What Has Been Your Most Interesting Failure?

What Has Been Your Most Interesting Failure?

Craig Johnson Cabinet

Craig Johnson made the bottom medallion on this cabinet’s door larger than planned to hide an accidental chisel gouge. The result: an award for best detail at the “Northern Woods Exhibition.” Photo: L.S. Photography

It was a cooking episode. I had a birthday party for a friend in my tiny New York City studio and invited 30-plus people, so the apartment was pretty densely packed. While roasting a turkey in the oven, I got a little overzealous with the potatoes. The oven caught fire, and the apartment filled with smoke. We contained things, so there were no casualties and people actually enjoyed the meal, but it was definitely an interesting failure!
~Mary Anne Davis, ceramist, Chatham, NY

Every day for seven years I’ve wondered why I bought the domain polymerclaydaily.com when I could have called it Polymer Clay Weekly or Polymer Clay Every So Often. The daily ritual of finding and featuring good polymer art online has been fun, energizing, tiring, and addictive. New ideas featured on PCDaily ricochet across the world, with variations popping up immediately. My failure to think ahead has given me unexpected discipline and a wild ride as the community has grown.
~Cynthia Tinapple, editor, Polymer Clay Daily, Worthington, OH

An advantage of getting older is eventually recognizing the value in failures, both big and small. For example: I was working on a small wall cabinet that had a series of medallions suspended between two panels in the door, when, suddenly, the chisel slipped in my hand and gouged into one panel. Oops! Now what? Well, making the bottom medallion larger to compensate for the mishap became an improvement over my original design. Oh, and this piece received the best detail award in the 2012 “Northern Woods Exhibition,” sponsored by the Minnesota Woodworkers Guild. Mistakes really can pay dividends.
~Craig Johnson, furniture maker, Studio Tupla, St. Paul, MN

I was in charge of an art and music festival in Ohio back in 2002. The festival was well-organized and had a great lineup of both artists and musicians. We spent very little money for the type of event it was. It was supposed to be a wonderful event, but no one predicted it would be 32 degrees in May. The festival was a flop, but what I learned was invaluable. It taught me that no matter how well-organized and well-planned you are, always, always plan for the unexpected. The unexpected will always happen, and that has helped me tremendously throughout the years.
~Gwynne Rukenbrod, executive director, HandMade in America, Asheville, NC

In graduate school I created a large piece consisting of two layers of stitched netting, but something wasn’t quite right. A few minutes before the critique, I pulled the layers apart and folded each one, creating two separate pieces. This taught me to be flexible, to accept chance as a significant factor in my work, and to always be ready with Plan B.
~Susan Taber Avila, professor of design, University of California, Davis