Yesterday I hurt myself , and I blame it on the silver. Which I know is ridiculous. While working with gold I’ve burned my tongue, soldering (do not ask), burned my hair with my torch (now I have bangs), and made myself sick on fumes when I’ve forgotten to turn on the fans. But I’ve never been scared, and today I’m a bit scared.
I was using a polishing wheel on a Dremel tool to polish the inside of a new silver ring, and hurt myself so badly I feinted. I have no idea what happened, but the polishing wheel was bent to a 90 degree angle. I was pretty scared to look at my finger, and considering that the Dremel spins at 20,000 rotations per minute, I think I’m lucky to have a finger.
I will admit that I’ve never taken safety in the studio as seriously as I should. I point my brushes in my mouth, without any thought. I use my hands as paint brushes. When working with metals I often forget ventilation, and my lackadaisical use of eye protection would make an optometrist weep. But, barring an eye injury, all these hazards pose long term health dangers, and because of that are easy to ignore. Sure, California says the solder fumes make rats grow a second head, but that’s California, and soon I’ll get serious about consistent safety.
Yesterday was different because, this time, I WAS being as safe as I could. And as I looked at my hand and braced for the worst, I realized that I really didn’t want to walk around with part of my finger missing for the rest of my life.
I’ve known, and known of, more than one artist who has developed health issues. Artists often work with caustic or carcinogenic materials, high heat, or dangerous tools. And while there are safety precautions to take, what about those injuries and accidents which occur with safety precautions in place? And what about the creative heights which do take a bit of foolhardiness? The things that are just a little stupid? Maybe I should have had gloves on, but let me tell you, there is no way I could get my pieces finished as well with gloves on. And it’s important to me to get them finished the way they are.
Someone once said to me, “I guess you love painting.” No. Sometimes I hate it. The same for metal. Sometimes it makes me cry and curse, but I’m compelled to create things, and I can’t explain it any better than that. I don’t want to do anything else, and I’m willing to give up quite a bit to be good at what I do.
I have my finger, and I am really happy about that. My hands aren’t the prettiest, but I’m very fond of each of my fingers. Yesterday made me question what I want, and what I’m willing to give. If I could be the best, would I be happy to be the best with 9 fingers? What about just really, really good?
I don’t know for sure, but I do know that I’m heading back into my studio, just a little shaky.