When I was just starting out, taking metal-smithing and wax carving classes, I was asked to do a very special project. One of my closest friends was getting married and wanted me to make his wedding ring, in platinum. Not only was I honored by his request and his faith in the abilities of his fledging friend, I was overwhelmed at the responsibility of how was I supposed to do this?! As a student working with silver, I was completely intimidated by platinum, at the time.
We agreed on the design. I did not have the training to make this piece “perfect,” at least from my perspective. A knife edge ring – where everything had to be even and minimal. In other words, simple, hand carved from a block of wax and absolutely perfect!
I was not going to back down from a challenge. I’d had rudimentary instruction about carving wax but I did not know how to make it symmetrical, I was going to hand carve it. No computers, no scoring, I told myself to just dive in and make it as even as possible from a block of wax.
I sat at my dining table which was plywood covered with a tablecloth and doubled as my jewelry bench. I must have carved this ring 15 times. But it felt like 1000. A simple ring with a raised line in the center. How hard could it be? Well, turns out, it was hard. Especially without the appropriate training.
I discarded one ring after another, knowing it was not perfect, feeling it would not be fit for the wedding of my dear friend, who meant so much to me. Distraught, I called my father, a tool maker at the time, communicating my frustration. “Dad, what do I do?” I can still hear him say, “Well, Claudia, you could always put a torch to it and melt it. It might make you feel better.” While I did consider this course of action, at 2 a.m., I decided to leave it on my table and go to bed.
The next morning I saw the latest version of the ring right where I had left it. On the table, the morning sun lighting the room. I thought, “Okay this is not so bad. This is actually pretty good!” What happens in those moments where we are frustrated, tired, and angry? We are just that. I found a good night’s sleep and a change of venue helped change my perspective.
My caster cast the wax ring into platinum. While I used different grits of sandpaper to make it smooth, I lacked the knowledge and tools to create a beautiful shine. The jeweler to whom I took it to help me finish it, remarked, “Oh! Your carving is good, I thought you did this professionally.” That made my day! Though I’d had my doubts, I knew I could make it better one day.
Most importantly, my friend was overjoyed that I made a ring for him. Whatever flaws I saw, he couldn’t care less about. He thought it was perfect. He saw a hand carved ring, made by someone he cared about, signifying a commitment to someone whom he wanted to spend his life with.
Perfection is about perspective. Perspective is the truth as you see and experience it. I now have tools and skills to better craft the ring. Today, I would make an even better version. However, my friend would not trade it for the world. Knowing that, neither would I.