Behind the Scenes: Repetition, Mastery, and Valuing Craftsmanship

silver lotus blossom charm necklace jewelry braceletZen Lotus, Beth Hemmila (Hint Jewelry):
fine silver lotus blossom charm

I opened up Hint Jewelry in 2008, but it wasn't until last week that I actually valued my craftsmanship. I was hand pressing some new charms when everything started to click. I rolled up a ball of metal clay, pressed it carefully into a mold, gently lifted up the edges, and thought "wow, this charm is utterly perfect!"

In a simple moment of pure artistry, I saw a whole lifetime wrapped up in one little charm -- twenty years of drawing, four years of printmaking, two years of ceramics, fifteen years of knitting, a year of baking bread, and thirty years of making sandcastles. I've looked at, read about, evaluated, and made choices about art for over twenty years, yet it took me two years and thousands of reassurances later to fully understand that people appreciate and purchase Hint Jewelry charms because they contain the whole blueprint of my creative journey.

I'm sharing this personal story, because making art doesn't always feel so complete. In fact, most of the time it can be downright uncomfortable and frustrating.

One of my favorite movies from the 80s is the The Karate Kid for I always wanted a teacher like Mr. Miyagi to show me the way to mastery.

Repetition = Mastery = Success

One of the concepts I learned through teaching is that the number one thing all people want to feel is a sense of success. To achieve feelings of success you must first obtain mastery, and the ONLY way to master something is through the experience of repetition -- doing something over and over and over again.

The reality is that most people quit when things start to get uncomfortable or boring, so they never experience enough repetition to reach a place of mastery. Here is where I like to keep Mr. Miyagi's wax on, wax off lesson in mind. Learning hurts. You should be crying, confused, swearing, falling down, screwing up, wasting time, tripping over yourself, and looking like a blubbering idiot. If you aren't experiencing anything close to discomfort then you're probably not learning to your fullest capacity.

My two greatest stumbling blocks to mastery are wanting every moment to be easy and running away when something feels boring. I don't have a Mr. Miyagi that dishes out tough love when I complain or commands me to stay present when I want to check out. All I have is a commitment to myself and the faith that repetition is the key.

Last week when I pressed that wonderful charm, I had a small payoff for my hard work. I saw that by going back day after day over the course of two years of making Hint Jewelry charms, I experienced one of those moments of perfection where the truth of my value is undeniably clear.

When you feel a sense of success you might find yourself doing a little dance and exclaiming "nailed it!" However, last week I realized the true magic of mastery is a quiet, still wisdom that builds from the inside. A confidence in your authenticity. A fullness that roots you to the ground.

Make your business your place of practice -- your workshop of repetition and road to mastery. Cherish your mistakes as blessed discoveries. Embrace one thing about your business such as a technique, medium, or process, and do it over and over again until it bores you to tears. Then do it some more before you jump to the next new thing. See your clients as coaches on your path to mastery, for the more they receive from you, the more repetition you will experience in your business.

There is no doubt that you exist and have inherent value. However, by building a practice through repetition and mastery you come closer to feeling the awesome power of that value.


  1. Your work is phenomenal Beth- Of course the "perfect" charm is always wonderful to experience, but I think the beauty of your charms is that you can tell that they have been made by hand, not a machine. Those little variations and fingerprints are what show that your soul has been poured into the process :) (that said, I'm always astounded at how consistent you're able to make your charms!)

    p.s. tried a green drink in the vitamix yet?

  2. Thank you for this post. I'm really terrific at giving up when something gets uncomfortable or boring and just yesterday I was questioning why I was even bothering to roll out clay. It gives me great comfort to know that someone as talented and accomplished as yourself has had these same thoughts but pushed past them.

  3. Another beautiful and insightful post. I need to remember this when I stumble, trip, grit my teeth or yell at my tools. You are so spot on with this post.

    Thanks so much!!!!

  4. Your post really hit a cord. It's almost painful to read because I feel it's so true. I wouldn't have chosen any other words to describe the whole phenomenon.
    Insightful and very moving.

    Thanks for sharing !


  5. Thanks for your encourage Melissa! I ventured out and made myself a basil lemon limeade that was pretty tasty. Still working up to the hardcore green :)

    Alice, I'm so glad this post spoke to you and will be a loving reminder in your moments of blissful learning!

    Flo, so wonderful to connect over these ideas. Thank you so much for touching in with your gracious comment!

  6. Beautifully said, Beth... as an artist, it is such a wonderful feeling to create something that you know is good and pure and beautiful. Sometimes it takes a LONG time to get there. I love it that you share your feelings about your creative process.


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