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A Glass Blower’s Companion with Jason Michael -Helping Today's Glass Artist Think Like an Artistic Entrepreneur

Jul 23, 2019

WyzGuy Minute Ep.8: Repetition vs. Deliberate Practice

     What is Deliberate Practice? According to an article  written on personal growth

     Deliberate practice refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance. 

"While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance."

    No matter how long you’ve been a glass artist putting in the time is the most important thing. The issues occur when we take for granted the minute details in our techniques that seem mindless and the slight errors that are causing issues in our work become overlooked.  This is because the natural tendency of the human brain is to transform repeated behaviors into automatic habits.   

     For example, think back to when you learned how to ride a bike. First you had training wheels which taught you the basics of balance while pedaling and steering.  The training wheels were there to keep you from falling while you developed the muscle memory for coordinating pedaling and steering at the same time. Then the training wheels came off and you had to add balance into the equation which becomes the most frustrating part as you kept falling off or crashing your bike. After hours of practice you eventually stopped falling and were then able to incorporate speed into the equation. Years later you were jumping off curbs, riding with no hands or towing your friends around on your handle bars.  Learning Specific techniques in glass blowing is no different. 

     Just Mindless activity is the enemy of deliberate practice. The danger of practicing the same thing again and again is that progress becomes assumed. Too often, we assume we are getting better simply because we are gaining experience. In reality, we are just going through the motions and not improving our techniques.  It’s crucial to reflect throughout the day on moments at which an error occurs such as a sudden crack in the item your working on.  You must step back and troubleshoot what the potential issue could have been.  The only way you’re going to figure out if you were correct about the reasoning behind the issue is to try something different.   This can be the most frustrating part of the learning process but without focusing on specific points of the process you’ll never have any breakthroughs and only continue to make the same mistakes and have the same Issues. 

     If your pieces are cracking when you’re putting them back in the kiln are you leaving them out of the flame too long?  Are you cleaning up all of the connections and seems along the way as you build your piece?  Are you laying the piece on the floor of your kiln right after putting it away instead of floating it for a minute allowing it to slowly re-acclimate itself to the temp of the kiln. Timing is crucial and so is cleanliness when it comes to creating any works of art out of glass.  Especially when it’s something new to you as the maker. 

“Perhaps the greatest difference between deliberate practice and simple repetition is this: feedback”

      As you go through the motions of creation pay attention to every step of the process and if you find yourself struggling at a certain point stop and make a mental note. Then put aside an hour out of your shift to troubleshoot the issue and see if you can break it down into a process.   Imagine you want to try making a wine glass and never have before. Do you think that if your jump on the torch and make a glass from start to finish that its going to come out the way you envisioned?  More then likely not. This is because you haven't refined your skills for making the three separate parts of the wine glass. This is crucial if you want to make consistently clean, quality wine glasses. 

      Take the time to learn and deliberately practice the process of making just the cup tops. This could take weeks to figure out but if you spend just 1-hour per shift deliberately practicing cup tops eventually you wont have a pile of wonky cups tops. Instead you'll have a collection of selection of tops that are worthy of adding a stem and foot to. 


To be able to deliberate practice you need to figure out the entire process from prep to final piece. On a piece of paper draw out the steps of whatever it is your practicing. For instance the cup top. To break it down you first need to figure out the right type of tubing to use. Then what length of tubing to make the cup. Then how to pull points that are perfectly centered. On a side note most cup makers pull a point on both ends with one side acting as the punty and the other the blow pipe. Then after pulling both point handles how much heat and air and tooling is needed. This has to be broken down into stages in order for you to systematically have the ability to see each step of the process making it easier to deliberately practice the process of whatever you're creating.


Yes this might sound boring and mundane but the only way you will become the refined artist that you want to become is with deliberate practice and not just going through the motions fo your daily routine.  Put aside the time every day you are in the studio to practice one technique whether its pulling points or making feet for a goblet.  If you want to become the technically skilled artist you envision then you must take the time to refine technique using deliberate practice as the catalyst to fulfilling that dream.

 And this has been your WyzGuy Minute 

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