Friday, November 13, 2009

training day

My new assistant, Ruth, started this week. Her first day was Tuesday, and I walked into the studio that morning feeling short-tempered and slightly angry. I had insomnia the night before, and if I'm missing more than an hour of sleep, I'm emotionally unbalanced. Unfortunately, I miss a lot of sleep in general because I have hard time staying asleep. Though I now recognize when I'm feeling snappy and weepy for no reason, it's because I'm short on sleep, and I need to be very patient with myself and the people around me. It doesn't mean my life is totally doomed, which is how I usually feel when I'm tired.

I've been really excited to have Ruth start, so I was disappointed in myself that her on first day I was not at my best. Then, I realized that as excited as I am to finally have a new and experienced person in the studio, it is still stressful. Training is a huge investment of time and resources, no matter how well-trained the person already is.

Training assistants and having other people handle my work has been a huge learning experience. With my first few assistants, I learned how to trust people to handle my work without standing two inches away from them. That was a very long learning curve. With Sara, I learned to trust someone to go beyond my own comfort level and to be better than I am at certain things. With the assistant I fired earlier this year, I learned the importance of trusting your instinct about people's abilities and personality, and to not think you can train them into being a different person. With my other current assistant, Hanna, I'm learning the benefits of steady feedback and consistent management. With the exception of the fired person, I've learned from all the people that have worked from me that they will almost always exceed my expectations, that their ability to learn is boundless. But that requires a lot of my time and attention, it doesn't happen by itself.

Despite the fact I was not my usual perky and delightful self with Ruth on her first day, she totally rolled with me, which bodes well for her. I slept way better that night. By her second day, she was already handling many things without my complete supervision, which totally exceeded my expectations.


  1. Phew, I'm glad things went well! I suppose you never really know until you get to work together. Let's hope things continue as they've started out.

    Your learning curves are interesting to me. I can't help wondering how I would have managed in each situation.

  2. Having any help in the studio can be tough. As you've found, with the right chemistry, it can be a huge asset too. We've had three apprentices this year with the first two leaving us for a move across the country. Our current apprentice, Hannah (irony eh?), has taken care of the shop the entire 2 months I was in the hospital. Sometimes I am amazed at how she has risen to the occasion with me being gone.

    Good luck with your new hire.

  3. It's such an interesting process to "train" someone. I love hearing about your process. It gives me pause to reflect about mine. Your blogs are always thought provoking Whitney, Thanks.