Monday, April 18, 2011

Sometimes, Insects Decide (Decidere di Insetti)

This past Friday, I had received a shipment of an extraordinarily expensive and rare stone from Rome to use in an art project. It was the legendary 'imperial porphyry' from ancient Egypt. Until locating this sample I was considering using a substitute stone from Trentino Italy, but that one was less brilliant red / purple and the white specks (phenocrysts) were less perfectly white. Since all of my other 'ingredients' were the authentic originals, using the lesser stone seemed like a compromise that shouldn't be made.

In order to make the work look authentic as the 1700 year old original pictured above, I tried to talk myself into breaking the center circle and putting it back together again. But, I kept thinking about the rarity of the stone and how I would be smashing (temporarily) something that costs so much. It was like when you are about to jump off a high-dive platform for the first time and the voice in your head is talking you out of it.

Yesterday afternoon, I carefully drew off the perfect 7" (17cm) circle, I set up my diamond saw outside with a 0.25mm (tiny) blade to avoid material loss of such a precious material. I worked intently, keeping my fingers out of harm's way (the blade is tiny and somewhat flexible since it is so thin).

The wind in Texas has gusted very strongly for the past few days. But despite the wind, about midway through one of the cuts to shape the expensive stone, a yellow jacket wasp bumped up against my leg. I tried to shoo it away with my foot, but it was not having any of that. It kept aggressively buzzing around.

It flew at my face on a final attack dive bombing run, and I had to concentrate on not losing fingers while this happened. Jumping back, but with hands away from the blade, the stone flew off the saw table and landed on the cement where it broke into three pieces. Satisfied with the mayhem it had created, the wasp flew off happily.

I pieced back together the rare stone pieces and finished shaping the perfect center circle. Sometimes, things work out just fine, don't you know?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ouch (Mia Cicatrice Non Guariscono Per Sempre)

Recently I was chipping dried mortar off the back of a small mosaic piece so I could reset it somewhere else. The chipping off was going great with a sharp new hammer (recently purchased from the Tabularasa company in Italy).

As I held the piece in my left hand, I struck for about the fifth time, but forgot to take into account that the mortar had a 'rubberized' additive in it. So, it was more of a glancing blow off the piece which allowed the sharp pointy carbide end of the hammer to nestle deeply in my left thumb.

Oh, the words I said when this happened... as much because of my stupid carelessness as for the actual pain. I can take quite a bit of pain, but this was absolutely 'stub 15 toes at one time' excruciating.

After wrapping it in a cold paper towel and applying pressure, the blood finally stopped. Without stiches, I now have a scar that still hurts a bit when I apply pressure in a wrong direction.

Scars can be a good metaphor for what happens in life sometimes. It made me think of a girl I knew when I was in my second year of high school, Lauren. We had been going out for about 4 months which was forever for a high school kid. She was beautiful with long black hair and bright green eyes, and possibly one of the smartest and nicest girls I knew. Summer nights at the waterpark, autumn mornings at band camp (no jokes), with so many common interests it was all perfect.

One November afternoon sitting around the dining table with sunlight streaming in the window, my father told us all that we'd be moving from Dallas to the middle of nowhere (west of Ft. Worth) to help my grandfather drill oil wells. Being a quick lad, I immediately calculated the impact of this catacalysmic event to my situation with Lauren with the lightning like efficiency of at least 100 Commodore 64 computers.

The days which followed were filled with a wistfulness that is hard to describe. As a final gesture, I bought her a jewelry piece the likes of which my 16 year old's allowance savings could just barely manage. It was 20F outside and ice and snow everywhere, but I walked it over to her house located about three miles away as a last Christmas present. All of my extremities were numb, even my soul. I understand why she was sad, but I was surprised to see her mom cry about it.
To this day, that scar still hurts if I move it the wrong way.