The last Southern Flames meeting featured a presentation by Margie Deeb and Kristy Nijenkamp on color theory and color mixing. I had some time to torch today, and I played with color mixing, with varied success (it was my first time!) And that got me thinking ... always dangerous.
When you're mixing colors you're using some of the same skills you need to build complex glass cane or twisties, and you're using some of the techniques. Some people build a cane using a flat lollipop-shape of glass as a base, whereas others use a cone or a barrel shape. Some people build cane right on the parent rod, whereas others use borosilicate or Moretti clear rods as punties, with or without a maria on the end. Others prefer stainless steel chopsticks. For simple canes or twisties, the method generally doesn't matter. Whatever works for you is what you should do.
As I was mixing colors, however, I began to think about what differentiated techniques, and--by extension--what differentiated beadmakers. Why did some people become teachers and others not? Why do some people write wonderful techniques books and others not? Why do some people improve steadily in their art and others stay at hte same level? Obviously, talent, time to work, inclination, and many other variables all play a role. But I think the habit of analytical reflection is also part of the process. I make my history students tell me the argument of the text they are reading, because if they can articulate it, they own it. I make myself do the same thing when I am reading. If I just understand something non-verbally, chances are I don't really understand it clearly enough to use it. And I find the same thing happens when I'm torching.
As I was mixing, I was thinking about the ways Kristy--and Drew Fritts--suggested holding the stainless steel chopsticks. While I could see the benefit in that method, I found that, for me, a style more closely rooted in knitting worked better and gave me better results. I could see why, because of the twisting action my hands were making, but I could also see the downside, namely more glass on the chopstick. As I worked around that obstacle (letting the glass on the chopstick stay hot while letting the glass on the other cool down enough that I could swipe most of the glass from the first chopstick onto the larger mass of glass), I considered twistie techniques, and realized that I could say when I would prefer to use a maria rather than a chopstick (a large gather with stripes I wanted to keep even), when I would use a boro maria (I want a clean break at the end), when I would use a cone (I'm using chopsticks and don't want "bones" at each end), when I would use chopsticks (Most cases, but especially using up shorts), and the like.
What it does is help me do what I want to do with glass more mindfully when I consciously, rather than *only* intuitively, know how to achieve the look I want in glass. And I think that may be one of the things that separates the writer, the teacher, the learner from those who stay still--the habit of conscious analysis.