How Did You Learn To Do That?

The question sometimes feels like a challenge and other times a compliment. I suppose the feeling of challenge is due to my inherent insecurity which was tested by one of the staff at the store where I took classes. Regarding a technique I had used to slump and attach feet to a butter dish in the same firing she asked, “Did you figure that out all by yourself?”

Generally the answer is pretty much the same. First I took some classes and then copied things other glass fusers had done and then, yes, I did figure it out myself.

This was a skill very integral and important in dentistry. It’s not a truism to think “If you’ve seen one tooth, you’ve seen them all.” Surely, as with any job, there is a lot of repetition, but frequently it’s necessary to be creative in unexpected situations requiring a variation on the theme.

Most of the beginner classes were making jewelry and it was OK for learning how glass worked but my personal experience with jewelry had not been very favorable in that most of the jewelry I bought for my wife had been returned, no fault to my wife. There are many wonderful glass fusers making beautiful jewelry and I was honestly concerned about the competition.

During my quest for a “Creatively Productive” retirement activity I took a class in glass blowing and made some nice pieces that now grace our home as a dining room chandelier. It would have been wonderful to become a good glass blower but one of my requisites for a retirement activity was the ability to do it at home. Glass blowing was totally out of the question for a basement studio.

However, it did whet my desire to make larger sculptural pieces and for a time, until I found fused glass, I turned away from glass to other sculptural media such as wood, stone, bronze and welding. All of these venues had a fatal flaw. Stone, bronze and welding all had equipment and space requirements unsuitable for my basement. Wood carving was a real possibility but there are millions of wood carvers and again, I was concerned about my ability to do something unique.

One day in my dental office I was talking with a patient about sailing. I was searching for an appropriate name for my small sailboat. The patient was an english professor and suggested, Arete. I had to ask what the word meant and he said “the pursuit of excellence.” This was perhaps the nicest compliment I have ever received and cherished the thought and its application to dentistry and sailing and, as it turned out, fused glass.

Creativity does not make someone an artist, but an artist must be creative.

Denis Carey

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