Friday, October 12, 2012

Legacy in glass

Years ago I was a designer of stained glass windows.  There are only certain cuts you can make with glass; cuts create weakness, so the technical part of the craft has to be designed in as if no weaknesses exist. It’s a tricky art form because the limitations of the glass create artistic boundaries you must observe. These rules constrict artistic license, deviate from them and your work eventually destroys itself.  

Once the drawing was done, the project always felt finished in my mind. I saw it complete, back-lit, in all its glory. Then and only then did I have to plant ass in chair, take glass-cutter in hand and begin to build, cut, grind, wrap and solder. When complete it was always more beautiful than what had existed in my mind or in the drawing on my table. 

I’ve designed and built, glass pieces as diminutive as jewelry, and as massive as a series of eight themed windows for a church, each window 3 feet by 12 feet. Those windows were not only a challenge because of their size but also because of their theme. Everything within the design was symbolic. Fitting those symbols in, with the limitations presented, became a test for me, was I good enough, could I do it? I not only drew the ‘pretty-pictures’ I helped cut the glass and assemble. My designs worked. They are some of the grandest of my achievements. For generations to come I know people will sit in that church and during times of great personal turmoil they will be comforted by the blueprints which flowed from my heart. When the minister drones on and on they will study the glass because that’s what you do in church when you are bored and done with prayers. In the reflected colors of those windows they will weep in grief and joy and they will feel whole again because of their faith and because around them symbols in glass, and the tradition of their beliefs, washes their souls. My windows, my legacy, designed with respect for their God. 

Writing is like designing and building those windows. There are confines and rules and yet writing allows me to step outside my studio, to run my pencil off the page and think outside the sketch-pad.  In fact if I do not reach beyond that boundary the work destroys itself. When the story is in my mind I see it done and then it’s time to plant ass in chair and fingers on the keyboard and cut, grind, wrap and solder the words together until the project is finished. The monumental task of writing a book is like filling that church with colorful symbolic light and images. Only when the window of the last page is held vertical does the light shine through and the symbols and the colors of the story come to life.

Words are my legacy now. My art form is not limited to windows in walls, and when someone weeps or smiles or finds joy from something I have written, it is like a legacy in glass. What are your art forms, what is your legacy?

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