While I was at the torch today I came to a realization - I've grown as a beadmaker in the last year and a half.
I made my first bead almost exactly 3 years ago but until about 18 months ago, I only worked in fits and starts. I'd take summers off. I'd take the month of December off. Twice I went for 6 month stretches and never even picked up a rod of glass. I loved making beads, but I'd get busy or sidetracked or I'd have a flurry of creativity and then burn out.
So, finally, when the previous school year started, I sat down with myself and said, "O.K., A.D.D. Girl, you have 9 months to really work at this and see if you can do it, learn it and focus your energy." So that's what I did. I began to treat it like a job, concentrating on learning techniques, perfecting them, coming up with new designs, promoting my work (sort of) and being constantly productive.
I can see, of course, that my beads are better than they used to be. They are more complex, the designs are more creative and I understand so much more about the technical side of lampworking than I used to. I know that I'm always changing things up. I'm aware of the fact that I will never have a 'Signature Bead' and I'm fine with that. Because I don't want to make the same beads over and over and over again into infinity. I'm aware of the fact that I've been learning, but today I really saw how much I've developed as far as my actual skill level.
I'd gotten an order for a set of beads in a design that I started making last spring. Back then, I loved the beads but I hated making them. They were hard for me because they were tiny, had a meticulous pattern, I couldn't seem to control the flame, etc. I made them because they sold well and I liked them but I always dreaded when someone ordered them.
So today when I sat down at the torch, I felt my stomach clench a little bit at the thought of making them again. But I gritted my teeth and got started. And you know what? They were nothing. I could make them in my sleep. Everything was so simple and so easy that I ended up making 3 sets -in the same amount of time it would have taken me to make one last year - and when I finished I wasn't tired, frustrated or mentally exhausted.
Because I've contantly been challenging myself and learning new things, I never really noticed that some things might be easier than they used to be. That - if I were to want to - I can make an encased floral bead with complex stringer, interior pleating and raised exterior designs without giving myself an aneurysm.
Please recognize, that this is not me patting myself on the back for being the world's greatest beadmaker. It's just an acknowledgement of how horribly ignorant and incompetent I was just 18 months ago!