Saturday, February 20, 2010

I Have Confidence in Me

There's a tendency I have to suspect things are going to be more difficult than they wind up being. This tendency happens in lots of things and is getting worse as I become curmudgeonly. When I first really noticed this issue it was when I delayed running for dorm president for a year because I was unsure of myself and sure someone else would do a better job. Then someone else got elected and did an fine job, but not a better job than I could have done, and there I was, stuck for a year. But I ran and won the next year. My first meeting was a fiasco, then I had a chat with the housemaster about Roberts Rules of Order, and things went well from there on out. I messed up, everything got posted in the first online version of the school newspaper, I learned, I fixed it, and I enjoyed myself a lot, and from the feedback I got, I did a better than average job. If I hadn't had a hard problem to deal with (the "Just Say No" generation hitting college vs drinking at parties), I never would have learned my better skills. But even starting out rocky, the job was not beyond my abilities (once I developed the necessary abilities). I think of that whenever I encounter something daunting and try to assess real obstacles from false yet sometimes I still psych myself out.

But in at least one area, I consistently think I'm awesome with awesome sauce, able to do anything I desire, despite any evidence to the contrary. And while that could go awry, I keep my desires reasonable, and given how it contrasts to the fears I face for almost everything else I think about doing, it actually brings some healthy balance.

I have utter confidence in my glassblowing skills. Granted, I've been at it for years and years - but that doesn't translate into years and years of practice. I was really diligent while at school, worked hard, became an assistant instructor, worked harder, worked with some amazing primary instructors, and got exposure to more techniques than I can shake a stick at. But I also had a lot of downtime. I had 2 years where I had enough energy to instruct, but not enough energy to use my in-kind studio time. I finally committed, got regular glass time in the studio, beefed up my skills, made 10 ta-ta vases, then moved to CA and failed to find a well matched partner. So my experience is all over the place, but my memories are of my successes.

Yet whenever I look at the history of my work, many of the items I thought were the best thing ever, are only pretty good. For instance, I save my best ornament (or two) from each ornament season and each year I think I'm the best, and next year they get better. While it stands to reason that would improve, the amount of improvement can be a little shocking.

What's also shocking is that when I take time off from glassblowing, I don't come back at 100%. This might not be terribly unsurprising to anyone else, but it always catches me off guard. I finally, finally got a regular glassblowing partner so I can make something other than ornaments. I love making ornaments, but they're not the only thing I want to do. Once one has an assistant, the possibilities explode. While one can do other things by onesself, I don't really like to. Also, I like the forced teamwork of the exercise. Glass can be incredibly social. It can also be competitive. And I haven't put a flat bottom on anything in 4 years. It doesn't feel like ny time at all in my head, but my fingers remind me.

After 3 years of all ornaments all the time, but for a couple of pumpkin runs (essentially big ornaments), and my baby sea monster (which is a prototype alligator and all kinds of wrong but I love him)
face of green glass monster with googly eyes
...I'm having issues making your basic cylinder. When I took a class at Corning - the year I decided I needed to commit to the hobby or give it up entirely - my first day elements were lousy, but by the second day I was back on track. I made some really nice stuff that week. It has now been 4 sessions after nearly a year out of the studio (damned economy!) and that 4 years without a paddle and I've finally made a decent cup. (I'd call it a "glass" but that somehow seems non-specific.)

I know all sorts of ways to make a tall straight cup;
  • blow while jacking the sides straight
  • blow while shaping with a newspaper
  • marver the end a lot and blow the sides thin
  • cap the end and marver the sides straight
  • blow a wider bubble and swing it out
  • use a v-shaped block lined with newspaper
  • blow into a mold
  • pull with diamond shears from the bottom while blowing.
I could go on, then start on how best to put in a flat base.

At any rate, I think I've tried and done poorly with more than half of these methods in the last few weeks. They all have their pros and cons. Most of the con is that I looked like a beginner, got awkward results, and that's weird for me because I know all this stuff, but my muscle memory appears to have atrophied. My heat judgment is off, and heat is everything. My memory of the basics is sound but the details that feed the mojo have to be dug out of deep storage.

But I still think I'm all that. And I'll get to where my skills match my mental pictures. I have plans and ideas, and help with the blowing and bit work. I wonder if olympic athletes feel like this about their sport? P.S. If you're waiting on a wedding present, they're finally in the works and I'm getting excited about them. Hopefully they will work and you will love them.


MarciaBC said...

I like your monster. He'd (she, it) would make a great desk pet.

CrankyOtter said...

That's a good idea. If I remember, I might move him to the desk. I definitely think it's a him. I like him too, but he's definitely not an alligator.

Up My Mind said...

Alligators are overrated. I like the sea montster. :) Have fun!