I had a bit of a clear out of the workshop last week which was well overdue. I'm great at piling things I might need under my workbench until there is so much I can't actually reach the workbench. So out it all came and non-essential items were relocated elsewhere, making a remarkable difference. In between being distracted by all the interesting things I found (and had forgotten I had tucked away) I found some of my old lampworking fleeces - with an assortment of holes burnt into them. I know these are old as I have been using a protective leather apron for the last few years after several somewhat dodgy encounters with molten glass. The picture shows where a particular piece of hot glass went straight through my top - and trust me, you do not want to be chasing a piece of burning glass around the inside of your clothing!
This, and some other events, led me to think about risk. Different people are willing to accept different risks and to different levels. Some take greater risks in some areas and none in others - for example, I know there is a pretty good chance I will cut or burn myself every time I work with glass (even just moving it about!) and I accept that risk because I consider it's worth it (I should have shares in plaster manufacturers). Many people would be horrified by the prospect of scoring a piece of glass and breaking it with their bare hands - I don't even think about it. When I tell people there are some types of glass that are really 'shocky' to work with in a flame and that they often explode (sending shards of hot glass in all directions) they look at me as if I'm insane. Looking at my hands, I currently have three glass related minor injuries in various states of healing (all cuts). Did they hurt? Yep. Did I swear at the time? Oh yes. Does it matter? Nope. Will I do it again? Guaranteed. Do I take the same level of risk in all areas of my life, particularly around self injury? Absolutely not. It's all a matter of perspective and balance.
Perspective and balance seem to be words to live by at the moment. The energy crisis has put the price of glass up to almost unaffordable levels (in some ways understandably - imagine the bill for heating a glass furnace 24hrs a day...). There has also been a noticeable downturn in retail sales too as people refocus on the essentials. Not great for the industry I'm operating in (or many others) but it has had the effect of refocussing my thoughts on the future. Within the next few months I will need to decide whether I want to continue selling or return to glass and silversmithing as a hobby. There's a significant difference in making things for your own entertainment and making things to have commercial appeal, both in a financial and headspace sense. The costs associated with running this website and the cabinet in Hungerford are not currently sustainable, and if I'm honest, I don't enjoy the selling part. If I could afford to make and give everything away I would! Flame Opal is six years old this week and I've learnt a huge amount from running it, but so much has changed since I first launched. Research has told me if I want to have a viable glass business I need to batch produce items en-masse, and I'm not interested in that. The current plan is to try to get to the end of the year but only if it is financially feasible. Balance and perspective.
In the meantime I'll still be posting new pieces on social media as regardless of my decision, I'll still be playing with glass. If this site suddenly disappears you will know I have retreated to my workshop for my own entertainment. Speaking of which, where's my glass cutter... ;)
Stay safe and well people. :)