Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Blowing, Blowing, Gone . . .

While not at ALL related to my surgery, I had one of the greater experiences of my "young" life last night (I would put it top 15 experiences in my life, frankly) . . . I attended my first glass blowing class at a place called CityArts next door to my office.

A Christmas gift from Joy, the class was one of those things that I always wanted to do - to experience. Glass is a "passion" of mine . . . as I have mentioned here on the blog, Joy and I collect fancy glass "stuff" (glass balls, vases, bottles, trinkets, etc.). This obsession works quite well for me here in my new environment.

Wichita, believe it or not, is something of a "hub" for the glass-art world. There is Karg Glass in Kechi (a short drive from downtown Wichita and well worth the trip). There are TWO permanent exhibits at the Wichita Art Museum dedicated to glass and, the centerpieces of the museum (the chandelier in the great hall and the glass "over/under" exhibit at the main entrance) are both works of glass art by David Chihuly best known, perhaps, for his "glass garden" in the Bellagio in Vegas and there are dozens of artisans in this part of Kansas that work with glass.

Anywho, about last night . . . I was in class with just one other person and there were three other "students" working in the studio with us (that have taken classes at City Arts and worked with glass for between two and thirty two years) who were doing AMAZING things with hot, hot glass (made me anxious for how good I might someday become if I am patient and as crafty as I like to think I am).

There were three things last night's class taught me . . .

1 - Patience and Thinking Ahead are Invaluable - The molten glass (that is heated in a 2100 degree "stove" before you "gather" it (that's glass lingo for you - I'm an insider now (smile)) has to stay at or above 1000 degrees for most of the work you want to do with it. So you have to CONSTANTLY watch your "cherry" (the end of the metal rods you use to work glass that gets red hot from the glory holes you use to heat the glass) and spin the rod at a constant rate and speed and keep your rod perfectly horizontal and balance your tools and watch those around you and not burn yourself and think, as you walk to the glory hole, what the next three steps you want to get through are so you can be ready when you get back to the bench, etc. etc. etc.

2 - It is HOT Working with Glass - The oven where you gather glass is 2100 degrees. The glory holes are at least 1200 degrees. The oven where you put your glass when you are done with it are 900 degrees (so they glass can COOL in there over time (they slowly ramp the ovens down to room tempurature over a 10 - 14 hour period). The rods you work with can easily get up to 1200 degrees at the tip and 800+ degrees as far as 18" off the tip (the total pole length is only about five feet so that's a lot of warmth) and the glass you might drop or lose from your rod can actually MELT CONCRETE (forget your shoes and clothes if you step on it or it falls on you). The studio we worked in is an outdoor studio that, on a 45 degree Wichita evening, was over 80 degrees at the coolest spot and was about 120 degrees in front of the glory holes and ovens. I was sweating (some from nerves, some from actual fear of the hot glass and the fires and ovens and glory holes and most from the heat) for the enitre three hours of my class - I'll take a water bottle next week for sure.

3 - It is TIRING working with Glass - It is mentally tough to constantly be thinking ahead and "dancing the dance" (as my instructor put it) of glass working. You have to watch everything around you and know where you are and where your oven is and where your tools are and where your fellow artists are and where you are going and what you are doing while ONLY looking at the hot glass at the end of your rod and you have to constantly be thinking about what you are going to do next while dealing with the heat and the stress and the physical activity of spinning the rod all the time (it took 25 minutes, eleven trips to the glory hole or gathering hole and thirteen four-letter utterances for me to make a paperweight that will no doubt be embarassingly bad when I pick it up next week at my next class) spinning and spinning and spinning and walking and standing and sitting and moving and sweating and thinking the whole time.

Come to think of it - maybe this is ALL surgery related. A year ago, I could not have had the energy or the physical presence to take the exertion or the heat of glass blowing and my patience was not nearly what it is now either. The thinking ahead part - I had that going for me the whole time BUT - the rest of it - that required the "new me."

So 2008 is only one week in and, already, I've had a first-in-a-lifetime-of-always-wanting-to-do-someting-experience and I'm very, very happy about it.

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