Thoughts, quirky insights and experiences in my meandering life.

10,000 Hours

Courtyard leading to the Scuola del Cuoio, 2016

Some time ago I was listening to a CBC radio program where they were discussing what made a band successful in the long term. The person being interviewed believed it was a long period of playing together before a band became famous. He used the Beatles as an example. Long before they were successful in Britain, and subsequently around the world, they played gig after gig in Hamburg in the fall of 1960. Four and a half hours a night during the week, and 6 hours on Saturday and Sunday. They were honing their craft, both individually and as a band. He cited the 10,000 hour theory, which in part states that practice, practice, practice is an essential part of success in accomplishing goals. Of course there is great controversy about whether natural skill plays a part, but the old saying goes “practice makes perfect”. I am drawing comfort from the 10,000 hour rule at this moment in time.

This is my work station, the picture was taken in 2016

In the summer of 2016 I was touring Italy with friends and my sister Mary joined me in Florence, Firenze. She came upon the Scuola del Cuoio while visiting the Basilica Sante Croce, it is attached at the back. She insisted that I see it. When not entering by the Basilica you come through the courtyard above. On the left side of the courtyard was a large room with a beautiful vaulted brick ceiling and obviously a leather working workshop. I was intrigued. We visited the retail store and picked up a brochure about courses they offered and my mind began to plan a way to work a course into my retirement. It was one of those times when you see something and it just felt right. So here I am.

The course began four days ago and we have been learning techniques at a terrific rate, one could say “like hell bent for leather”. Sciving, or skiving, which I knew to mean playing hooky from school, or generally getting out of something that you didn’t want to do, now means reducing the thickness of leather at the edges allowing it to be folded more easily. Net now does not mean your income after expenses have been deducted, but the pattern that is the same size as the finished leather item. Several, maybe even four or five, times a day the teacher gathers us around to demonstrate a new technique or the next step in what we are making. By the end of day three we had produced our first item. I made a document case. I really didn’t want an eyeglass case, or a phone case, so I bigged it up. Made it a bit more challenging, but how was I to know that, not knowing much of anything at the time.

My first finished item, don’t look too closely.

We are experiencing an apprenticeship that would have taken years and years in times gone by condensed into 10 weeks. Which is why I take comfort from the 10,000 hour theory. By day three my mind was giving me some pretty bad self-talk because I wasn’t doing everything perfectly first time, or sometimes even second time. My ruler would slip while I was cutting, my measuring would be off my a millimeter or two so a pattern would have to be re-done. And then I had to get a grip and get realistic. It was day three. And I have just about 10,000 more hours in my life to practice before I am perfect. It helps to keep the bad self-talk down.

Tools of the trade. And some big scary machines, not pictured.

Firenze fact. You don’t put your garbage, recycling and organic waste out to be collected, you deposit it in bins that are placed fairly frequently around town. So when I leave in the morning I take a bag of recycling, or organic waste or garbage and walk it to the community bin. I am staying in the historical district, so I don’t know if this applies everywhere.


How far did we go?


English, the international language of tourism


  1. Martin

    What a wonderful, enriching time you are having. Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us, including our two-week trip with you on Little Star. And, what a great inspiration for Daniel’s and my upcoming retirement. I know we will find adventures of our own, and hope that they will be as fulfilling and rewarding as yours!
    Martin & Daniel

    • Maggie

      I can’t wait to hear what yours are. Sailing in the Mediterranean, around the Greek islands, the Caribbean. Just suggesting.

  2. Christine A

    Fascinating, Maggie. I’m conjuring up the smell of leather in the studio and the sounds of the tools being used. So enjoying your experiences!

  3. Marnie

    Fantastic, Maggie! I’m sure you’re going to make many wonderful items, perfect or not. Don’t forget those Persian rug-makers who deliberately make a mistake because perfection is only for Allah.

    • Maggie

      It is reassuring to know that imperfection is as old as skill!

  4. Daniel

    Really excited for you Maggie. What you are doing is a connection to hundreds of years (thousands?) of human creativity.

    • Maggie

      I am loving it Daniel, and I hadn’t made that connection but you are right. It is great to be adding another tool to my craft/artisan tool kit.

  5. Anne

    A dash of imperfection makes everything more interesting… and that’s perfection. ?

    • Maggie

      My friend Peta says that perfect pots have no soul. I am holding to that!

Leave a Reply to Christine A Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén