Studio Insights by Michael David Sturlin

Michael David Sturlin talks about the necessity of repetition for optimal results in this week's blog.

Michael Sturlin Blog Cover

The Value of Repetition                       

If you have taken a workshop with me or are familiar with my applied technique columns or my instructional feature articles or videos, you have probably heard me say this before “Plan to do things over and over.”

One of the keys to doing anything well is doing it repeatedly. Everything that encompasses skill is dependent upon repetition for any degree of success. Without repetition there is little chance of developing enough skill to become truly fluent and fully expressive. Whether it is learning a language, playing a musical instrument, becoming a dancer, writer, baker, or candlestick maker – doing it repeatedly is prerequisite to doing it well.

Michael Sturlin Studio

Here is another way to look at this; Curiosity and passion lead us to the doorway of the path to success. Repetition is what opens the door. Extended repetition is what leads us through the door and onwards towards our goal.

If we use material and process in our approach to creative expression, there is certainly a need to gain familiarity with both aspects; the material and the process. It is a two-fold approach. The only way to undertake this in a developmental way is to plan on investing equally in each and sufficiently in both. This is the surest and most reliable path forward and it is the forward momentum on a path, after all, that brings a journey closer to the desired destination.

In the beginning of anything new, we start by exploring and discovering. This is an investment of developmental time. The first few forays are a process of attempting and observing. At this moment skill doesn’t matter, not just yet. What does matter is understanding the process. Once we understand what it is we are attempting to do, we are already poised to do it better.  Michael Sturlin - hammer alley

Learning in visual arts is the same as learning in the performing arts. It’s just like dance or playing a musical instrument. There is a basic vocabulary that has to be learned and practiced, whether it is notes and scales, steps and sequence, or tool and movements. Vocabulary precedes articulation. No one can become a musician with knowing how to play scales; no one can become a dancer without knowing the positions and movements. This is true with every discipline. Repetition is the cohesive component that unites all of the disciplines – practice makes perfect. You’ve heard it before.


When we are using tools, or even just using our fingers and hands as our tools, we have to find out what the tools do and how to use them. This involves training our hands and mind to work together, training our hands to hold the tool correctly, training our minds to guide the tool properly. Once we know what and how we can focus on improving our use of the tool and our acquisition of skill. Repetition is where skill originates. Repetition is what brings it forward. Repetition is what develops within us an understanding of what the implement does and gives us the ability to realize improvement in its use.

Michael Sturlin - studio sampler

Next, we have to observe how the material responds and learn how to direct it. Learning is the first real step to doing.  The only way to know enough about any material to become fully expressive and fluent with it is by repeatedly interacting and manipulating it in a controlled and considerate way. That is how we learn what a material is and what it does and eventually, what it can do. The more we understand how, and equally importantly, why materials respond and behave in certain ways, the more able we are to create meaningful work with them.

All of this takes an investment of time and intention. Intention is a repetitive attribute, one which requires reinvestment every time we engage with something. Lacking intention, there is little advancement at anything in life except aging of the body, which happens whether we intend it to or not.

Hand and tool, tool and material, material and process, intent and execution, these four pairings – followed by repetition – lead us directly to success and fulfillment. That is where I’d like to suggest you go with your pursuit of creative expression. Repetition is how you get there.


Michael Sturlin Studio  presents workshops and retreats for jewelry makers and visual artists in Scottsdale, Arizona and at select locations across the country. Halstead is also thrilled to announce that he will be the guest judge for the 2018 Halstead Grant.

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