I Love Deadlines... (yeah, right)

A former student of mine once told me the best quote I've ever heard to describe how artists work:

"I love deadlines. I love that whoooshing sound they make as they fly by." She found it inside the pages of a day planner, but upon googling it, I just found it attributed to Douglas Adams. Well, it's brilliant and funny, so go figure...

I seem to need deadlines. I need their stress and that panicked feeling that flushes through me as the numbers on the calendar gain momentum toward the number with the big circle. Not that I'm ever behind or anything! No, well, ok, a couple of days, but nothing that I can't finish really soon.. or so I think.

What I just finished working on was, um, how to say without giving it all away... things that involve sequentially ordered photos and writing that show up in certain types of retail outlets at monthly intervals. These very lovely people for whom I toiled, work so far in advance it makes my head spin, so don't run to your local book haven just yet. We're talking months, sometimes 12-18. Most artists' idea of doing anything that far in advance means making something inspired in the moment (and finishing it over a period of weeks or months) that will take a few years before someone with the appropriate taste and bank account realizes its actual brilliance, and as long as I've been doing this, let me tell you that process on which I am so very dependent still seems to happen by near total accident.

Now the funny thing about making a piece that is photographed at each step along the way is that while one is actually making the piece, one is not actually finishing that step in front of the lens. That's a long way of saying that knowing I have already taken a photo of my hands forming a piece of wire, I feel like a dork when I can't find the little bit I formed, only to realize after searching my bench that I never made it. It's really still the same little beginning of a spiral on the end of a long coil of wire as it was when I set the timer to shoot my hands holding it and a pair of pliers.

Sometimes the opposite occurs. I finish soldering something not knowing if the timed photo I took of it has turned out, and if it didn't I either have to start that entire part from scratch to re-shoot, or I have to fire up the torch and pretend to solder something that I already have, which, when I'm concentrating on the photograph rather than the process means I have a far greater chance of doing something stupid like melting the metal in question. Along the way are other fun little considerations like trying to remember to keep that little cord between the camera and lens cap out of the flame lest ma camera est flambe. High quality problem as it is, I'd bet I was one of the only people in the world at that moment having that particular little worry.

The most frustrating thing of all is having to work in semi-darkness to get the exposure right. I feel like a bat metalsmith. (Sure I can solder by sound!) If I have to work very long between photographed steps, I run around the bench and flip on the track lights, but the back and forth thing becomes a rather ridiclus little dance that only leaves me vulnerable to distraction on the way to and from the bench, and distraction is very bad for deadlines.

In order to create just the right ambience that inspires flow, there is a limited range of A/V stuff allowed here in the studio, things that are guaranteed to produce a zen like blissful state of creativity. They consist of certain types of documentaries such as Simon Schama's The Power of Art (I give it 5 long happy 'ah's'), The History Detectives, anything to do with Egyptology, medieval Europe, astronomy, and physics, PBS's Mystery! or Masterpiece Theatre, and a range of BBC America mysteries, Britcoms, and DIY shows. - Do we detect a theme here? Yes, I have a need to solve things.

On the audio front, I've long been a chill-lounge-world fusion devotee in here. There's something about laid bak funky beats and jazzish cords that help drop the sense of time I must shed to do my best work. My internet radio station of choice has become Soma FM's 'Secret Agent Radio' thanks to Jean, who reminded me it's still there a while back. It's the range of music I just described with the occasional kitchy 60's theme song or even Louis Armstrong thrown in, and the odd bits of interspersed movie clips, usually of the James Bond variety, remind me I'm not alone in the universe without actually being intrusive. They also make me laugh, which can be essential in the face of 'design changes.'

In an effort to rev up my working time, I tried a different station for the hell of it. It was called, "Really Music Radio" with the tag line, "music without borders," and what obscure world beat were they throwing down? "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by the Rolling Stones. I've always considered the seemingly random playing of that song to be as close as one gets to a sign from God (It has a way of creeping up and reminding one, doesn't it?), but it wasn't exactly what I was in search for or expecting. Next I tried a different SomaFM station, some kind of lounge hip cool bachelor pad from the 60's format, but it reminded me of the boring radio my parents used to keep on when I was a kid. The music was old then, but not quite old enough to be kitch and cool. One doesn't want flashbacks while oporating a torch. ;-) Back to Secret Agent Radio, "the soundtrack for my stylish, mysterious, and dangerous life."

Oh, and just to add that extra fun challenge to needing to work fast, it's a bit warm in here. In case you haven't watched The Weather Channel lately or don't happen to have a 7 year old, who likes to imitate the local forecast along with the hummed smooth jazz instrumentals in between the current temp and the relative humidity, we're having a heat wave down here!!! I came out of Trader Joe's this afternoon and thought I'd already gotten into my car that was parked in the sun, but alas I had only stepped into the parking lot.

In case I haven't mentioned it lately, I DON'T HAVE AIR CONDITIONING!!! Oh, yes, it's a grand time to be had by all. My bedroom is a breezy 89 F, and that's not to imply anything untoward of a heated nature, for what the fahrenheit could one possibly stand to do in such stifling heat? I can't even sleep! Don't even ask what the studio is for there is always a 10 degree difference between it and the rest of my house, and the swing goes inconveniently right along with whatever is going on outside. Next winter when I'm complaining about the cold, I'll just remember this moment and hope it keeps my toes warm. Stick a fork in me; I'm done.

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