Behind the Scenes: Revisiting Failure

When I took metalsmithing in college, my soldering was a mess. I chalked it up as a personal failure and threw soldering in the bin with all the other techniques I swore never to attempt again.

Fast forward fifteen years to a place in my life where I realized how silly it was not to master a good soldering join. Challenging myself to move towards the things that I resist, last weekend I embarked on a one day soldering workshop and revisited this essential metalsmithing technique.

Not only did I have tons of fun, but I noticed that since abandoning this technique every other thing I have done from knitting to taking bellydance classes contributed to a better result this time around.

I can imagine lots of reasons why I felt like my first attempts at soldering were a failure, but mostly I just wasn't open to the process. Last weekend I was a part of a classroom of three women who were lighthearted and was blessed with a teacher that had lots of neat tips like creating this channel in the firebrick to separate the soldered rings from the soon to be soldered.

Everything was easy and flowed. While it was happening, I realized my new experience wasn't coming from natural talent, but it was because I had fine tuned my dexterity and focus through all sorts of other endeavors like welding and yoga. This time around I was excited to plop my newly soldered rings into the pickle and then reform into circles using a mandrel and rawhide mallet.

What came out of this class for me was more valuable then feeling successful about soldering, rather I came to understand that in every moment my present learning is always informing all processes. When I think I have abandoned something because I thought it was a failure, there is always the possibility that I have learned how to do it better through other means. So if I really want to, I can always try again and know I will see new results.

Nothing you have done is ever lost to you, so I hope you take a chance, revisit failure, and delight in seeing new growth!


  1. I love the chain, you did great!! Nice to see you had the courage to try again!!

  2. Great results and a great lesson in perseverence! Thanks of all the neat things you can do now!

  3. cool! thanks for sharing your learned tips!

  4. I love this post, and can't tell you how much I agree with you. Especially love this quote at the end:
    Nothing you have done is ever lost to you, so I hope you take a chance, revisit failure, and delight in seeing new growth!
    That is beautiful =) I have done so many things that didn't turn out right, and tossed them away until another time.
    I took a Susan LK class over 2 years ago, and it was really difficult for me at the time. But, as I grew and learned more about working with metal, it all become clearer and easier for me.
    Lesson learned: The joy is surely in the process, and not just reaching the final destination.

  5. How cool is that! I love that you build on the knowledge from every area of your life to excel in this one. And I think that little channel is brilliant. I would love to learn how to solder. I really want to make my own components and this would be an easy way to start. Thanks for sharing, Beth. Enjoy the day! Erin

  6. awesome chain Beth- you're inspiring.

  7. this is wonderful beth! and you are right (naturally!)... it's funny, i often the sense of learning and increasing proficiency to yoga as well... you start off and the instructor advises you to place very specific unseen parts of your body in specific places - and you think, 'what?'... as time goes on, you know EXACTLY what they are talking about... i have a couple of metalsmithing books that are more advanced than i am... i will read them, maybe try something and put them away... when i revisit in a month or two, i find that i can understand even better... it is good to come back to things, to try again where once you thought you couldn't... your chain is beautiful... and classes can be such nurturing places, can't they?

  8. Yahoo! What fun to be a part of a group of explorers who are willing to see failure as an opportunity to learn anew. Thank you for being here to add energy to the process of learning.

    Thanks to everyone for liking this chain!

    Erin, this was so much fun, and knowing that you built your own components is incredibly empowering!

    Thank Marie for your thumbs up!

    Diane, fun to hear your story of trying again and love knowing you persevered!

    Mary Jane, glad to know you are seeing the same thing in your art and yoga. It feels like such a relief to be able to tell yourself to put something down and maybe it will be better later once you gain more information!


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