Crystal Dreams of...???

Last night, Ian and I watched an amazing documentary about sushi. Only it wasn't really about sushi. It was about an ordinary man who has dedicated his life to greatness, to perfection, in short: to mastering the art of sushi.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (available on Netflix streaming) is inspirational to say the least. Jiro Ono is 85 years old and has been perfecting sushi for 75 years. It is (almost literally) all he does. He says:

"Once you decide on your occupation... you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success... and is the key to being regarded honorably."

I've been thinking about this and what it means in my life. I'm obviously not in love with my job but I AM in love with my creative work. Except...I haven't been behaving like it. I get tired of my projects, abandon them halfway through. I sit on the couch and watch tv rather than force myself to go into the studio. My back hurts, I'm tired, sewing is repetitive, painting takes too much effort.


Why is it that before last night I never realized what being in love with my work meant? The secret of success...immerse yourself in your work, fall in love with it, never complain about it, dedicate your life to mastering your skill. Like all relationships, you get out what you put in. No wonder sewing gets boring...I don't strive for greatness. No wonder the thought of painting is overwhelming...I have not dedicated my life to perfecting my skills.

"I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I'll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is."

I used to think doing the same thing over and over again was a waste of time...why not move on to something that poses new challenges? After watching this movie, I understand that it is not one or the other that cultivates satisfaction. We must work to improve skills we already have and use them to push our work to new heights, to climb, to try to reach the top even though no one knows where the top is.


I have much more thinking to do about this but in the meantime, if you feel at all stuck, bored, uninspired, imperfect, incomplete...please watch this documentary. If you don't feel any of those things (lucky!) but you really, really love sushi, this is also the documentary for you.

(A note about the photos in this post...while writing this, I remembered the time I made a bunch of Dresdens for my friend Jen...a project that, had I been making it for myself, I would have quit after the first one. But I didn't quit...instead, I worked hard for days and never once got bored, never once wanted to quit. There was something so peaceful yet exciting about making those Dresdens. It was repetitive but with each blade sewn, each circle completed, each Dresden sewn to the background fabric, I felt that much closer to perfecting Dresdens. It was one tiny moment in a life-long pursuit of artistic perfection. It was one step closer to the top...wherever that may be.)


  1. I just watched that recently, as well, and loved it. Not only do I want to eat at Jiro's restaurant, I want to apply his work ethic.

  2. Reading your post was so profound. I am at work, un-inspired with the job, and just want to go home and back to bed. I also know the feeling of not creating my best work in quilt; I have that goal but cannot seem to reach it. You post has inspired me, I will watch this movie and get a clear insight on what I am trying to achieve in my quilting. Thank you.

  3. Wow, this really hit home for me - you've given me a lot to think about. I've always been someone who wants to have that exact feeling and level of accomplishment, to take the path of mastering a skill through time and dedication, but I have always had the need to explore and reach out over many disciplines and techniques for a greater challenge. I've been questioning that need recently, what purpose it serves or if it is just procrastination in the face of deeper learning and commitment. Yes, I'll need to think a lot more on that one.... :)

    I'd love to see the finished Dresden too!

  4. Such perfect timing! I have been feeling the need to evaluate various things in my life and make some difficult decisions on what needs to change. I LIKE many of the creative things I'm doing, but don't LOVE them all. I think I need to be more selective in what I do, and perhaps then the decision on what to work on next won't be so monumental, often ending in nothing being done! Thank you for this post. I just ordered the movie from the library and am looking forward to viewing it.

  5. How inspiring! We all need a jump start every once in a while. Good deal!

  6. well, Crystal, way to write a post and show me MY lack of enthusiasm for MY quilt that YOU made half the blocks for in record time, I may add!! I love every single one and I have this very strong feeling that when this quilt is done, anyone will be able to point out "Crystal's Drendens" vs. Jen's dresdens! I'll get there someday and when I do, I obviously need to consult you b/c I think I would have gone about my Dresdens all wrong. I like how yours look above (all organized and in some sort of order, I'm guessing) so I'm going to inquire when my time comes at how you tackled them.

    As far as perfecting our job....not sure I'll ever be able to "perfect motherhood, or being a wife" but I know I surely could make more of an effort and try a little harder....Yes...I seem to be in another funk....

    but I did get my 2 quilts finally basted! I have a busy week ahead of me but come Friday, I may have a breather and can get some quilting done!

  7. This morning I was reading Capek's play "The Makropulos Case." There's young woman, Kristina, an aspiring opera singer, who buys into the Jiro view of happiness.

    KRISTINA: Please, Janek, don't kiss me. I-- I have other problems now. Oh Janek, I mustn't think about you now.

    JANEK: But Kristy!

    KRISTINA: Listen Janek, if I want to BE someone I have to change! I mean it. I must be sensible. I must think of one thing and one thing only, then I'm bound to succeed. Don't you see?

    JANEK: I see.

    KRISTINA: I must think only about music.

    Anyways, I just thought it was a curious coincidence.

    It remains the case, though, that no one could pay me enough to entice me into living a life like Jiro's. They could, however, entice me to eat his sushi while thinking about a variety of things.

  8. I've long been a believer that it's not talent that makes great but loads of practice. It's what I teach my students, and yet it is super hard to apply it to my own life. The creative pursuits become lower priority to things that really don't matter.

    Your post really resonated with me because I realized what I'm missing is that love. It's become work, something I feel I must do. You've helped me remember that I do this because I love it, and because I love it, it is sometimes work. But that's not a bad thing. Thank you for your post!

  9. Hi, I am actually commenting to another post, about your GiGi bike... Do you like it? I am about to buy one (used) and haven't seen that many reviews...I was not able to comment on that particular post, I couldn't figure out where the comments section was located.

    p.s. beautiful quilts, perfect for fall!

    1. Hello! I hope you get says you left a no-reply comment so I can't email you back. Also, my comments all got locked a while back and I have to go unlock them all...a task that I've been putting off but that you reminded me I need to do.

      Anyway, I love the Gigi bike with one exception. It only has three gears. I thought that would be alright but the three gears it has are really, really low. I always ride it in third gear and it's tiring to try to pedal any faster. If you are a slow, leisurely biker, you will love it! It's better than other cruisers because it has more than one gear. That said, if you're a speedy biker, you'll want to get one that has more gears...I know there are some out there that are super cute.

      Of course, I think Gigi is the cutest but, you know, you might care about functionality a little more than I do. :)

  10. Hi Crystal,

    Thanks so much for replying with this info about Gigi!! I am not sure why my settings are like that, so I will have to check into it.

    I am looking for a bike that would be easy to ride, a recreational-fun-no fuss ride, I don't want to deal with gears at all, I am too slow anyway and have no balance, so a cruiser style close to the ground seems like the type of bike I would feel comfortable.

    :-) sue

  11. Thank you for writing this post, it was fantastic! I watched Jiro dreams of Sushi with my husband this week because of it, and wow. He is truly an inspiration, and it has given me much to think on :)


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