My dad is very near the end of his life’s journey, after battling cancer for the past several years. He struggles for breath, and to raise his hands to gesture. He’s only 64 years old.
He’s had this thing about using recycled bottle glass in art ever since I told him I was learning lampworking early last year, so a couple of weeks ago I made him some beer bottle beads and strung them on a hemp cord. He was too weak to describe his next project for me, so he used hand gestures to show me he wanted a lollipop twisted from two colors. I was skeptical because of the COE differences I might encounter, but I mashed up a green wine bottle to go with my microbrew brown and made a twisty out of it, then made a lollipop, which came out of the kiln perfectly and thrilled my dad to pieces. He hasn’t taken the necklace off since I gave it to him, and he keeps the lollipop on his bedside table.
My relationship with my dad has always pushed my skills to new levels. Every art form I wanted to try, he’s been there to help set up the kiln, to salvage a sandblaster, to tinker and try things out with me. He’s always had such faith in my abilities. It makes me sad to realize it as he’s getting ready to depart this life, but I feel really lucky to share this with him.
Working with the bottle glass was an epiphany of sorts. All of a sudden my hands got the feel of the glass in a different way, and I fell in love with it in a different way. I started working on slightly larger beads, and pushing the glass around in ways I haven’t been brave enough to. Out of this past couple of weeks has grown a series I call “Journey Beads”, named for my dad and his journey through life, and for my journey as well, that brought me back to sit at his bedside and talk about crazy art things while I watch him fade away, and try not to let him see me cry.
The twists of color circling the beads represent our journey’s road, and the colors and swirls and twists are the things we experience along the way. At first I considered naming the beads for the journeys we take within, love and loss and shared experiences, and then I thought I should just leave them untitled and let them name themselves wherever they end up. I’m still very partial to that idea, but I’m giving them names for journeys to imaginary or exotic places instead, because I think my dad might like that. No matter where I go in life, he’ll be part of my journey.