I was thinking of robin's comment about how each time you work on something beyond your skill and/or comfort level, you eventually achieve that level, although it may take a while...it sure did for me!
I thought I'd post a few of the milestones in my beading life...
I started beading seriously (like every day or close to it) in 1991. Of course, I'd done some beadwork in campfire girls and as a teen, but I'd do a bit and then go on to something else.
In 1991 we had just moved back to the coast (in Oregon) and I was working as a graphic designer/typesetter for a local printer. I had been making and showing computer/digital art for several years, but I found that I couldn't work all day at the computer and then come home and make art on it for another few hours, so I shifted to something totally different and started doing beadwork. I was extremely lucky to find an awesome beading group here, due to the efforts of two older gals, Deon DeLange and Jeanne Bard. Deon had written several books on brick stitch and was about to open a store of her own in a small town about 15 miles south of us, and Jeanne had opened a bead store, a few years before I started beading, in the town I now live in. Between the two of them, there was a really large group of very good beaders for such a sparsely populated area. This is when I started beading in 1991.
I started with the peyote stitch, since I wanted to bead around three dimensional things (like tiny perfume bottles) and I made a bunch of them, using mostly size 12 3-cuts, so they were very sparkly...I was hooked!
Not too long after that I saw some of don pierce's loomwork and was introduced to delicas for the first time. I started making simple peyote bracelets with delicas and when I had a bunch, I took them down to one of our many local galleries and submitted them. I was really thrilled when they decided to carry my bracelets and I made my first sales fairly quickly.
I kept on learning new stitches and using more types of beads, but I was still just doing off-loom stitches. I took a class from don, but the loomwork just didn't hook me in the way the off-loom work did.
I was really happy when I saw the first book or article (can't remember which) on freeform peyote, because it meant I could use different sizes and types of beads on the same piece...freedom!
Then in 1995 I saw a piece of david chatt's work and decided I needed to learn right angle weave. I contacted david and asked if he would teach a class down here and he told me his terms and I organized a 4-day workshop and learned to do 3-D RAW...neat!
Somewhere around 1998, a couple of friends took Nan C Meinhardt's master class, a whole year of meetings and classes that aimed to put the gals who took it to a new level in their work. As I couldn't begin to afford the thousand dollar tuition, I decided to give myself a master class and I choose RAW to work in. I wanted to do something that would really challenge me and something that I hadn't seen done. So, I got an almost full size glass head and decided to bead it. The concept was that we are all alike under the skin, so I decided to divide it into 4 visual quarters...one representing white, one black, one yellow and one brown-skinned people. It took me two years to finish (and I don't know how many beads!)....I used charlottes - a detail bead people will appreciate! - on the base and all sorts of fun beads for the hair, including a bunch of tiny dentalia shells for the brown-skinned quarter. I have to say the piece itself was both a success and a failure, with the success far outweighing the failure. I didn't solve all the technical problems but the whole piece itself was just one long 2-year learning experience and I certainly felt I'd "mastered" RAW by the time I was done! Shortly afterward I began making jewelry using RAW, with charlottes and 3mm nailheads, which is probably still to this day, the most beautiful work I've ever done. It was a great time!
Here's a couple of pics of the head...it was loaned to a couple of friends who smoked and some of the dentalia shells turned a bit brown, but I like to think it just adds patina to the piece!