Mercury retrograde is all about things from the past coming back. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.
Last night was good. One of the things I have been interested in the past was armouring and metalcraft. I have tools, supplies and a bit of experience. It’s just been one of those I never found time to commit to. When my friend Chris had to move his armouring shop, I was happy to offer up the spare workshop space we had available. We had originally set it aside to be a fiber arts studio, but it was just too cold, and we moved it to a warmer area. Which suits me, I think every living room should have a full-sized floor loom in it.
…So now our house moves into full zombie-survival mode. The world starts to fall apart, we can start clothing, feeding, arming and armouring an army. You guys can worry about surviving, we’ll worry about taking over afterwards! Who says you need superpowers to be a supervillian? Mwahahahaha! Uhm. Sorry. The new coffee from Guatemala is apparently stronger than I am used to…
We started out shuffling around the scattered mess of things that had been hurriedly crammed into the space, and then Chris started to organize his various tools. So many amazing things. So much wonderful raw stock. So much damned stainless… And for both of us, so many half-started projects. For most people, a half started or abandoned project is a sign of shame, of failure. It’s something you started but lacked ability, means, or will to finish. But for an artist, it’s a little different. For an artist, the project can let you down. You can have a brilliant and inspiring idea, but when you start work the vision doesn’t materialize in the piece. It might be that your vision was grander than the reality, or more likely that it was just different. At a certain point you just start to feel that what you are working on has become dead in your hands.
And at that point, you have to let it go. The idealized portrait of a tortured artist aside, the reality of being an artist is that you will always have more good ideas than you can ever deal with. A lifetime is too short to do even a tiny portion of the work that can float around in your brain. Most artists block up not from lack of ideas, but from the inability to focus on one idea long enough to let it properly mature. Which is another reason that you sometimes need to put aside a project. You never really abandon it, you just put it aside. The subconscious will continue to work on it.
So looking around the various projects was a peak inside an artists brain, and a lesser peak into my own brain. Picking up the shaped dome of my someday helmet kicked up the memories of various designs, and the 3/4 suit that was meant to go with it. Holding the steel in my hands, I only saw a sweet, natural curve…not the endless hammer blows, the swearing, the lumps and bumps I swore I would never be able to get out, the half-started planishing that looked to be an eternity of work…none of that was apparent. All I could see was a part of a helmet, waiting to fit into the other pieces yet to be made.
Chris’s end of the shop I remember more with my hands…the cold, gritty feeling of freshly milled rapier blades, the dense patina of rust on old broken sword blades, the weight of a barely started halberd head, the crisp greasy feeling of motor and working beds, waiting to chew steel and spit out beauty. I already know what the future will hold in that shop. The deep, deep ache of muscles that want to quit, but you can’t because each hammer blow brings out an atom more of smooth perfection, and you keep wanting to see what happens next. The blasting, oppressive heat of the forge that makes you want to perversely lean in a little closer, just to show that roaring hellmouth that you are the boss. And overall, the sweet, blissfull, gritty and sweaty pleasure of having spent a day making the toughest thing humans know of bend to your will.
It’s really not at all different, mentally, from writing. Or training with the sword. It’s all art, and good art always comes up from deep down in the soul, kicking and screaming and fighting you the whole way…but you never give it a choice. Some days you pull it up easy, other days it’s a struggle, but you always win. Otherwise you aren’t an artist.