Tools. They come in handy. They can change how work is done. In my work, tools can be physical objects that help me bend metal, form it different ways, polish and sand it faster than I could with files and sandpaper.
Last year, my big tool purchase was a flexshaft, which is used in so many ways to work with metal more efficiently. It’s like a stronger, metalsmith-centric Dremel tool. And it did change things for me. I work faster, and can make things with more control and dexterity, which increases the quality of a piece by the time I am done with it.
This summer, an important tool was purchased in the form of a class. While I can’t hold it in my hands, I can hold it in my brain, and slowly, with discipline, watch it work in the same way, improving how things are made.
The class was held a couple weekends ago with Andy Cooperman, who is a metalsmith out of the Seattle area. Andy’s work is always incredibly well-made, clever, and shows a clear mastery of his vision and his materials.
It’s the best class I think I have ever taken, in terms of being an instructional course on how to do something. And, he didn’t specifically teach us how to DO something specific, other than a few rudimentary building blocks, like creating a pin mechanism for a brooch. With the basics out of the way, the class was more about how to put things together, especially in ways that don’t use heat, or soldering. Cold connections, ways to trap things within a piece.
This is information that is particularly valuable to me as a glass artist. Some stones that people use can go straight in to fire, like diamonds. You can solder around them on a piece and they don’t care. Other stones can take heat, maybe not direct flame, but can take some warmth.
Glass can’t really do any of that. When I work with glass, any large temperature change can and will cause it to crack. Up until now, I pretty much worked with traditional bezel setting for my glass in my work, which I enjoy and an always improve upon. But glass, for me, has a way to free me from such traditional settings, if I can figure out HOW. And so, this class appeared to be a door into the how.
On the other side of it now, my brain is slowly percolating what I took in over the four days of the class. Unlike a physical tool, this one won’t do what I want it to from the starting gate. My brain is the tool and it has to learn how to use the information, and then, refine my movements to the point of using it well. It’s going to take time, and practice. But that is the only way with this tool. Practice, until my brain starts to take it in and work well with the information as a tool in my arsenal. And the only way to that is through it.
My work is in front of me. Even with all the info in front of me, I need to learn how to add it to my work, how to make it work for me, how to think from within what I have learned. That’s tough stuff for me. I think I need to master some techniques before I can call upon them as solutions.
But all this slows me down in getting work OUT THERE. But that has to be ok. The work that I have mastered can still go out in the world, as it evolves. Evolving doesn’t mean the present work disappears. It feeds the future. I’m struggling with creating a schedule for all this. I’m working on it. It feels deceptively simple to do, but it isn’t. At all.
The next month is hectic for any of this. There’s a trip with family, my sons 10th birthday (Which is on the eclipse, whee!) and then starting the search for a new family cat. But I will try to squeeze in moments of learning, trying, creating, and failing. As Andy taught us, what’s the worst that could happen?