It’s been months since my last post. I got a bit distracted – I have a number of jobs, a side-effect of needing to work from home – and they kind of took over my life during the summer. Routine seems to have settled in now though, so I thought I should update this. I’m a strong believer in not updating a blog unless you have something to say, so I waited until I did!
I’ve been torching for nearly 2 years now, and trying to make a go of having a home-craft-hobby-business for nearly 5. Nothing seemed to work right, for one reason or another. I often cite others’ low-priced work and the plethora of handmade businesses for customers to choose from now as an excuse for not being able to make things work, but I think really the truth is that I hadn’t found the right ‘thing’, yet. But I think that now I have.
When I make a murrini cane, I love the entire process. I love to sit and plan the cane – bullseye glass has quirks that normal 104 lampworking glass doesn’t. For example, the opals are exactly that – opals, they wash out quite a bit when pulled thin, so I have to take this into account and make it work in a design. Making sure that there’s enough contrast and design in the cane, because of the opal-ness of the bullseye rods, pulls can look a bit ‘meh’ if I haven’t sat and thought about this enough. And also, imagining the chip full fused – unlike in lampwork, you can’t control the way the chip melts when you’re fusing (see my previous post where I bang on about this at length) so if you know how the chip is going to behave, you can design your cane to have the most attractive design once it’s fully fused.
I love making the cane, because it’s incredibly meditative. A lot of lampworkers say this, that melting the glass is the kind of activity where you have to pay attention, but you don’t really have to think all that much (which is another reason I plan the cane ahead and then just zone out while I’m making it). A bit like knitting (I love knitting), in that you are doing something that requires attention, but your brain can rest a bit, or something (http://bjo.sagepub.com/content/76/2/50.short). And when I get all my stringers on evenly, it makes it even better.
Pulling the cane is quite exiting. It’s the part that can make or break the previous 45 minutes of work and waste a fiver’s worth of glass. When it goes right, it’s awesome. A nice, even, 5-6mm diameter cane with no big areas of wasted glass on the end is a happy moment in the shed. I go and have my cuppa (and maybe even a biscuit!) with a warm happy glow… which is in no way related to the fact that I’ve been sat in front of a ball of glass at 1000°C for 45mins. When I mess it up, I usually know why, so I write it down in my notebook and then stomp back to the house and take out my frustration by banging cupboards and cups and tins around for a bit and don’t let myself have a biscuit.
The moment of truth though, comes the next morning, when the test chip has fired, and I can see if the design is what I’d hoped and planned. I run the test firings overnight so by 7am it’s finished, and I’m normally to be found scampering down to the shed in the dark with a torch in my pyjamas to get the chips out. Sometimes they come out even better than I’d hoped when I designed it, and sometimes they aren’t as good, but I try to figure out why a design didn’t work so I don’t waste the glass pulling something similar in future.
The other aspect that fusing murrini has, that everything I’ve tried previously doesn’t, is that people appreciate it and are willing to pay what it’s worth. I made beads for a while earlier this year, but I couldn’t sell them at a price that reflected the time that had gotten into them. Maybe this was because I didn’t try hard enough, but I never really got that same ‘thrill’ from making a bead as I do from pulling a cane. But every time I posted them I felt a bit bleh, like I’d sold myself short, and I didn’t like it. When I post my murrini, I don’t feel that way. And when a customer takes the time to send a little note with a picture of what they’ve made, or how they love them… that’s when I know it’s all right. =)