I have a love/hate relationship with how-to videos. On one hand, it’s possible to learn how to do virtually anything simply by watching a video (or several). On the other hand, the online practitioners sharing their expertise have an uncanny ability to make their talents appear “simple,” when often they simply are not. Sawing metal is one of these mystical abilities that tends to elude the beginner.
The first time I wielded a metal saw was in the winter of 2021. I took a beginning metalsmithing class at a local arts center. We were deep in the midst of the pandemic and learning how to re-emerge. I felt clumsy and isolated behind my mask, making it even more difficult than usual for this introvert to connect. Nearly every aspect of the class presented challenges to me, and sawing was no exception.
Nearly two years later, I am attempting to self-teach some of the skills I still lack. I watch in amazement as experienced artisans craft complex shapes, skillfully turning the piece and not the saw. I listen to the sounds of the blade as it glides effortlessly through the metal.
My own efforts are not so graceful. My hands shaky, I struggle to hold the blade upright and relax my grip. I find myself using excessive force. I break blades with wild abandon. I can feel the saw wanting to do its job, thwarted by the clumsiness of its user.
There is only one way to solve this dilemma: practice. And so I have found new ways to create new projects for myself. As I mentioned in Taking the Plunge, I am working through a beginning metalsmithing book, which is putting me through my paces. The book provides an introduction; I must take it upon myself to find opportunities to use the skills as they are introduced.
Toward that end, I have started a new project. I am using AI to generate design ideas, then challenging myself to create the designs that are within my realm of expertise—or, more accurately, just beyond it. In this way, I hope to continually challenge myself while also exploring the benefits and pitfalls of AI/human collaboration.
I’ll make it official next week, when I reveal the first piece to result from this experiment. In the mean time, you can follow my journey at Eliza G. Designs. I’m having a great time exploring the possibilities of computer-aided design in this new era of AI technology.
Eventually, I will become skilled enough to take on the more complex of the often mind-blowing designs AI creates. For now, I’ll continue to grow my skills and step outside my comfort zone. I hope you’ll com along for the ride!