Saturday, November 04, 2006

I was sitting with my husband and son over dinner at a Japanese place, and I brought up the guy I used to know. I told Dan about the Offbeat article and everything.

Dan asked me, "Was this the birthday boy?"

I told him no, that the way the guy worked, nobody there was that close to him (more about the birthday boy thing later in this post). I then filled Dan in on the Offbeat guy's talent as a glassworker (prodigious), but that he preferred to work alone during the week or with just one other fellow on the weekends. Usually, glassworking is a collaborative endeavor, and the Offbeat guy is one of only two people I've seen who can create amazing glass sculpture or vessels completely by themselves.

"Was this the guy whose wife was jealous of you?" Dan then asked.

"No, that was the girlfriend of somebody else," I said. Then I laughed a little at my realization.

"What?" Dan asked.

"I just realized that most of the people I used to work with were just nuts, and not in the way that I'm nuts."

Dan only smiled, acknowledging the correctness of my assessment.

The other part of my assessment of my past associations, the part I didn't go into in great detail over dinner, is that having met these people, and knowing that they exist, it makes me rethink going back into working with glass. I'll run into them again, I know. And this time around, I may well be less tolerant of them.

Yes, I know, there are people like this in every walk of life. I shouldn't just hermetically seal myself off from something that still tugs at me just because of the people involved, right? I guess so, but I had clues from the very beginning of my glass working days that the number of people working in glass on some professional basis is very small...and that the material itself seems to encourage and flame the eccentric fires (pardon the pun) of the people who work with it. Glassworker Walter Lieberman, and author of Walt's Glass Guide, had it right when he put on the cover of his book, "Glass is a cruel mistress." He should have added the admonition that if you play with fire, you're going to get burned somehow.

Forget what happened to me ...and wrap this one around your head:
An acquaintance of mine described an apartment hunt she embarked on with a former classmate of mine right here in New Orleans. The guy was actually a couple of years older than me, but because the glass department was so small, most everyone there was familiar with his work. He was a great artist and sculptor, and he had a real love for burned wood, for the look and the smell of it. The man had exhibited a common trait among glassworking folks, and I must admit that I am no exception to this: the love of burned wood and the need to work with a fiery material speak loudly of pyromania. Heck, of my graduating class, three of the six of us getting BFAs in glass were fire signs, with birthdates within four days of each other.

The two looked at one apartment in the city that seemed to be just perfect, maybe a little pricey. The people showing the place, the building's owners, were very nice in the bargain, even apologizing immensely when a rug was nudged by someone's toe to reveal a patch of burned wood in the otherwise refinished floor. My former classmate's eyes got big - there was one of his great loves, right there on the floor. "You don't understand," his apartment hunting companion began. "You see, he loves the look of burned wood, the smell..."

And with that, the potential apartment deal was off.

I was a teaching assistant at a summer crafts program the summer after I graduated college, and I was witness to a seasoned artist and craftsman testing out an assessment of the heat of a blast furnace, or glory hole. Shortly before all the glassworking equipment, except for the glass furnaces, was shut down for the night, the artist casually walked into the studio with a twenty-five pound block of wet clay, enclosed in a plastic bag. He opened the doors to the glory hole, chucked in the entire block of clay, plastic and all, and closed the doors. Flames immediately shot out from the hole, then subsided as the plastic burned off the block, and then the clay began to fire in the 2000-plus degree heat, from the outside in to the center of the block. As bits and pieces of heat hardened clay popped out of the glory hole, those who were gathered in the hot shop discussed the debunking of the hyperbolic assessment of a glory hole's heat. I can tell everyone, unequivocally, that a glory hole will not instantly fire a twenty-five pound block of wet clay. And it leaves behind a big mess.

The artist's teaching assistant came in the next morning. "What is this in the hole?" she asked when she was firing up the equipment. Heh, heh.

Oh, and the birthday boy thing? Not much to do with heat, but everything to do with employee-to-employee pranks, and this one was pretty gross. It happened the very day I was cleaning out my stuff from one studio to go to work at another. I walked past the hot shop towards the back of the studio and spied an iced cake sitting on one of the observer's chairs on the viewing floor. A maintenance guy saw me looking at it and told me not to touch it. A coworker had made it for the birthday boy, and after the singing and the candles were over, the one slice missing from the cake was given to the lucky guy. He took a large forkful, put it in his mouth, began to chew, and made a face. Turned out the cake was iced with mayonnaise.

I shook my head, and thought, as I gathered up my stuff and walked out the door, good riddance. To malicious cooking coworkers.

More on other glass crazies I have known - coming very soon.

Oh, and I'm now posting daily due to this NaBloPoMo thing I found out about through another blog I've been lurking at sometimes and commenting at often lately. I figured, what the heck. It is a chance to win some cool stuff, flex some writing muscles, and get my addled brain in gear. Feel free to scroll down and click on the links to past posts if you've missed out on some stuff, because, hopefully, the writing will be fast and furious for the next month. I may have to hijack my husband's work laptop while we are away over Thanksgiving to post. It's all for a good cause, right? Right???!??!!!!!?????

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