I’ll admit it, I curse – especially when things don’t go my way. Failure and disappointment are common in the shop and in the world of creativity. Not only is it tough when I am doing something for the first time, because often I’m learning by trail and error, but it’s also tough as an artist to predict whether or not your client or the public in general will like your creation. I’ve had a couple of notable fails in the last few weeks, and today’s post is about one of them and how I choose to look at failure.
I’ve been working on a sculpture of a bike for three or four weeks now and you’ve seen some of the pics if you follow my social media. It started out like a house on fire, the sketch and initial design came quick and my client loved it. The programing progressed nicely, and I was cutting steel within a week. I had a layered design planned, where the wheels would be the base and then the tires on top of them, the frame next and then the seat, pedal, and handlebar protrude out even further. My plan was to cut everything from 16-gauge sheet metal and layer away.
The cutting went flawlessly. Everything was working great until I welded the tires to the wheels. The parts looked great as I laid it all out, clamped it down, and welded it up. Well, what started as some nice, flat, awesome looking wheels ended up warped and bent from the heat of welding. What a mess! I thought I would be able to bend them a little here or there and get them flat, but the more I bent, the worse they became. I could get one side down flat, and then the other would pop up! You can bet there was some cursing going on!
I knew I was going to have to remake them and, not only that, I would have to use heavier steel to avoid the warp. I cost myself time and the expense for the additional material, a big bummer! I was upset, but I also learned. Next time, I’ll think more about the heat and how I’ll weld a part before deciding on the material. I had the option for other materials and other welding methods before I started but warping to that degree was not on my radar. My failure on this part will eliminate future mistakes and, in the end, the heavier wheels worked perfectly and created a better visual result, as well.
Failure is a fact of life and it must occur occasionally in order to learn and progress. Fear of failure is a road-block to growth and success, so I don’t let it or the unknown stop me, even though sometimes it might slow me down (which is good also, because it allows time to think things through before making a blind leap). Imagine what the world would be like if all the great explorers and inventors would have given up after one set-back. Failure gives us information, as long as the reason for the fail is analyzed and thought through, and in turn, a better solution proposed and attempted. It’s been said that Edison had thousands of duds before he had a working light bulb. He didn’t call them failures, he called them, “steps” and, “proof of things that don’t work!” I’ll keep creating and failing, and cursing, too, as required. I always think of Edison and his bulb when things get tough, and I hope you do now, also.
P.S. – Finished bike sculpture pics coming soon! (sneak peak below)