwhelmed, and stressed. At times it was like trudging through mud, but I did it. In the end, my final project felt just horrible and I didn’t have time to work on it anymore. I knew that I could have done better and I felt like I let myself, my mentors, and really everybody down. 

But, I don’t want anyone to feel badly for me because a lot of this growth in the aftermath of that was to take responsibility for my failures and to set myself up for success in the future. But it took awhile to get here and to accumulate inspiration again. I should have known that something like this was apt to happen but, I thought not to me! Sometimes I can be wrong.

So, how did I get back to it from that really dark, discouraged place that I had sunken into?

First, I wasn’t jumping at new projects. I knew that taking a moment to breath was important. I needed to evaluate where I was. Sure, a success may have helped pull me up from it but… another failure could have sunk me. I took a moment and then when I was able to collect myself I allowed myself to start on a new project fresh. When I say that, I mean with a fresh emotional state. I think it’s crucial to try to leave all the emotional baggage behind you and just retain the lessons learned. It was lucky that I was assigned a project that I was able to just enjoy and didn’t have a lot of pressure attached to it. 

Second, I had to come to terms that everyone fails sometimes. I’m (unfortunately) included in everyone. Ugh, this was hard for me because you see all the amazing things online and you want to believe you’re the only one that didn’t do well. You’re definitely not the only one. Trust me.

Third, recognizing that you can come back from failure. And I think that’s the really important part. You gotta keep moving forward despite setbacks and perceived failures because those things are where growth is cultivated. And if you can do that, you will be stronger in no matter what area you felt like you faltered. 

So that’s it. I have since moved on and have continued my pursuits in art. If you’re struggling with this, I hope you can too! 

Stay healthy and safe everybody and happy crafting!


Brandubh Board for Ducal Challenge

I had the honor of using my art to sponsor one of my fighter friends in a tournament. He publicly asked for help and I messaged him a few days later asking if he had any offers yet. He hadn’t so I volunteered. 

The tournament rules were that if you were a fighter, you either had to commission a piece of art or create a piece of art yourself that would then go into the prize pool. I had never participated in this tournament before because it’s quite far from me, and I also didn’t have a great concept of what art is acceptable but I tried anyway. I knew my friend was into board games and I had created my Hnefatafl board in the past so I thought that might be a good jumping point.

Since I’m not actually insane, I decided I wouldn’t do the 11×11 board which has 37 glass pieces which is… a lot. I knew that there were other size boards so that’s where I went looking. I ended up finding an Irish version of the game called Brandubh that used a 7×7 board and only 13 glass pieces. Which seemed perfect for this project.

I had fun creating this but, I really struggled with authenticity. There is this push and pull between creative fun and accurate fun. The original board that I used for inspiration was carved wood with spots for pegs. I think I have an idea for making pegs in the future but I didn’t have the time to try that for this project. 

Brandubh Board found at Ballinderry crannog excavations, 9-11 century, likely from Dublin

Instead of really diving into learning how-to intricately carve wood and make pegged pieces (with more research to figure out what material these may have been made,) I focused on best guesses, aesthetic, and durability — this is meant to be played after all. But, part of me felt like I would be scrutinized for using modern methods and materials even though I know this is not an A&S competition and I volunteered to do this for fun and for the love of my friend. Even with that in my brain, part of me still felt like I was failing. But in the end, I did it the way I planned and I am happy with how it turned out. Part of this journey, I think, is having the right standards for each project on a case-by-case basis.

So, I ended up painting the board with acrylics. I used designs that I found on extant boards but I also took some artistic liberties, including a blue tyger face right in the center of the board. I made glass bead pieces because I knew that they were used in other Tafl boards so it was at least plausible. I wanted this board to be East Kingdom themed so I used lots of purples and yellows which may not be the most historically accurate but it did look pretty sexy, in my opinion. Then I sprayed the board with a sealant to ensure that this would last. That may be the most extra modern thing I did but it would be unfortunate if all the paint chipped.

Finished painted board


**this is not the beginning set-up to the game.**

New unbroken King

New unbroken King

This project really challenged me in a different way. Part of me always wants to do something as accurate as possible but there is a time and place for everything. My sponsored fighter told me he loved the game and was very happy to be entering it into the tournament and he also told me that it was one of the first prizes to go at the end. In this case, what matters is that everyone is happy with the results and I think in that way, I can call this a success!  

Exploding Glass and Other Lessons

Recently, a memory came up on my Facebook of things I’ve learned from beadmaking/lampworking. I posted it about 2 years ago. This is how the list goes:

  1. If a tool or glass has touched the fire… it’s not safe to touch (especially with your mouth) even if it was just in the fire for a second.
  2. Sometimes it’s best to just swear at the glass and walk away.
  3. The fuel always runs out at the worst possible time.
  4. If you don’t protect everything, you will burn something (carpet, table, clothes…).
  5. Sometimes it’s not working because the world wants you to be happy, just accept that.
  6. Some colors suck more than others.
  7. Some colors pretend to be one color but are really another.
  8. Glass likes slow change… not fast or whippy and spinny … this applies to all parts of the process.

I still like my list two years later. All those rules are rules that I learned from experience. Most, but not all, have tragic stories behind them. Some of these mistakes I still make two years later but, I’m still learning everyday. 

But the thing is, I probably could have learned some of these things from someone else’s experience. It’s a fault of mine that I don’t like asking for help and once I commit to something… I commit to it fully. So that leads to a lot of struggle that my friends don’t see. When I first started learning to lampwork, a lot of people praised me for good work. A lot of people made fun that things come easily for me and that I’m good at everything. But what I don’t post about often is the frustrated, crying, mess I am when every single piece of glass I try to slowly warm up shocks and pieces go flying, and hey I melted my pajama pants to my legs because I probably should have worn something safer. Then, since I haven’t had a lot of experience with working with fire, I would pick up the mandrel or a piece of glass still hot because ahhh it’s burning the carpet! Then my fingers are burning and I drop it back down because better the carpet than my hands… Then finally, my partner soothing me by reminding me that I can’t just be good at something immediately, these things take practice and time. And I want to quit. Forever. But I can’t.. Or won’t. I start over again and I keep trying until something works. And that’s the thing I post on Facebook: the final thing that worked. 

So, I have been working on reaching out for help in different areas so I can learn from other people’s mistakes. I’ve also been working on sharing my mistakes so others can learn from me. I don’t just do this from dangerous on fire crafts, but scribal arts, fiber arts, and others as well. 

The thing that drew me to the SCA is that everyone is willing to help everyone succeed. If you want to learn to do something… There is likely someone more than eager to help, you just have to ask around. I know it’s hard to do, trust me I know. But sometimes the hard things are the most rewarding.