"Ars longa, vita brevis."
12/21/2008 9:00 AM eastern
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!!!! “ The studio was freezing. I was wearing so many layers that my arms wouldn't bend and I was still cold. Back in the summer when the kiln would heat the studio to 110 degrees or more I dreamt of winter. The sweat would drip off my nose like a leaky faucet leaving little circular stains on the art. "This sucks!" I would think, "I can't wait till winter." Well it’s definitely winter now. I fumbled blindly with the switch on the propane heater as my safety glasses fogged from the heat of my breath. "This sucks!" I thought, "I can't wait till summer.”
When I was young a day would drag on like a year. I wished I could speed things up just so I could get somewhere else. But in time, just as my elders had predicted, my years turned into days and the future no longer seemed quite so glamorous. I wasn't young when I discovered art and there was so much to learn. To quote Hippocrates, "Ars longa, vita brevis." No longer do I want to rush through life. Not to sound too "Zen", but I have learned to appreciate the process not just the destination… or at least I thought I had. It is easier to be "Zen" in the spring and fall in my line of work.
But most importantly I have discovered that art won't make itself, and "Zen" or not I have work to do.
12/20/2008 5:57 PM eastern
Work is an ever present task master. The money is never good enough to take more than a momentary pause and anyway the art must always go forward. Ever more refined, ever more inventive. Even the pleasurable reward of a piece well done only spurs you on to greater heights. At some point I would like to just stop. I mean one day just put down the copper, lock the studio and never look back. But that day is a long way off.
For now I hike. In nature you are just an observer. Nature moves along at her own pace. Rhythms that are eons old play out with no concern for little me. I don’t have any responsibility here. No need to be creative or memorable. You just watch…. listen…. and sometimes smell.
Today my friend and I decided to hike a local park called Raven Run. The woods were wet and quiet. Even though the temperature was relatively mild the trails were empty. During the warmer months the park is full of bird songs but with the colder temperatures came an empty silence. Still I scanned the trees for the odd woodpecker or creeper. I like to think of myself as an amateur birder. I own a guide book for Eastern bird species and an accompanying recording of their vocalizations. So when we rounded a bend in the trail and were greeted by a loud chattering I immediately cocked my head and put on a look of concentration. “I’m not sure.” I said after a moment, "Maybe a redheaded woodpecker." “I see its tail!” my hiking partner exclaimed. Following the line of her finger I spotted the bushy tail of the fattest grey squirrel I had ever seen. Definitely not a redheaded woodpecker. "Of course." I said, "Its a grey squirrel." Tonight I woud reread my guide to Eastern bird species.
12/17/2008 3:20 PM eastern
When I was a woodworker I liked the smell of the studio. The mixture of cherry and walnut shavings made a slightly organic but comforting smell. Copper doesn’t smell comforting. As far as I can tell it doesn’t smell at all. Today the studio was just cold. The propane heater hissed and moaned in the corner as if protesting the freezing temperature. I wished I was building a table instead of making art.
I switched on my iPod hoping that Ernest Hemingway’s "Green Hills of Africa" would distract me from the cold. "A Moveable Feast" would have been a better choice. Paris could be plenty cold in the winter and Hemingway was not yet a household name. Wood and coal were costly and his apartment stayed chilled.... at least I could commiserate. Hemingway drank to keep warm. I operated power tools so that was out of the question. "The Green Hills of Africa" was not as good. Hemingway was too obsessed with hunting. I suspected he was compensating for some shortcoming, most likely in the region of his pants. I much preferred Karen Blixen’s "Out of Africa". She left the reader sunburned by the hot African sun, smelling the coffee trees and hearing the roar of lions.
A few hours later the heater had burned out and the shop was even colder. The art was looking good though. Hemmingway was stalking some kind of antelope and complaining about his native guide. I didn’t feel like getting more propane so I shut off the lights and closed the studio door.