Being an Artisan

(Or, my obsession with my craft)

Doing this line of work, you might guess that I have a pretty artistic personality. You would guess right. When I was a kid I used to like drawing, sketching the countryside I grew up in, and I loved art class. Later, a good friend of mine introduced me to a personality test called the Enneagram. Surprise surprise, my personality turned out to be artisan and scholar.

Having an artisan personality has its challenges, and its benefits. I thrive on artistic work, finding beauty and experiencing the joy of life, but it also gives me a strong emotional and unstructured temperament that needs to be worked around.

For example, I naturally just want to go with the flow of the work and operate by feel, rather than set plans. That is fine when I’m working by myself, and it’s pretty satisfying to work that way, but it definitely won’t work as I grow my business, take on more projects and crews that require structured guidance. Fortunately, my background has led me to study planning and business structure for quite some time so I can work around that. I can implement a structured environment and solid plans for my business, while giving myself the freedom to work as an artisan going with the flow of things. I think I’ve found a good balance.

One of the other characteristics of being an artisan, which could be seen as good or bad, is that I’m incredibly critical of my own work. My clients can be like “Wow that’s so amazing you do beautiful work!” and all I can see is the slope being slightly off here, a stone being off there, or a joint that didn’t get properly finished. The little flaws just jump out at me. It’s bad because I can stress out over it beyond what’s probably reasonable, but good because I will not stop at anything short of perfection. I have to balance it with the scope of the project; I can’t spend a whole hour dressing a single stone to perfection with my hammer and chisel and getting it perfectly straight within the budgets of most of the projects I do.

By far my favorite part, though, is the pure joy I find in doing this work. After I get everything perfect, stepping back and seeing the beauty I’ve created and seeing the smiles on my clients’ faces, that is such a wonderful feeling. If you’ve ever looked at a beautiful sunset and just took a deep breath and steeped yourself in the contentment such a beautiful sight brings, that’s how it feels to me, with the added satisfaction of knowing I created it myself.

This artisan personality I have also has me stop and stare at a house with nice stonework when I’m driving, to get ideas to make my work better, and if I can’t sleep I’ll stay up reading books about landscape design, flipping through pages of photography to get inspiration, and learn more of the technical skills to it. Even my friends tell me I care about work too much, but that’s ok because it makes me really freaking happy.

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