Sunday, September 19, 2010

The jacks are all-purpose, and so very important in the realm of hot glassworking.

Their bronzed blades can shape glass bubbles into bottles, tumblers, vases, anything for which gravity must be defied in the instants of creation involved in crafting a glass vessel.

Their cupped, slender handles double as nifty bottle openers.

A fellow glassworking friend would occasionally heat the butt-end of the tool up against a hot gather of glass just to get the springiness back, that play of resistance that some gaffers need as a guide to keep them from treating the molten heat at the end of their pipes with anything less than respect for the medium.

A certain Venetian master's prime, prized jacks can cost into the hundreds of dollars - and they probably cost even more now that said master has passed away.

Drop the jacks on the floor of a certain studio in the Pacific Northwest and you owe everyone in the shop a six-pack of beer.

So yeah, these tools need to be treated as though they are an extension of your gaffing soul.  And though I haven't touched my own pair of Jim Moores in nearly ten years, this is the first time I've seriously thought about them in five.  I had a small, hot lifetime of working with hot glass smashed into a few short years in which I was overworked and very, very underpaid, and I felt that state slowly getting to me over the course of my ten-year long infatuation with the medium.  But those ten years of dizzying heights and cutting, crushing lows have never really left me.  It's a hard business, glass....but its beauty still beguiles.

In those years, I also learned to love beer and the atmospheres that have been built around it, the ritual temples of bars and pubs, the feel of a can of Bud in my hand, the terrible pool I'd play at a local watering hole when waiting for a layer of glass to melt in the furnace so I could charge it with some more cullet.  Liquor made me sick, and more than a shot or two of it still does.  The years have made me a tad more responsible and I know my limits, but it is now the bar talk that holds me in thrall as I contemplate the glow of a Blue Moon in its glass and note how one side of the base is slightly thicker than the other as I turn the vessel around and around on the bar, tooling the sweat of it with my fingertips.  Old gaffing habits die hard.

I can relate to a guy who sees the bar with a critical eye, noting with his carpenter's mind how it is put together.  I can't relate to his idea that a date isn't a date unless there's screwing involved, but then I'm trying to convince him there's a possibility he might not die young after all, citing Mickey Mantle as an example.  Though he thought me a spring chicken at first, he's learned how much of an old, nearly-blind fogey I actually am.  I fall too easily in the comfort of dark security on a barstool and share some details of my life that are usually forcibly pried out of me.  This town's too small for that, I must be careful, but without seeming like I'm being careful.  I watch another fellow negotiating his way out of insulting another's girlfriend with a bluster that is straight from a position hinting at violence that will never come, because he apologizes profusely enough that a potential disaster is averted.  The night is a young entity in this place, where college football and darts reign as diversions, but talk is the true tool, shaping perceptions, chilling some while warming others, beckoning wordsmiths and amateur raconteurs to fall into words, insults, curses, compliments, flattery, storytelling with great ease.  The wax of the bar's jacks is, at long last, the beer.

And I nearly give in to it all.  My hair is loose and free at one point.  In this realm, I'm not mom, and I could probably insult someone else's mom in the same way some fellows are trading bad, sexist jokes about Chalmatian girls.  I could get into a fight.  I could tool into and out of an affair as easily as I used to tool a line into a mostly solid bubble that would become a paperweight - but I remember the scars I used to sport from absent-mindedly knocking the screaming hot, waxed blades of the jacks against my forearm when contemplating my next step in the process at the end of the blowpipe.  It would be unhealthy to go any further. No one wants to see how badly I throw darts.

I've got what I needed, and "London Calling" on the bar stereo is my cue to exit.  No destinies will be mapped out for me from that location.  Obligations still await and I am no longer a glass dancer.  This would-be gaffer of the pub scene leaves it revolving on the end of its own precarious punty rod.  Someone else can open its lip, let it cool just enough, and then anneal it for all eternity.  It won't be me.

1 comment:

termite said...

i loved this post, leigh. anyone who has ever worked with hot glass can completely relate to your words as you describe your war wounds and the strange world at starring at colored beer bottle.