I take a deep breath and blow into the blowpipe. At the other end, the glowing golden orb of molten glass begins to expand. I place the orb back in the furnace for a few seconds, then I bring it out again and set it on a block. I roll the molten glass from side to side to achieve the desired shape. I repeat this process several times, intermittently using my blow torch and chisels to further manipulate the bubble of hot glass.
Most people watching will solely pay attention to what I am doing to the glass, but only the most perceptive notice what the process is doing to me. There is a light film of sweat on my brow. When I blow, my breaths are dictated by the movement of the molten glass; its flow and expansion. It is a conversation, the complex communication between earth, wind and fire. I heed the language of the amorphous glass, and with breath, I communicate back.
As I wipe a droplet of sweat from my brow I think back to a day in my childhood, the memory springing up from the background chatter of my mind as I focus on the task at hand. I must have been 11, the school was still new to me, as were its trials and terrors. A group of boys had taken to chasing us home after school. We had seen what they had done to others and ran for our lives each day. That particular day, as I ran, I felt a pain in my body. My mind raced, I had no injury and I was a good runner so it was not my body’s reaction to the exertion. Then it occurred to me; it was fear. The fear of the boys, of what they might do to me, was causing aches throughout my body. Suddenly I stopped, and I turned to face my pursuers. One of them was so startled that he fell, hitting the ground about three metres from where I stood. His two friends slowed beyond him. I don’t know if I had a crazed look on my face, or perhaps they thought that I had brought the first pursuer to the ground. Whatever it was, the two boys at the back bolted back in the opposite direction. The boy who had fallen also turned to and followed in the rapidly retreating footsteps of his friends. I stood alone, stunned. I wiped a drop of sweat from my brow. The pain was gone.
Rolling the glass, I muse about how that day had been pivotal in my life. It was the day that I had learnt fearlessness. Overcome with an intolerance of fear I had confronted it, and it had fled. I ready my jacks and paddles for the next stage of the process. I will sculpt the glass into something beautiful. That day had triggered many more shows of strength throughout my life – standing up for myself, standing up for others, standing up for what I felt passionate about. It was the day I had understood that extraordinary things could emerge from the fire.