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stephanie sersich


Jumping Out of Your Comfort Zone — Take a Class!

Last year, I decided to reduce my craft show circuit from about 20 shows and knock it down to only five.  I wrote a separate blog about it, figuring it would keep me accountable.  The idea was to take a bunch of classes, try a lot of new techniques, and hopefully expand upon my current style, or maybe even develop a new one.

My usual style, with beads by Jane Perala
What I ended up finding out was classes scare me.  
Now, I looooove a trip to Barnes and Noble.  LOVE to peruse  I have a ton of beading magazines and a healthy bookshelf FULL of how-to books — everything from metalsmithing to micro-macrame.
one of my many, many bookshelves
However, the vast majority of those magazines and books go unread.  
I always have an excuse, which usually has something to do with not enough hours in the day.  There’s always a deadline.  Or a school function.  Or the weather is too nice to stay indoors.  Or or … and or.
So the only way I can really ever learn anything is to sign up for a class.
Attending class is a very humbling experience for me.  First comes knowing what to wear.  I know everyone will be wearing something SMASHING they made themselves — probably from a two-week art retreat in the Italian Alps, which may or may not involve wrapping wire for three days straight on a hair-thin mandrel or encasing the fur of a unicorn in resin.  I’m totally joking around, but you get the level of my anxiety, I’m sure!
Unicorn shoe by Bete Noire Forge
Needless to say, I’ve been making jewelry around eight years now but I am THE newbie in the class.  Not just a newbie, but a rank beginner — the person who cuts things wonky  (accidentally), pounds her thumb with a hammer (repeatedly), and sets things on fire (allegedly).
the inauspicious beginnings of … something… at my class with Stephanie Lee
I’m the one who sits with shoulders hunched, looking with wild eyes at my neighbors confidently tackle their projects, armed with the perfect tools, the perfect packets of ephemera, the perfect ideas running through their heads.  I glance at the teacher, and all the teachers I’ve met — they know That Look.   
And they stop and help.
Not only do they stop and help, but they encourage me to continue to ask for help — not to the point of nuisance, but just often enough for a few seconds-worth of “is this right?”.  And then I move on.
Sometimes it works out OK in the end, and all it takes is one class.
pendant I made during a class with Tracy Stanley
Sometimes it takes a couple of classes before I get things down.  For instance, the first time I took Barbara Lewis’ enameling class, I burned things up.  Blechy beads.  Nothing salvageable.  So when she showed up in my neck of the woods nine months later, I took a refresher course, and it finally just… clicked.  I got comfortable.  I relaxed.
my second set of beads from Barbara Lewis‘ class
I still worry every time I take a class that I have a neon sign over my head that blinks “Caution!  Does Not Know Anything!” and “Doesn’t Have a Clue!” over my head.  I am still awed when I walk into the class and see the amazing art around the students’ necks.  And I still often wonder what was possessing me when I signed up for the class in the first place, because I feel I don’t belong there.

Which, of course, is the entire point.  Why would you take a class if you DID belong there?  It’s all about learning something new, isn’t it?

necklace I made in Stephanie Sersich’s class

Jumping out of my comfort zone means I REALLY take a cliff dive into an entirely new realm of jewelry design.  All of the classes I take are so far removed from what I normally do they require a different zip code.  However, after taking the class, I’m never sorry I took it.  I always learn something, even if I (allegedly) caught the piece on fire once or twice.

My challenge to you — jump out of your comfort zone this year by taking a class in something that is totally unlike your norm.  Be it jewelry or cooking, sign up, take a deep breath, and jump.

I promise someone will catch you.

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site lorianderson.netShe writes the blog Pretty Things .  She lives in Maryland.