She is fearless.
For Christmas this past year She arranged for us to get a glass working lesson for two at the Drayton Glassworks in Savannah. We synched up our schedules and made arrangements for a Saturday afternoon in March to spend a couple of hours learning about the art/trade of glass.
Ronald was our instructor. He was wrapping up a lesson with a couple when we arrived. After introductions, some basic shop safety rules and an explanation of the equipment in the glass works we got right to it. Ronald’s ease with a combination of molten glass and new students was both impressive and unnerving. He took us through the basics of handling glass on pipes and how to start shaping and adding layers and colors. The goal for today was a paperweight for each of us. I went first, and I can tell you that I was playing defense all the way from the glass coming out of the crucible until my finished product went into the kiln. Then it was her turn.
She jumped right in. This should not have surprised me. When it comes to a new challenge, a new way to express herself artistically, She is all in. The way She takes to new things is nothing short of amazing. While I was over thinking everything and acutely aware of the heat of the glass we were winging around the studio, my partner in crime was examining colors, exploring shapes and working on putting the vision in her head into the molten glass. Her hands were gracefully twirling and manipulating the glowing glass on the end of the pipe with an ease and cadence that defied any notion that She had never done this before.
Ronald guided her through the steps and offered assistance when She needed it. I watched her face as She concentrated on her work. It was the same determined look I remember from high school. Head slightly tilted, her lower lip gently held between her teeth. When Ronald would take the pipe from her to heat the glass or add another layer over her work, She would look at me and just beam this incredible smile. This was not a competition between us. Which is a good thing, because She owned everything about this experience. When her smile starts in her eyes and washes over her face, I know that She loves not only what She is doing, but that we were doing it together. I am utterly bewitched by the sparkle in her eyes when I see her so happy and determined.
As She was wrapping up the paperweight and preparing it for the kiln, I could see She was hooked and would want to come back and do another lesson. As the project twirled and rolled in front of her I could tell She was wishing that our two-hour lesson was not ending. Her project was ready to be separated from the pipe and placed in the kiln. A few more rotations and some gentle scoring would enable a few taps to free the hot globe for a 24-hour rest in the kiln.
On the Monday after our lesson, She went to the studio to pick up the paperweights. Ronald left three for us. In addition to our projects, he left the one he made as a demonstration during our lesson.
I had already returned to Virginia, so She sent a photo. She also posted it on Facebook, with a little tease:
The results of Saturday’s glass working adventure at Drayton Glassworks–one by Michael, one by me and one by the instructor! I will let you all figure out who did which!!
To be honest, I could not tell which was which. In fact, I had to confess that I was not even sure we had done these. Ronald had a few classes that day, and I am not sure that he noted who did which project when he placed them in the kiln. She is not sure, herself. Does it matter? Not really. The glass paperweights are a prompt to a great memory of a day spent together opening the aperture of our shared experiences. They remind me of her determination and her grace in realizing her artistic vision and learning something outside of her comfort zone. The memory of that smile reminds me that, in those stolen moments when I am the only one who sees that big grin and slight shoulder shrug, I fall a little more into her gravity.