Getting it Right often means Getting it Wrong First

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September 26, 2016 by kittynh

I have a wool felting project for an important event.

I’m supposed to recreate a piece of local history, using wool.


Now I could do flat felting, which results in lovely images much like a painting.  You can place it on your wall for the moths to find.  However, my felting involved 3 dimensional work.

I enjoy it as I’ve never done much with sculpting, it’s just not something that comes as naturally as picking up a pencil or paint.  The good part about it is it is NOT EASY.  A challenge in life is very important.  I could never quite get the hang of sculpting, and wool felting gives me a safe material to try to overcome my “sculptor block”.

It’s not been easy.

My choice of subject for this piece of Manadnock region history was the elephant that came to Keene.  Not Clarence.  ( we try not to talk about Clarence too much).

Clarence the elephant came to the area and the militia shot him.  This is perhaps a subject for a more dark period in my artistic life.  After I start drinking heavily or using heroin.

This elephant is nameless.  But he was coming to KEENE!  Now how do you bring an elephant to towns that have never seen a real elephant before, and charge for the privilege?  You bring the elephant in at NIGHT!

Sadly, not everyone could afford to see the elephant, so some enterprising young boys thought up a plan.  Apples were cheap, probably to be had by raiding the trees of neighbors.  A bon fire was just a few bits of sticks and debris in a pile.  Put the two together, and perhaps the elephant could be enticed into a free viewing!



So the nameless youngsters figured out when the elephant was coming to Keene, and by which route.  They then built a large bonfire and with a basket of apples to tempt the pachyderm, they soon had a happy elephant and their own personal free viewing of the elephant.

While the story has passed into history, it is well worth recreating for the Cheshire Historical Society gift shop.

Problem one was, I had never done an elephant before.  He had to be comical, not “realistic”.  This was a story about children and I felt the elephant should be of the sort to appeal to children.

My first attempt was a failure.  The important thing to know is that first attempts are often failures. This goes for scientists, gardening, art and even life in general.  First attempts tend to be failures.


I have no freaking clue what I’m doing with this first attempt at the elephant…but I kept trying….

So what does one do with a failure?

At first we keep trying.  After all we’ve put a lot of time and effort into this first attempt.  In fact, often we’ve had a hard time convincing ourselves to even make an attempt at all.  We want to have a success, not our good intentions and hard work be a failure.  But, most of the times it is a failure.

I kept trying with this elephant for 3 days.

Then I looked at it.  I couldn’t fix it, I’d kept trying to fix it.  It wasn’t fixable.

Being brave enough to give up is as important as being brave enough to try something new.

So what do you do with the failure?

You put it aside.  You start again.

The second elephant flew together.  He is comical without being scary.  He has just the right feeling of emotion.  He has found the apples and he’s thrilled.  (Or she, we aren’t sure of the sex of this elephant).  I was actually shocked at how quickly the second elephant came together, in perhaps a few hours.

The first lesson- try.

The second lesson-when you fail try again.


My first impulse was to chuck it all and pick an easier subject for this project.

If not for the failure of the first elephant though, I could not have made one I was ready to submit.  I felt like a total failure, but was shocked to learn I had been learning what NOT TO DO for the second elephant, the whole time I was making the first.

So, remember, your failures, are your lessons for success.  If you don’t try the first time and fail, you’ll never have that second try, or third try, that will make you happy.  Just be sure you pay attention to what made the first version FAIL.  That’s the tricky part, be willing to learn from the mistakes.

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