This was a week of contrasts, of suicide bombers and gems, art and armor. A rich week of brainstorming and artstorming and talk, one that brought home the value of new and shared perceptions.

My cousins visited, on leave from Afghanistan. They talked shop and experimented with different ways to improve military equipment (there are times when my knowledge of moldmaking comes in handy, which is fun).

Jeff’s brought back some amazing gem specimens from his travels–emeralds, pyrite, lapis lazuli, carnelian, rutilated quartz, beryl. He and Robyn spoke of volleyball-sized lapis and aquamarine crystals as thick and long as his fingers.

I hauled out my collection of gems and stone beads and gave them a kind of identification crash course. While I was at it, I finished Robyn’s Christmas present (above, left), made from silver, one of my cast pendants, and faceted carnelian. I gave her a choice of eight cast pendants in different colors and transparencies; not surprisingly, she picked the only one in camo.

They went back to work Thursday morning (take care, guys, and be safe). Three hours later I met up with my friend Rinee, in town for a couple of days to play with glass, molds and art.

Rinee’s great to hang out with and an artist whose work I very much admire, in part because it’s a 180 from mine. She’s gone back to school for a very demanding degree in graphic design and packaging, and I envy the heck out of her. (I always envy people who get to do art on purpose, for a living)

Her art is rich with found objects and type, and she builds collages that swirl and play and inform. We hit up the usual glass artist places–Clines and Georgies and Stephenson’s Pattern Supply–dropped into a reception at the Bullseye Resource Center, had Dalo’s Kitchen’s usual excellent Ethiopian food (if you like spicy meat, their kitfo is to die for).

Through it all, Rinee saw things I didn’t: A pattern made by an advertising circular. The artistic possibilities in a cheesy Valentine’s Day card. In a display of glassmaking supplies, we’d reach for different things, and I was continually struck with the divergence of our visions.

I could look at a homeless guy and see expression, facial volumes, the relationship of body to emotion. She saw color, pattern and mood. She’d point out things that made me stop and look again. Because of Rinee, I found more in my surroundings than I would ever have done alone, and I broadened my own vision just a little bit.

Maybe the best way to see is in concert with others. I know I learn more by arguing with the opposition than I ever could agreeing with friends, so perhaps it’s also wise to listen and try to look through another artist’s eyes once in awhile.

I do know that this week, I’ve gained a new, ground-level perspective on war and color and line because I was, for once, smart enough to shut up and absorb somebody else’s point of view.

All this shared perception stuff has given me a huge yen to collaborate. More on that later.

I also gained an unshared (and maybe unwelcome) perception: I just tallied the last six months’ receipts for glass and crystal and clay and silicone and plaster and wax and tools–gulp. I compared it with sales, probable sales, and show acceptances for my work, and realized something: I’ve got an incredibly expensive hobby that can’t pay its way.

I’ve been sculpting for maybe 30 months now, and it’s amazing how much I need to do it. But maybe I don’t need to do it in glass. Maybe all those (successful professional) artists who insist I should be working in stone and clay and bronze have a point.

Bottom line: 25 pounds of clay is a heckuva lot cheaper than 25 pounds of glass. I think I’m gonna go hunt me up a class sculpting with clay and stone, and see how I like it. Then we’ll take it from there.

At least for now, though, I’ve got a mold to finish.