Looking back from this distance the memories of preparing for the championship, the day of the championship, the year spent as champion and the four years since being honored with the champion's cloak seem to swirl together. It is hard to separate out all the different things I went through; wonder, doubt, elation, exhaustion, anxiety, stress, happiness, hysteria, relief, joy, on and on and on.|
But let me try to separate out all the feelings and tell you what happens in the stages of championship.
Preparing for Championship
You have made the decision to actually enter. CONGRATULATE yourself. Few people make this brave decision, four or five at the most in any one year.
You are among a select group who have chosen to challenge themselves, to push themselves to places not yet imagined. Sounds like an inspirational seminar, right? But it's true. Making the decision to enter is the first step on a long, hard journey towards the actual event and beyond. This stage is one of the most exciting times you will have. Questions are everywhere. What do I enter? What categories will these entries fit into? HOW CAN I GET IT ALL DONE IN TIME?! Keep asking those questions, and many, many more.
You'll find the answers, eventually. Most importantly keep asking yourself what do I want to learn? And subsequently what am I learning? For me the whole process of championship was about these questions. It was one big learning experience. Constantly pushing my comfort zone by asking questions. These questions will take your projects to new heights. Questions about technique, medieval mindset, the materials, the tools and the presentation you choose will challenge you at every turn. Answer these questions as honestly and fully as you can and when you come upon one, or several, you can't answer dig into the research. This will be a very challenging time. Enjoy the challenge - don't let it weigh you down.
The Day(s) of Championship
You've finished your projects. You've asked all the questions you can think to ask yourself. You know there is so much more to do, so many more questions to ask and answer. But you also know, if you're really true with yourself, you have done everything you possibly can with the resources available. You have given it your best and have learned more than you ever thought possible. Now is the time to let it go. The hardest of all the lessons, at least for me. Let it go, there is nothing more you can do. There are no more cherries to pick or cheese to make or pigments to grind. Let it go and look at the amazing things you have created. The great things you have learned about your crafts and yourself. Now is the time to share that learning. Share with the other contestants, with the populace, with the judges, with yourself. Don't just share the facts. Share the enthusiasm, share the joy, share the pain when your first tile exploded in the kiln. Process is the key to product and if you don't share how you got to the spot you're at now you have cheated yourself not to mention the judge and the populace. This day will be stress-filled. You have probably been up late for days in a row. There are many people around you, all looking at the projects you have poured your blood into over the last few months, or years. Stress is a natural reaction. Breath, learn, share and LET GO! Knowing you have learned more than you thought you would and that if you are chosen to present your learning in the finals on the next day the stress will continue. For me day one was worse than day two, but both days were helped by my team of support.
Throughout the process of championship support is important, but especially on the day of the championship. A small group of trusted friends who will understand when you freak out because you can't find where you put the whatchamacallit. Who will make you eat something even if you snap that you are not hungry. Who will help you LET IT GO!
Day two you will have as audience a group of judges (who have been exactly where you are right now) and many others who are VERY INTERESTED IN WHAT YOU HAVE TO TEACH THEM. This is your job. They are not here to pick you apart or "judge" you. They are here to learn from you. Teach them. All of them. Include the audience as well as the judges. And if you possibly can, have some fun.
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