The quote is attributed to Plato - it is an old 'friend' that I had forgotten about but rediscovered again today - always liked it, still do :
"Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow. "
The only 'formal' needlework education I have received is my training in Japanese embroidery and I will always be indebted to Mr and Mrs Tamura and Kazumi for 'putting up' with me during the year and half I was cruising through the initial ten phases and their continuing to support me in my endeavors today.
At the Japanese Embroidery Center each class starts with a 'morning talk', followed by a 3 minute quiet 'meditation' period... I truly appreciate this time... I rarely stitch much during class - too busy just taking all the information in and getting distracted by everyone else's 'stuff'. The actual digestion of everything comes in the wee hours of the night and early mornings at home.
So, at one of the morning talks, they shared a story... it was a mixed class - people were working on different difficulty levels of projects... some of the beginning students were perhaps 'intimidated' by the higher phase students, the higher phase students in turn were perhaps 'intimidated' by others who were attempting more advanced 'challenge' pieces etc. etc. I am always curious and inspired by what we can achieve if we focus our minds - so this idea of intimidation is really 'bugging me'. My ideas on blogging about some of my needlework projects is truly because I believe in sharing, it is not about intimidation or boasting etc. - there are many, very talented people 'out there' and some of your emails and comments are giving me a lot to think about.
Anyway, the 'story' that morning was about a time long time ago, when the late Master Iwao Saito
(founder of Kurenai Kai- the professional guild in Japan) was reviewing the apprentices of that year. Most apprentices that year were young and unmarried, and quick. There was one apprentice who was married, a bit older perhaps, and slow. Many thought that he would not 'get to be a good embroiderer'; Master Saito, however, told them all to just let him be and supported each of his apprentices in the best way he could. Time passed, Seasons changed, and years later, this 'slower' apprentice became the most exquisite embroiderer, and in time became the head of the workshop! I have never met Mr. Yamashita personally but have seen pictures of him - in the workshop conducting organizational large projects and sitting at his frame, embroidering. From the pictures of him embroidering, I see a person totally engrossed in his work - his hands, his entire body is poised and focused on the embroidery in front of him... I have never seen his embroidery 'in person' but recognize his hand - his work has a 'light/shine' all its own... it is what really embodies another well known phrase of Mr. Tamura "Hands are the Exit of the Spirit". A few years ago, during Teacher's class, Arata-san shared with us the more recent pieces Mr Yamashita had been 'busying' himself with... his mastery of the techniques are widely accepted I think, he continues to head the workshop but now, after all these years, he wanted to see if Japanese embroidery could be more 'expressive'. He set about trying to show the feeling of freshly fallen snow in his embroidery we were told and then a picture of his embroidery appeared on the screen... he had achieved his goal and he had 'broken' some of the rules of traditional Japanese embroidery techniques.... 'broken' was the word used but in my mind, a true indication of mastery in any field is to know when and how to use the rules and then apply your skills to move beyond them. In embroidery, the medium of needle and thread then becomes the vehicle to deliver the message, achieve the goal.... it is something I aspire to in all aspects of my life. Understanding the basics, appreciating the more delicate aspects of any field, learning more advanced techniques to then someday be able to go 'beyond just techniques' and be able to make your mind and hands deliver a result you thought was possible, is what makes life so exciting for me. Shortcuts or using other stitches because they are 'easier' keeps us in our comfort zone and makes us feel good BUT there is no harm in trying, failing, trying again with more insight, getting better and enjoying this process... it opens up a world and takes me on a journey I could not have even imagined. It is worth all of it... in every field - at least in my opinion.
Hope you all do not mind this type of a post... my hope is that it propels you to just 'try'... and learn to enjoy the process....