For this month’s Blogging for Books, write about a time when you either:
learned a harsh life lesson, got punk’d, or simply had someone make an ass of you;
gained a spectacular new insight into life; or
decided to educate yourself about something.
(Because it has been going around in my head quite a bit, this whole education and possible re-education thing I've been grappling with career-wise and kid-wise (this morning, the little guy went bad-crazy when he realized we were headed to the "work school" again. Ding, Ding, ready for week two...), I decided to weigh in on the above Blogging for Books question, the education one in particular. I'm ready for my gift certificate, Mr. DeMille...uh...Allen!)
My dad dates it to when we began to kibitz with some biker dude in standstill traffic, waiting for the blast crews working on the highway to give the all-clear. The dude revealed within the course of our conversation that he was a glassblower. "Or, perhaps it was all those times we took you with us to the Houston Festival," Dad says sometimes, implying I might have been bit by the glass bug through craft-show osmosis.
I myself date it to art history in college.
Plus, the fact that I'm a Sagittarius. And every glassblower does have a bit of a pyromaniac lurking within his/her heart of hearts. Folks born under a fire sign, take heart. Parents of the aforementioned folks, beware.
I hunted down the head of the glass department midway through my first semester of art school, pinned him down and told him the preliminary meeting for the beginning hot glass course held between the two semesters would exclude the entire freshman class, since it was scheduled to be right in the middle of the art history survey course. So the situation was remedied quickly, because the department head needed fresh bodies for the continued operations of the undergraduate program. Not quickly enough, as it turned out, because half of the expected people clamoring for spots in the class showed up and were signed up on the spot, myself among them.
I learned, in six weeks of working with hot glass, how to gather it out of a 2000 degree furnace on the end of a steel pipe without frying my hands. I learned never to touch any glass in the hot shop with my bare hands - I figured out the hard way that even though it may not look hot, it can be hot. I learned to constantly turn the hot glass on the end of a pipe, or else it would fall right off. I learned how to grind and polish glass with diamond tools, silicon grits, grinding belts, and loads of water. I learned, after accidentally setting myself on fire, where the fire blanket was. An instructor later joked that it was because of me that the hot shop finally received a shower, and that my name would be engraved on it.
After six weeks, I learned that six weeks wasn't enough for me. I sneaked into the hot shop whenever I could, with a fellow beginning class alumnus in tow. We took hold of open glassblowing slots and made the most of them. When the time came, I declared glass as my major.
I loved my experiences up on the fourth floor of the industrial building in which the glass department was housed. The set-up of the whole program was communal, encouraging a closeness between graduates and undergraduates. I had the perfect glass blowing partner for a couple of years and was somewhat depressed when she graduated the year before I did. I got a kick out of the visiting artists that paraded through the halls like the art stars half of them were. I even attended some summer programs.
And then, in my last year, a certain decline occurred. I received a fellowship to a glass studio in New Jersey for three months, but the only time they could have me come was in my final semester of college. I cried at the injustice of the timing and stayed in school to get my degree. Partner-less, and expected to develop a vision that would lead to the start of a strong portfolio that could well catapult me to an art glass career, I stumbled a bit towards the glass goal, suddenly realizing there was more to life than glass. It took another six years after graduation for that realization to sink in.
I date the beginning of the end to my failure to get into a graduate-level glass program. I set myself up for it - I only applied to two schools. A graduate-student friend said to me, "Oh, but life gets in the way if you put off graduate school. You should have applied to more schools." I realized, when she said that, that I wanted life to get in the way.
So I have that piece of paper, that degree. I have my college memories and my struggles afterward with the real world and trying to fit glasswork into it somehow. I have my glass tools, my blowpipes, and many things around the house that are packed away so that my preschool-age son doesn't get to them. But I also have this final thing that I have learned.
Glass never loved me back. And I gave a lot of my life to it. I just wasn't cut out to be married to it, I guess. What I really loved were the people I met, the experiences surrounding the atmosphere of the excellent program that was set up at the art school I attended. It was all a great glorious rush, and it seems to have had its day.
Funny how such a thing helped teach me so much about life and the people in it.