Sunday, September 29, 2013

Quality Ironwork



The metaphysical exploration of the nature of quality was the theme of Robert Pirsig’s novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen_and_the_Art_of_Motorcycle_Maintenance  I read the book a couple of times quite a few years ago.  I was intrigued by the notion that being open to using all our potential tools rational and romantic and not being uncomfortable with aspects which can seen contradictory can open creative insights and increase our enjoyment of the world.

I think something in that applies to the design process in ironwork.  Whatever the piece, sculptural or functional, the physics must work and the aesthetic impression must work.  I’ve never done a piece of public art so I wouldn’t know how to approach that.  My work has been making things for my own use and picking the ones I really like and creating versions for others to consider.  Those are the item which stock the gallery.  Additionally, I make things which clients request.  The first part of that equation is coming up with something which appeals to me and working until it also is what works for the client.

Usually when I get a project request from a client I can get to work on it and complete it in a fairly direct progression by working its components into the already flowing stream of work.  Occasionally, a project gets hung up in the first stage - I can’t figure out how to do it in a way which pleases me.  One project I have started on a number of times making progress here and there but have never been able to tie it all together.  I still have all the test pieces, notes, etc.  I don’t want to turn out something which I don’t like even though it might be acceptable to a client.  It is an irrational obstruction and maybe I should let go of it.  I recently read, in Wired Magazine, a quote attributed to Sheryl Sandberg  about obstacles. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheryl_Sandberg  She said something like “When you encounter obstacles, and there will be obstacles, make sure they are external.”

I have another fairly large project hung up just because of my inability to clear enough space for it and also because it was designed when I had a regular assistant.  Now it seems much harder.  Not having enough space is an external problem.  Seeming too hard is an internal problem.

Back in the late 60’s or early 70’s, when our boys were young,  I read a book, Parent Effectiveness Training. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Gordon_(psychologist)  One of the useful concepts is the necessity of figuring out “Who’s problem is it?”  If I get hung up on the “what I think is quality” side, that’s my problem.  Maybe I should just push on and complete something and see what the client has to say about it.  If they are happy, that’s really more important than me being happy.

I have thought about quality and value a lot lately and I will try and remember some of these ideas each time I return to one of those hung up projects.  Maybe I will have a new perspective and make progress.

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