Island of the Gods Part 2: Embracing Imperfection

Admittedly, I’m a recovering perfectionist. I like to get things right and sometimes this causes me a lot of frustration, especially when I’m out of my comfort zone and things are not what I’m used to. When travelling, this happens pretty much all the time. I think a lot of people (myself included) idealize travel as this perfect escape from your everyday life, but sometimes the reality doesn’t turn out to be what you had in your mind. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse. I guess that’s the risk you take when you step outside of your regular routine.


My vision for every day in Bali – laughing and hanging with friends in holy hot springs surrounded by lush gardens!


You might spend hours researching the perfect oceanview hotel room and when you arrive it’s not even facing the water. You book an excursion to snorkel with the manta rays in the clear, blue ocean and instead you end up swimming through heaps of garbage. You imagine yourself driving a scooter around an idyllic island (you know, hair blowing in the wind and all) but it never happens because nobody on that island will rent a scooter to a girl by herself. These stories never make it to Instagram, but all these things happened to me and as they occurred – I’ll admit it – I was pissed! Sometimes Bali did not deliver on the perfect, serene, adventure-filled month of self-discovery I’d had planned for myself.


These Mt. Batur monkeys are cute, but they’ll also jump on your back and steal your belongings!
Sampling the local Luwak coffee (yep, that’s the cat poop one). In this case, expectation met reality. 👎 


The Bass Drum Solder Surprise

The week I spent at my Advanced Metalsmithing class in Canggu was truly a test of my perfectionist tendencies. I had this idea in my head that I’d go in each day to an immaculate studio and spend my hours creating and learning from experienced jewellers and magically come out with the skills I’d need to set up my own studio and start soldering my way to success back home! This is not what happened.

If I’d known now what I know about Bali, I should have expected that the word “course” doesn’t imply that there’s any kind of agenda for what you are going to learn. Instead, I’d come in each day and they’d say “What do you want to make today?”. Then we’d attempt to make something that looked like that thing.


Here’s me, pretending to know what I’m doing.


Probably the biggest challenge for me was making the adjustment from the meticulous, well-equipped studio I’d taken classes at back home, to the make-due-with-what-you’ve-got Balinese version in Canggu. Back home, if you needed to join two ends of a silver ring by soldering, you’d prepare both ends so that they are perfectly flat, fit them as tightly together as possible so you can’t see any light through the crack. Then, you’d melt the tiniest possible piece of solder using your built-in gas torch so it would fill the crack and create an invisible join. You’d have a perfect circle.

In Bali (at least where I was), there was no installed gas line. The process of soldering involved shaking a bottle of petrol under your workbench, lighting your torch, and continuously pumping a gas pedal like a really fast bass drum beat to keep your flame from going out. Managing all of that while trying to keep my hand steady enough to get the solder in the right spot with a pair of dull tweezers (while simultaneously ensuring I didn’t overheat and melt my entire piece), was a true test of my patience.


Some things I made.


Back home, you have to wear safety goggles and closed toe shoes in the studio. In Bali, eyewear is non-existent and everyone goes barefoot in the studio. Making something perfect simply wasn’t an option so I had to start to see the beauty in the imperfection. Initially I hated that I could see the join in a ring where I’d used too much solder, but now I see a story there of a crazy bass drum solder set-up and a sweet guy named Made saying “Make it hot! Make it red!” as I tried to figure out what the hell I was doing.


In many ways, Bali overdelivered. Example: Potato Head Beach Club.
Another example: Food. There are so many amazing restaurants in Bali and a $2 coconut gets presented to you like this! With free popcorn no less!


Like most experiences, you can find the silver lining in anything. I would not by any stretch call myself an Advanced Metalsmither, but I do have a new collection of imperfect, but gorgeous silver jewellery to take home and a story to tell. The people who run the classes are also some of the loveliest humans I’ve ever met and sitting at my bench filing and sanding away while they sang along with the songs on the radio made me feel more like a local than any other time during my month in Bali. Sometimes I was really wishing I was at the beach with a Bintang instead of filing off my fingertips at the studio, but I’m still grateful to have had this experience.


Seminyak sunset. Always perfect.

7 Replies to “Island of the Gods Part 2: Embracing Imperfection”

  1. What a great birthday gift Heather – catching up with you via this blog! Seems Bali has taught you some insightful lessons about yourself, and has given you some unique jewellery too! Thanks for sharing!!!
    Miss ya!
    xo 😘

  2. So proud of you stepping out of your comfort zone! That is a real test of patience, but it doesn’t surprise me that you could do it. I can see you making a lot more beautiful jewelry. Loving your blog and great pictures.
    Love and miss you❤️Mom

  3. My kind of office with 8 minute sunsets,beaches(empty),hot pots,great food,and peaceful not in a hurry people.Enjoying your pics,well done making jewelry with primitive tools,and your narrative sure makes me want to be with you and these people. Can’t believe they wouldn’t rent you a scooter.You know how to navigate up steep snow packed driveways in a VW backwards.Travel safe.Luv yeh,pops

  4. Nice, keep them’ posts coming!! 🙂

  5. I’m really enjoying reading about your adventures Heather. Your blog is not only interesting to other travellers but your impressions give a unique perspective on your journey to the rest of us at home. You have included great pics too, not the generic travel photos.
    You may be a perfectionist and not completely satisfied with your jewelry making efforts but I think they’re FABULOUS!

    1. Heather McManus says:

      Thanks Deb! That means a lot coming from you! Glad to know we have a fan 🙂

  6. Awesome posts!!! I want more 😊

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