"Oh no!" mutters Keith Walker. Or maybe he exclaims something a bit more colourful.
The molten glass is dripping too fast. The weight of the teardrop pulls downward, stretching the droplet too long too soon. It could stop, frozen solid, any second. But it doesn't. It falls into its cradle and breaks. The piece is ruined.
We've been blowing glass teardrops all day for the upcoming installation, Blue Christmas. Despite the repetition of forging 60-some nearly indistinguishable teardrops, every piece is a challenge. Unpredictable. Uncontrollable.
If art is a struggle, glass is a medium that fights back.
Less than ten minutes later we are back at that critical moment. Another chance to get it right. The heavy bottom of the teardrop sinks fast. I'm tense. I blow on the bottom of the drop with a 'sofietta' to cool it down. Keith torches the stem to melt it faster. He knows when to blow the torch and when to lay back. His mastery shows. We dance with the molten glass until it harden back to its solid state. This teardrop is perfect. Or as close to perfect as we can hope to get.
Tension. Timing. Knowing when to push forward and when to pull back. When to give and when to demand more. This process is packed with metaphors.
Blue Christmas, our first show in our new home, opens December 6. The installation will create a space for grief in a time declared joyful. Grieving needs space and time. Sorrow bears weight. Like a forming teardop, it can be heavy. In its intensity–its immediate heat–that heaviness can pull us down too hard and fast. It can break us.
But we can learn to dance with sorrow. To give it space and time. To know when to close the book and move forward. We can even draw beauty from it.
In grief we all become fragile. For a time brittle. Once passed through fire, stronger. Like this glass teardrop we have made.
I'm still processing much of what I learned in Keith Walker's glass studio yesterday.