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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fire is Your Friend

Metalsmith Boot Camp
Episode 1  
Fire is Your Friend

A few weeks ago, I won the lottery !!!!!!!  No, not the Powerball; a spot in the “Surfaces” workshop, presented by HMAG and taught by Seattle metal artist, Andy Cooperman.  It’s crazy, I know – a three-day workshop on metal surfaces.  I went in thinking that it would be all fun with hammers and sandpaper, and came out understanding more about soldering, rolling mills, “pyrometalurgy”, and an exotic metal alloy called shibuichi (no, it’s not a sushi sandwich…technically….well, hmm, let’s talk about that later…………).

The icing on this lottery-cake was a trip, the very next day, to see and work with my precious and talented friend, RR, who showed an immense amount of patience with me while sharing an equally extraordinary amount of knowledge.

There’s a lot to tell about my Metalsmith Boot Camp, but let’s just talk about pyrometalurgy for a minute.  Have I mentioned before that I am not all that crazy about FIRE?  Well, now I have good reason.  A couple of days into the Surfaces workshop, I pulled myself up off of my uncomfortable stool, having decided to speak frankly with this Cooperman fella.  Early on there had been a short discussion on being intimidated by one’s torch.  As you might expect, I kept my mouth shut because now I was intimidated by the conversation about being intimidated by your torch, as if all eyes were on me.

But I had to come clean:  “I am so afraid of my torch that I have not hooked it up yet. I bought it in December and can’t even open the box.”  Cooperman’s response:  “Why?  What are you afraid of?”  Me:  “I’m afraid of setting the house on fire, and myself for that matter.”  Cooperman:  “Don’t worry, you’ll get over it.  Hey, that’s a good-looking torch.  Ok, now go anneal that ingot so it can be rolled.”  Me:  “Ok, sir.”

24 hours later, I was on the plane to see RR, torch in tow.  I was feeling good about the whole fire thing.  As clouds parted and angels sang, we took my torch out of its box—it was approximately 12 pm EST.  I worked all afternoon with this good-looking torch, “fire is my friend” my new mantra.  [Sidebar: my torch felt a little hot.  Later, when I described the events of the day to the purveyor of said good-looking torch, he assured me that “a little hot” was a desirable feature of torches.]

The report must read:  At approximately 4 pm EST, RR walked up behind me and was heard to say, “You know you’re on fire?”  Me:  “Huh?”

The hose at the connection to the propane canister was in flames!!!!! Leaping flames!!!!! Hello, this is why I am intimidated by my torch.  Cooler heads prevailed and in a few turns, the canister supplying the propane was turned off and running water had been deployed to extinguish the flames billowing out around my right arm.  We multi-purposed a cold glass jar of strawberry preserves to minimize any blistering, and we called it a day.
The next day I learned to make tiny silver dots. 

Oh, and fire is still my friend.