Shaping, Not Controlling

Last night I took a glass blowing class for the first time. I’m interested in every art and craft pretty much, but had not had a chance to try this one. It was a particularly appropriate (or awful depending on how you look at it) day to play with fire – as it was already 98 degrees outside, so inside was basically like being inside of a sauna.

The instructor told us to make sure we had our third eye activated, to not be jumpy, to calm down. If we were afraid of fire, we did not want to take this course. She told us to be oh so gentle with the fire and hold the glass softly like a mother holds a baby.

I found myself quite nervous as she sat there yelling at the first guinea pig to stop being so stressed out. It’s a paradox in and of itself to yell at someone to stop being stressed out, right?

He was holding on to everything too tightly. The glass did not like that kind of energy. Poof a flame shot out from the tongs he was using to shape the glass. “Calm down!” she yells.

I kept reflecting on the magic involved when playing with fire and hot, molten glass. It was glass, but it was also liquid, its called an amorphous solid when its in the state of not being a solid and not being a liquid. With glass blowing, we are working with the in between grey area of molding something (sand and water) into something else (glass).

That alone is a pretty good metaphor for where I am in life. In between and learning to better enjoy it along the way.

Playing with fire – whether you are blowing glass or walking across hot coals – is the perfect test to measure how strong you are inside.

What I have realized is my nerves were heightened because I was afraid of not being calm enough to know what to do, the fear of being burned and physically hurt or failing and breaking something. We all have those feelings when we are trying something out of our comfort zone. For a moment I thought about just watching the show instead of participating, but I ignored that fear and stood up to it. When I got up there though, I was more in awe than nervous, I allowed myself to enjoy it despite the risk of the instructor yelling at me because I was doing something wrong. I focused on the beauty of the molten glass rather than on the faint worthy heat. When I held the paper to shape the glass, I barely even touched it, and yet it moved and formed into the shape it was meant to be.

The main rules of glass blowing apply to life:

  • Keep moving, never stop turning, renewing and moving forward
  • Be calm, even in the face of possible harm or uncertainty
  • Be gentle most of the time, and forceful only with specific purpose
  • Shape, don’t try to control
  • Allow yourself time to cool off before you show your full beautiful colors

We cannot control our life, but we can shape it.

Author: Ariel Snapp

Ariel Grace Snapp is an Experience Design Strategist and creative professional. Continuously pushing the envelop in the digital channel, she presently leads a user experiences creative design team for enterprise software. She also helps people unlock creativity in order to feel happier, tell better stories and make a larger impact on the world.

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