Crack-off buckets hold an artist’s mistakes, collect scraps of her genius, and serve as a literal and figurative sounding board for her creative ventures. Whether your crack-off bucket is a dream journal by your bed, or the performances you did alone in front of a mirror before the big speech, or a notepad full of sketches of eyeballs and antlers - the crack-off bucket takes your doodles, takes your garbage, takes the half-formed, half-remembered ideas and allows you the freedom to push on through the creative process.
The most overlooked aspect of any piece of work are the shavings, scraps, splatters, and slices that didn't quite make the cut. We all remark at the beauty of any finished piece of work, but hardly acknowledge, or are even aware of the process that led to its creation. The hard decisions are about what has to be left behind. Every work station, every session, has its own completely distinct mess. Regardless of whether your art is singing, painting, or glassworking, the choice to keep or discard some aspect is consistent across every discipline. And it’s sometimes a difficult choice. Faulkner called it “killing your darlings.”
What do you keep, what do you throw out? What does the mess surrounding a workstation say about the person working there and about the piece being made - about the journey from concept to construct?
During the Armadillo Art Glass Initiative this weekend, I went around to each artist’s workstation to see what I could glean from their messes.
JMass’ crack-off bucket is especially eye catching, and there’s a story behind it. Apparently, it had belonged to another glassblower who had changed studio spaces, and when the bucket was left behind, JMass took it over. He likes using this bucket because the edges are truly sharper than they need to be, and it's deep enough that you can fill it to the brim without having to change the water or empty the contents. For a novice glassblower, JMass insists that any food service bucket would do.
Micah's trough-style bucket gives him a lot of surface area to crack a piece on the edge, submerge it in water, or lay the punty across the bucket while he switches tools or hands. To Micah's right are larger shaper tools and tongs, as well as a stand-up display holding more clear tube pieces and a smaller torch for detailed work. On his left, calipers, scissors, clamps, and a circle template - I haven't seen a bonafide circle template in the wild since I was in my college days and I feel a little nostalgic watching Micah measure the circumference of each ring to make sure each one is consistent with the rest.
N8 Miers was also using a mason jar as a stand in for his usual crack-off bucket. I really appreciate everyone's special buckets, but there's something amazing about getting to see inside the bucket at all the illuminated waste as it cools and collects at the bottom. I'm not sure what he was building those colors for, but the reddish and blueish scraps looked like the filling for an amazing galactic glass-berry pie.
Getting to eavesdrop on the artists’ processes helped me realize there are even more similarities between creative professionals of all types. Though there were similarities between each station (such as the torch being centered, or the crack-off bucket being on the side of their dominant hand), each individual had their own specific workflow and arrangement (such as having a small torch to pair with the big one, or having specifically marble-shaping tools in abundance). It’s the same across mediums as well, artists may have different tools, different materials, or different types of workstations - but we all participate in the same great creative process, and we each finds way to tailor the ‘means’ by which we acquire our preferred ‘ends’.
This year's Armadillo Art Glass Initiative was an enormous success in no small part because of the great efforts made by these artists, the individuals representing Meals on Wheels, and the people that came out in droves to see the cream of the crop. Click the artists names above to vist their instagrams and see even more examples of their inspiring work.
What’s your creative environment look like - we’re dying to know, leave a comment below!