Monday, April 30, 2007

I Was Scared

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I eyed him with great suspicion. Robert was not your average production assistant. The noisy, temperamental director had hired four of us at once. David, Missy and I were all in our early twenties. Robert seemed ancient at thirty. He certainly didn’t seem the type to put up with the tantrum throwing man who hired us.

David and Missy, both cute blondes with the collective IQ of a third grader, were to be on the set with the screaming director. That left Robert and I to run the office.

After two weeks alone with him I had learned he was from Indiana, had just moved to L.A. with his exotic Indian girlfriend and had left a long time job at a television station.

I really couldn’t fathom what had brought him here. He had someone he loved, a good job; he liked Indiana and his family. I finally worked up my nerve and just asked.

“So Robert, why did you move here?”

“To make movies...That’s all I’ve wanted to do since college.”

“But, you’re 30. What took you so long to move here?”

“I was scared.”

Confused, I asked, “Of what?”

“It’s frightening to leave a job and move across the country when you don’t know what you’re going to find when you get there.”

I just stared at him.

“You really don’t get it do you?” he asked but didn’t wait for my answer. “You have no idea how brave you are do you?”

I’ve thought about this conversation quite a lot lately. Sometimes I think that moving here was the only brave thing I ever did. Only, is it bravery when you are just doing what you have to?

I’ve had a longing in my heart for six years now. That longing was to make my own lampwork beads. And I haven’t done it because I was scared.

I first became really aware of lampwork while working on The Carol Duvall Show. Orna Willis always seemed to have the most fascinating jewelry and even had lovely beads dangling from her scissors. She was the one to turn me onto ebay.

And while I say this obsession with glass began just a handful of years ago, it really began … more years than I care to remember. The first piece of really nice jewelry I bought had Venetian glass. And I’ve collected different types of glass over the years, since I was in high school.

When I was about to leave Carol, my good friend Bindy Lambell, a jewelry designer, was about to take a lampwork class. She begged me to join her. Knowing I wouldn’t have income for a while, I regretfully passed. Within months, Bindy had quit her day job and was making beads full time.

When I finally decided to take a class, I couldn’t find one. I ended up taking a fusing class figuring I would learn some things that would cross over. I finally took a lampwork class in 2003 and started buying equipment the way I do everything… bass ackwards.

I bought presses, I bought glass, an oxy concentrator, mandrels. And then, fate stepped in and I bought a business. That kept me very preoccupied and poor for several years.

Along the way, I’ve made friends with several lampworkers. My buddy Kris always asked me, “WHAT are you waiting for??”

I never would answer but I know it was fear. Fear that I would burn the house down? Maybe. But also, fear that I would suck at something I long to do.

A few weeks ago, I was in Pacific Artglass buying supplies for my summer fusing students. There was a woman in there asking really inane questions. She really struck me as a dumb little twit. But she had a torch and she had a passion. And I realized if this silly woman can handle a torch without fear, I can too. And before I knew it, I was driving home with one.

It took me a week of reading and still I was freaking out at setting everything up. So Kris to the rescue… she had me fired up within an hour.

My first day on the torch, I jumped out of the chair every time my oxy concentrator “took a breath.” Day two, I had the kiln on and jumped every time it ramped. Day three, I quit jumping… mostly.

So now I know I’m not going to burn the place down. And I know I do suck. I am truly amazed and deeply appreciative of all the lampwork artists out there who can make a bead look round… forget pretty… round would just be nice.

But, even though my skill is lacking, it’s the most fun thing. I find the same joy in this as I did when I was painting. The critical voice in my head runs and hides. She’s just no match for my creative muse. My hours on the torch are bliss.

And maybe one day, I’ll make something I’m not embarrassed to show you. And hopefully, I run across that brave girl I used be in the process.


Anonymous said...

I think you already found that brave girl, Holly! She didn't go far!
I'm glad you're having so much fun with it, too. And I'll bet it isn't skill you are lacking - it is practice.
I'll be looking forward to seeing what you're making. It's exciting.

Annie said...

Your essay captures the angst all budding or wanna-be-budding artists go through. It's fear, isn't it, that makes us stumble and fall and give up. I've been taking a photography class, my first one, and the instructor is quite critical, hardly ever finding any positive about any of my work. I went through several weeks of feeling disgust, first with myself and then later I shifted it to him. It was my saving grace to shift it off myself because I was about to quit trying.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Jackie & Annie, Thanks for the encouragement.

Annie, I've got to get this message to you... We had the same teacher. That man sounds like MY first photography teacher. I came into his class having already been published. But still open. I wanted to take film -making but it was closed. Knowing the info would help, I took basic photography.

That JERK would hold up a photo as if he were SO PROUD..."WHO took this picture?" he would ask. The person would raise their hand. He would fling the mounted picture across the room and scream, "Well, it's a piece of sh*t!"

It took me a long time to realize that this was just an angry man who had NO business teaching an artistic course. Although, I DO still have the ONLY picture he gave me an "A" on hanging on my wall 25 years after the fact!

Don't give up!!! YOU have a tremendous eye. That's the one thing that never left me about photography or art. It's how we see the world differently. And we get to share that with others.

A photographer's "eye" develops with practice... and yours is just fine!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Creekwalker. Your comments are priceless to me. I felt the need to pump up several other students in this course who felt completely hopeless about their eye and skills.

On the course evaluation forms I suggested that it would be helpful if he would speak at least as much about the strength of the photo as he does about it's deficits. Of course, I'll have no way of knowing if he takes my advice.

Annie in Little Rock

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story! So glad you jumped in and I'll be looking forward to seeing that first proud piece...Carmon

Linda@VS said...

Holly, I've read comments from so many lampworkers (and heard them from my daughter) about the joy they feel during the hours they're at the torch. I'm so glad you found the courage to take that leap.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Velvet, My only regret is not doing it really is the most amazing feeling.