Leaving the Comfort Zone

Posted by jlubans on October 11, 2011

Beatrice Coron, the NYC paper-cutting artist par excellence, also teaches at the Penland School of Crafts in the North Carolina mountains. She linked me to a fascinating Penland blog entry about a recent instructors’ retreat in which she was a participant.

One of the activity options was for instructors to experiment with different media, to explore new materials or to use tools they don’t normally have access to leave the familiar and to step into the not so familiar.

Here’s Beatrice, sans Tyvek paper and X-acto blade, working in the flame studio. 20111011-comfortB-2.jpg

Another picture lifted from the blog: Photographer and book artist Heather Wetzel getting some help in the wood shop from assistant Billy McLain.20111011-comfort-6.jpg

Of course, I admire Beatrice and anyone else confident enough to try out a new approach, anyone willing to reconfigure their routine, to go through the angst of acquiring new skills, and to reframe how they work. I’ll have to ask Beatrice if the flame shop experience influenced her paper cutting in some different way. (I asked and Beatrice told me: "Well! I'm tempted to say the possibility of burning and melting the material.. . we'll see if it translates into the work. I also experimented with marbling, forging, mannequin making and paper making with papercut inclusion. For sure, that week gave me a renewed energy about my work and the desire to collaborate with other artists and experiment more."

Let's develop retreat activities like this for our workplaces in which staff and managers try out new jobs and new ideas without too much risk. (For example someone sitting in for me and writing a answer or two for the Suggestion/Answer book. ) Just learning, hands-on, a sliver of what a colleague does in our workplace could be refreshing and insightful. We’d at least have a better understanding of what that other person does, and we could well learn something relevant to what we do, something we might transform for the better.

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