In learning how to do my job and becoming a goldsmith and diamond setter....I was fortunate to have a real Master of the craft as my instructor and teacher. This gentleman who taught me had already retired (70's at the time) and was bored and wanted to return to what he did best which was being a Master Craftsman in the field. He was born and raised in France and later in Morocco Northern Africa. His real name was Francois Pickman (deceased) but translated... went by Frank instead. However...he inherited an affectionate nickname which stuck and was the only name that anyone called him including himself....."Frenchie". Not so original but that's what was handed him? None the less. lol
Anyway....by the time I hooked up with him....I had already been working on my skills for 5 years thinking I was pretty "shit hot" but that was soon to change after only one day under Frenchie's watchful eye. I should have know something was up when he taught me my first lesson that very day. He told me when he first came to the US from France after World War II, that when he arrived in New York city, he proceeded to gain employment with Tiffany's ("the" Tiffany's). It was either that or Cartier since he worked for both but couldn't remember which one came first?( his memory was already fading a little lol )
As he told the story...he said it was his "first and last day" of working for this esteemed entity.(first clue lol )
Without getting too detailed here.....he said they handed him a jewelry piece and asked him if he could do it properly? He told them "yeah...sure...no problem"....to which, he proceeded in destroying over 2 carats of diamonds and the entire piece was a loss. At the end of the day......he said they handed him a pay check and told he would not be needed in the future and thanked him for his efforts. This was my first lesson which had me feeling nervous already. lol
Time went by and he would give me jobs to do....and each time I thought I had done a pretty good job.....he would take out another piece just like it... and then proceeded to do it perfectly in a fraction of the time it took me to do it 1/2 as well. Then he'd hand that one to me and said.." here....now you do that." This went on for months and he never accepted a single piece of mine, where before....all the work that I had done previously had not only been accepted but complimented many times instead? Like what the????? This was not only unnerving....but it caused my self confidence to plummet to the lowest level I had ever experienced (thinking my stuff was pretty good all along?) This went on for about 4 months straight and considering my pay ( as being an apprentice) was based on completed work that passed his inspection. In other words....I had worked 4 months or sweat and toil for no money what so ever and only got criticism and "do it over again" as the only response.
Finally...after going through this and the frustration I was experiencing (and building rapidly )....he called me over to his work bench and said "sit down....I want to tell you a story." He proceeded in telling me how, when he first started, his Master did the same thing with him but much, much worse.
In his case....his Master gave him a very difficult project that required many of hours of time. After each step on the process, his master would either approve of disapprove of the work and not until he did it perfectly, did his master let him move on to the next step of the process. After about a month of painstaking care and practice, did he finally complete the piece. Thinking he had done an extremely good job of following everything that his master had taught him to do....he felt he was ready for the final inspection and get the reward of accomplishment of doing a perfect job. He said he took the piece over to his master and had him check over for his final inspection. His master looked the piece over and said it "looked good", and then proceeded by setting the piece down on his anvil and pulled out a hammer and smashed the piece to oblivion right in front of him. He then turned to him and said "now, go do it again." As this was explained to me.....there are three reasons to do this to someone who is learning a craft like this.
The first reason is to teach you not to get attached to the piece and focus on repeat-ability instead. Repeat-ability is the defining line between a "Master" and everyone else. Anyone can do a great job on a piece they are emotionally invested in one time (especially a newbie). Most people doing this kind of thing will want to feel that sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction of doing something right after spending so much time struggling and then finally getting it to perfection. This is an expectation that most people will look forward to which is the motivation to do it in the first place. (wax on....wax off)
The second part of this also comes from the normal response from this....to go show off your handy work and get that approval from other people as well as friends, family or people you want that kind of praise and validation from.
The third reason however....is the most important one. While the first reason teaches you humility by destroying your ego.....the third reason is about learning how to do "Art with Intention." What it means to be a Master in this field of en-devour.....you should be able to think it....and then go make it happen exactly as you see it in your minds eye every time without exception. This includes executing it to perfection without making a single mistake.
The end results will always be exactly as you saw it ....every time.....exactly the same. (repeat-ability) The reason this is so important, is when you come face to face with a customer who hires you to design and make a piece for them. If you come up with a design (before it's made) and the customers see's your renderings from the ideas you come up with...one would assume, from a customers point of view....that they will get exactly what you told them especially when spending thousands of dollars as payment to you for doing it for them.
In that respect.....coming up with a rough idea or design in your head is easy. Anyone can do this even without the skills to make it.(coming up with the idea) Under those conditions....if you make the piece and it's not exactly the way you intended....you can always say that's how you intended it and cover up any mistakes by saying it was a "design feature". A clever rationalization to cover for your own mis-intention. Plus....if you aren't making things to spec ie: from a blue print or drawing....there is nothing to compare it, but if you aren't working from a plan or blue print and this happens, you can always put it up for sale and wait for the right person to come along who likes it well enough to buy it some time later down the road.
But if you doing "Art with Intention"....there can be no mistakes if it is to turn out exactly the way you want it with no variations what so ever. No mistakes, no deviations, no errors what so ever....every time. Time after time....without ever failing. That is the sign that you have arrived and you are a Master. The end result means the customer gets exactly what is promised each time with the hope, that if and when they return, they will get another piece you've created for them exactly as you did it before....each and every time.
The person who can do this....will get the reward and satisfaction of having a loyal following of people that will go out of their way to tell others, what a great job you did and how happy they. And in turn, will bring with them more customers, more money for you and the security that this will bring you both in income and having a job the next year and each year following.
So by smashing Frenchies first hard earned project in front of his face....his Master destroyed not only the piece( along with his ego )....but also, any chance that the things he was wanting would ever materialize until he reached that level of perfection and only when he reached it and not before. This simple act of smashing his piece....set into motion the wheels of learning how to work with intention and then following through with your promise every time you went to work in an on going basis....day in day out all day long everyday without fail to perfection.
This is what a Master is by definition in the world of creating Art for a living. It's why there are so few "real" Masters of anything out there because of all the time, hard work and dedication it takes to achieve this status which requires a life time of practice an effort to ever achieve it. It's also why I was so lucky to have the opportunity to have someone like this teach me the same skills especially having ADHD. I never reached the point where I could do what Frenchie did.... but almost in respect to the fact that I can do some these things that well but still not everything. As far as a true Master is concerned....you have to prove you can do everything, all the time perfectly....and never make a mistake exactly as you said it would be. Giving myself some credit here....Frenchie first started making jewelry when he only 12 years old.
Not many people (especially in the US ) ever start doing anything like this at that age including me, but the important thing I took away form this experience, is that it's not about ever making it to perfection or becoming a Master at anything. What's more important is the journey..... and less about the goal.