I like to use hand tools - files, sandpaper, hand snips - nothing with a motor. The studio is quiet, I can see the gradual transformation of the metal, watch the tiny bits fall to the worktable like glitter, feel the connection between hand and tool.
“It’s slow,” my students say.
But that’s the point. I have time - time to think, to imagine, to create. My goal is never to put out a large number of items; rather, it is to create something beautiful.
Now, I know there are times in any artist’s life when orders and lead times loom and we have to go into production mode, but to create art, to come up with that one-of-a-kind idea, takes time. There is no instant gratification.
Enameling, in particular, requires a number of steps - cleaning the metal, applying enamels, firing, filing, and refiring. There is a rhythm, a building up. I love to see how the colors change as the metal cools once it’s out of the kiln, love experimenting with different ways of working with the pieces. The process is as enjoyable as the finished product.
Music is the same. For every beautiful performance there are the hours and hours of practice, reading and learning, and those hours are valuable. I love sitting down at the piano or harp and working on new songs. I can hear how things start to improve, to come together, to sound like the music sounds in my head, and it all makes me happy.
For me, music and art have always been more like life support than any effort to come up with a finished product. When life is going well, I celebrate in the studio or with my instruments. When things are terrible, my piano is my best therapist. If I’m agonizing over an important decision, I can play my harp and my thoughts come into focus. And when my heart is breaking, the glow of the kiln and the vibrating strings wrap me in the warmth I so desperately need.
One of my favorite quotes is by Thich Nhat Hanh: “ There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.”
Art, music, and life are all a process, a dance. Every mile in the road is a part of the journey, a part that can be embraced, valued and enjoyed for itself. If we can’t savor each little step, if we impatiently wait for some point of “arrival,” we will miss out on life itself.