Yes, when you do a lot of one thing, other things must suffer
Because we paint stained glass, what always happens is: designing and painting are the things we do a lot of, whereas a far smaller part of our time is involved with (a) cutting glass, or (b) assembling it in lead, soldering, cementing etc.
So let’s say we’ve got a three-month project whose design is finished: everything’s ready for us to start.
- First up, we’ll cut glass for maybe two weeks.
- Then, at the end, we’ll lead-up, cement and polish for maybe two weeks or three.
In between, it’s painting, painting, painting. Two months’ worth of painting (along with chasing new projects and preparing initial designs for later work).
Now painting’s great. Painting’s absolutely wonderful. But doing so much of it could easily make big problems for us elsewhere. The problems could be, our cutting and leading might suffer. Actually, this could easily happen.
And that’s why …
That’s why we take steps to ensure other skills don’t suffer
Here’s one important thing we do. What we do is, we use exactly the same method we use for painting. The same approach.
Namely, we prepare, we rehearse, we test and analyse.
We probe for problems, then solve them – ruthlessly.
Then, when we start cutting (or leading), we’re up to speed. We’ve restored our confidence. We can despatch our work efficiently and sometimes – sometimes – with a fair quantity of pleasure.
All because we hit many problems before they hit us.
So now take cutting
We’ve a project coming up which involves a lot of circles. (I’ve mentioned it before: do you see how our preparations start really early?)
You might imagine circles are what I want to talk with you about. Maybe some day I will – but not today.
Today it’s what goes in between the circles. Here’s a small section from the cut-line:
A blunt 4-pointed star. That’s the shape whose cutting I want to talk about today.
There are easily 200 of them to cut.
Perhaps I’ll cut them, maybe David, or maybe someone else. We definitely need a plan because it’s not just wasted glass which worries me. It’s also wasted time.
Yes, wasted time if the shapes aren’t accurate when we come to leading up. (I say “we” but again it might be someone else whom we bring in.) If the shapes aren’t accurate, it’ll take an age to lead them, and maybe some of them will break, which means back to painting and – delays.
So this is now a true-life example, and it shows you how we work, how we test and analyse in order to make sure we’re up to speed with cutting which, compared with painting, takes up just a small proportion of our time.
And maybe you’ll think how weird and creepy and obsessive-compulsive we are.
And yes I think you’re right.
All I’ll say is, it’s our clients we’re always thinking off.
And if we achieve their happiness by controlling more things than ideally we’d like to (because actually we prefer to play and have fun), that’s just the way things are.
In other words, we won’t leave 200 four-pointed stars to chance.
So what we do early is …
We chose the glass.
And then we make a provisional plan about how to cut the shape.
The provisional plan usually goes wrong.
But, after 10 or so mistakes, we finally hit on this approach which now works every time for the particular glass we’ve chosen.
Here’s the best sequence we’ve found so far:
Maybe that’s obvious to you, that we must break off the corners (step 3) before we break out the curves (step 4). But not to me: because I don’t cut as much as I paint. And if it is obvious to you, I’m still glad to admit my weakness, because the key point here as everywhere with everything we do is: method.
What I believe
What I believe is: so much is anyway left to chance – that’s how life just is – I don’t want to contribute more through carelessness.
See, we won’t be cutting till the back-end of February, easily 4 weeks away or maybe more.
And we won’t be leading till May and June – easily 4 months away or more.
But in between we have a lot of painting to get done.
And, this way, we can do a better job:
- When we start painting, we won’t be late and rushed and anxious because the cutting held us back.
- And then, when we come to leading, we know everything will fit together – even though we don’t get much time to practise leading.
This way, the long hard months of painting will be not just effective but also sometimes – sometimes – fun.
Obsessive about obsession in fact. And gladly so. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
(Next time I’ll maybe even show you a plan we’ve already prepared for leading up the circles … )
What do you do enough of that it doesn’t need much practise? (This isn’t boasting: it’s knowing your strengths.)
What do you do less often that it would benefit from the methodical approach which we ourselves must use for cutting and leading?