A Master at His Craft

I once watched a master glassblower at his craft. I had pulled off the highway to look for coffee, a small pick-me-up during a day-long drive. And in that search for a decent cup, I spotted his studio, a converted warehouse, far off the main street of a small Pennsylvania town. One of his assistants invited me in and for a time I sat, mesmerized, as I watched him work.

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The artist did not say what he intended to make, and for a time it was impossible to tell. He began by gathering molten glass around the tip of a long rod, the glass glowing a viciously beautiful bright orange. He carried that unshapen blob of glass to a workbench and began to roll it back and forth. Then it went to a different furnace, then back to his bench, and back, and forth, and back, and forth, shaped with fire and shaped with force. And then, at just the right moment, he lifted that rod to his mouth and began to blow into it, forming his work from the inside, carefully, gradually, inflating it, adding contours, curves, shapes. It began to take form. The finished work was stunning, a beautifully, perfectly misshapen vase of vibrant greens and bright yellows and subdued blues.

I love words. Words are like molten glass, raw material just waiting to be gathered, to be rolled and blown upon, to be formed and contoured, to be transformed to a finished work of art. The glassblower begins with a picture in his mind—a picture of a finished work of art. Each one of his actions is designed to take that object from his mind and bring it to life in his studio. The writer begins with an idea, information he means to convey to others, and he labors to shape the raw material of words into a finished work that expresses that information with nuance, with freshness, with force. The degree to which he succeeds is the degree to which he is satisfied with the result.

Words are the very best kind of raw material. Words are my favorite art form and I indulge my passion with these amateurish attempts to imitate the true artisans. But the greater joy by far is reading a great book. It is in those great works that I stand in the art gallery, see the artist at his craft, wonder at his skill, and marvel at his mastery of his medium. This is where I see the true master at his craft. 

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