I am sure that one of the most tragic illnesses in our society is the bureaucratization of the mind. . . . In fact, however, there is no creativity without ruptura, without a break from the old, without conflict in which you have to make a decision. I would say there is no human existence without ruptura.
–Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking (38)
So this is how it begins.
The green was my favorite.
The right quantity of glass, an evocative retro color. One of the last objects removed from George before the hotshop was officially closed for the pandemic shutdown.
Not many people showed up that last weekend–lives were already disrupted, classes were going online, so much else to do. Just five objects in the annealer from Saturday and Sunday combined, three of them mine.
I removed each piece carefully, reverently. Knowing they were almost certainly the last to be made until Fall . . . hoping everything would be okay by Fall . . . knowing I might not be able to make it back in Fall.
I looked at my pieces: three more tests; I’d never blown with color before. The alchemy of that. The way color changes from moment to moment. The mystery of how it will alter as it cools. The magic of seeing it for the first time, up close. Holding it to the light. Feeling the satiny surface, the weight in your hands, without gloves.
I was thrilled and sad, bundling the pieces into my backpack. We’d be working from home, somehow, for the rest of the semester. There was newspaper for wrapping things but I left it there. Students would be coming all day, grabbing things in a hurry. They’d need it.
The green piece hit the floor, in slow motion of course (as these things always go). I knew enough to not grab at a fast dropping glass thing. I knew it was pretty thick. For a moment thought it might bear the fall. I heard it clunk and clunk and spin before it clattered and cracked.
You make another one.
It was never going to be the last one.
And here’s another thing about glass. You don’t stop learning it when you aren’t making it.
Weirdly, maybe perversely, the idea of learning glassblowing without a hotshop has me wildly excited about what that can mean. Not just reading more and watching more videos . . . I’d do that anyway. No, there’s something about being kept from this thing that makes it compelling in a new way. The impossibility is like a dare I can’t resist.
And all of this has me thinking about the art school where I work, and the whole question of how our precious maker-based education can happen in an emergency-online format. It’s a reasonable question. A desperately important one for all of us who teach and study there. And it’s my job to help answer it. Fast.
But I feel certain Freire would also challenge us to notice what this disruption is bringing to the fore–such as a reframed dialogue about what is essential about our work in each class . . . what is our praxis of making and to what extent have we been true to that? In our rush to reconvene online, stripping away the non-essentials, focusing on a given learning outcome or product or credential, I dearly hope we are all asking ourselves what we, in this moment, can best bring to each class, each studio, each student. Because what is essential may very well be a thing that never made it to the syllabus in the first place.
As an educator who trains educators, I’m in what so many are calling triage mode: handling the practicalities of scaffolding an accessible and equitable conclusion of the academic year and its transition into an uncertain future–for my institution, for higher education worldwide, and also, I must say, for my own work within it.
But as a maker, I look at my broken glass and see ruptura.