On precision.

by Kevin

So – we’ve just finished up the first UK Iron Brush class and are in the process of cleaning up the studio, while generally decompressing after the race to get things set up. The last 3 weeks have been an interesting time in Torquay so far – I think it’s safe to say that (in Jo’s words) I’ve settled into life here at Chez Hallam. I just need to work out a running schedule to replace the long morning/evening walks to BMD back in my old Toronto life…which seems so far, far away right now. I’m sort of aware what my friends and family are up to back home, but we’ve been so busy prepping and battling nasty colds here that I’ve frankly been feeling a bit disconnected and displaced.


The very first UK Iron Brush class.

I made a quip on Facebook not too long ago about how my accent will undoubtedly change during my time here, which led to a conversation about things that actually change between Canadian and English accents. The thing that stuck with me most from that conversation was a point about enunciation – the idea that consonants are more crisp and there’s less “rolling” of the -ing form. It’s gotten me thinking a lot about how I pronounce most of my own vocabulary…whether it’s a local (or Canadian) “accent”, or if I’ve gotten lazy in how I speak to people. To be honest, I sometimes find it awkward speaking to people – ideas that make perfect sense in my head get jumbled as they come out, or stop completely and I have to search for words. I can’t honestly remember a time when this wasn’t the case, although I’ve been a lot more conscious of it in the last 10 years or so. Since I (for the most part) prefer my own company anyways, it hasn’t been a point of concern. But now that I’ve committed to this particular path, there’s suddenly an imperative to be able to communicate effectively – not just with people, but in articulating ideas and concepts in order to do the kind of work I want to do. Of course, I have to also develop a “feel” for the work and allow a more emotional response to it – but a certain precision in thinking, communication and hand skills will be critical as well.

Which brings me to the point of this posting.

How does one develop precision in their life? Practice, certainly. It requires a certain awareness of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it – you can’t just skim through steps in a process. This was a learning moment yesterday, while inlaying a circular silver moon flat into an iron ground. The two metals are (obviously!) of different hardnesses, and so the polishing process isn’t as simple as “just” scraping, stoning and polishing. These actions need to be performed “just so” and with an awareness of the entire process in order to end up with a perfectly flat bit of inlay – this is precision as well, the awareness of the big picture in order to perform the action perfectly.  This same idea applies to speaking and pronunciation – being aware of the thing you need to say (not necessarily what you WANT to say) so that it can be communicated concisely and properly.

I’m suddenly aware of how lazy I’ve been with a lot of things in my life, just skimming through processes and encounters – I pay attention, but not really. I’ve gotten into the habit of automatically asking people to repeat what they’ve said regardless of whether I actually missed it or not. Even the metalworking is affected by it occasionally – although part of this is because a lot of my knowledge is from self-teaching. Part of the point of taking on the apprenticeship is an acknowledgment of this…agreeing to put myself under the microscope and having everything broken down and built up again. But it’s very easy to intellectualize such a thing…it’s quite another to stick yourself into the situation and realize “oh shit, I really DO need to tighten this stuff up.” I wouldn’t say yesterday’s challenges with the moon inlay upset me at all, but the idea of “shit’s gotten REAL” was a major theme.

There will be A LOT to work on over the next few years. I think I’ll start with paying closer attention and not rolling over certain parts of words. Oh yeah, and that damn moon. 😉