Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How long did it take you to make this?

Joyce (J): How long did it take you to make this bead?
Liliana (L): [pause]

No matter how long I take to look at the to-be-appraised-in-terms-of-time piece handed to me, it's more often that I give an answer because it is a question after all and it requires some sort of answer which is valued more if given in units of time. Except, even though I don't have trouble counting minutes and after so many years of doing it I could intuitively tell how many minutes something took to make, I hesitate because the location in my brain where the answer lies momentarily gets flooded with hard-to-sequence minutes, and hours, and days when I lose track of time.

Time becomes irrelevant when I'm behind the torch, rod in hand with a beautiful, hot flame which is as eager to veil my glass with heat as I am to discover something new while melting the glass with some imaginary purpose. This purpose is somewhat ill-formed and yet it acquires so much speed and determination in this complicated dance of multiple participants whose moves are predetermined by their very existence.
And, yet, here I am, planning ahead for resources including glass rods and tools on my station, plenty of propane in the tank and a well-running source of oxygen, and time. How long will this take me? Do I have the time right now to dedicate myself to this experiment?

Over the years I have prepared myself plenty o'times for wasted glass, wasted propane and oxygen, wasted electricity, and well-deserved pain in my hands and my back for sitting down at the torch for too long, for dry and sensitive eyes. Wasting time is one concept that I've been able to manage better than feeling my pain and the regret peeking out the counting of fewer rods in my vast collection of glass. Why do you ask? The only way I can answer this question is in units of love - I feel love to infinity when I'm behind the torch and melting glass.

J: How long did it take you to make this bead?
L: This bead represents a collection that took me three years or so to develop and feel good about so that I could systematize the process and make one in about 1 hour.
J: [shakes her head in disbelief] And how much is it?
L: $65.

Units are important, I know. Some conversations have to be concise and very clear. Oftentimes the subject of such conversations is not value but rather something more quantifiable and measurable: time in minutes or hours, cost in dollars, etc. etc. These conversations do become more substantive in value as I develop relationships with my students and customers; my students make wonderful customers :-) since they arrive at value the hard way through their own practice of the theory I teach them and the demonstrations in my classes. I find it easier to have conversations of value with people who I see more than once and instead of making sentences at each other we venture into story-telling, each story - one block at a time - gets placed into a foundation of important relational significance and investment into time.

J: What was on your mind when you made this? [J is pointing to a necklace with a large focal bead the upper part of which is a vast sky in a few colors of blue. The lower half is a horizon of tall skinny grass on a hot silvered beach.]
L: This piece and 10 others sprung out of a time in my life when I needed space. I felt burdened emotionally and I need silence. Most of the time I feel silence and peace when I'm at the ocean or I'm looking at fine artists' depictions of space by a large body of water.
J: [shakes her head vigorously] That's exactly it! I felt so peaceful and rested when brought this bead to my eyes and when I felt it in my hand.
L: [smiles and shakes her head in agreement]

Not all conversations are equal. There's value in all of them. I appreciate all the opportunities I create and I'm given whether I'm in my showroom, at a show or in my classroom. Let's give each other chances to have all kinds of conversations and the value will unveil itself at some point no matter the cost.

The "Unselected Poem" below by Chris Bursk is a reflection on the issues at hand. I hope you like it as much I did.

Say a man writes 2 poems a week for 50 years
- take away 1 poem for every week
his hands got distracted
with a papier-mache Mount Vesuvius
his daughter was molding
or a fort he was building with hi Cub Scouts
or a protest sign he held up at the statehouse.
You do the math:
52 weeks times 2 poems a week equals 104,
minus 15 neglected poems equals 89,
times 50 years equals 4,450,
minus 52 for the long year his mother took to die,
minus 26 for the six months his father took to die.
That leaves 4,372 poems by the time he's 70.
Maybe 400 or so, if he's lucky, make their way
into print, which leaves 3,972 poems
just waiting to be thrown away when he dies.
But, look, he's at work on yet another poem.

published by The Sun in their 40th Anniversary Issue (January 2014, issue 457)