Following, an expert from an essay about hands…. my hands and all the things they do, feel touch, express, and so on. In progress, no editing.
Later, my hands delved in to making jewellery. Learning to use hand tools. Slowly, learning to saw with precision a straight line, or carefully a shape from metals, never straying from the line – years of practice and dexterity to do so. Building slowly, the muscle memory to do so with precision.
Holding pliers – griping tightly, and maneuvering with dexterity to accomplish tasks.
The light but strong touch of holding a torch, brushing the metal lightly with the flame, precisely, to solder pieces together. Learning to hold a pick in one hand to move solder around, hold delicate pieces in place, and your torch in the other, know with full cognizance what each hand is independently doing, an orchestra of movements, delicate, and precise, to accomplish the alchemical magic of soldering metal parts together. And not melting them to sad little lumps of imprecision. This takes years of dedicated practice, to be proficient in. Trusting your hands to do the job, teaching them independently the touch, the moves, the action of feathering a flame lightly across the surface of a plate, bringing the glow of hot metal to cover all surfaces, drawing it to the magical temperature of melting solder – the flash as it goes molten, and the arc of it drawing across the waiting seam of the two pieces to be joined – happens in an instant, and your hands must know this by instinct, to be faster that light travels, to do this with mastery. With years, passing, dedicated time at your bench, your hands become strong, and learn all the precise multitudes of muscle memory. To complete the hundreds of different tasks that are required, each minute, and precise, and requiring dedicated effort to master. The hands of a jewelers are extraordinary. Strong, but precise. Callused, but yet still delicate. Sides of fingers carrying polish in the deep crevasses, never to be completely scrubbed out. Signs of an honest days work. Or beautiful creation. Items – made by hand. Items so intricate, and so perfect, looking at them, it can be hard to imagine that a single set of skilled hands created this item, from scratch. Carried from the artist’s mind, through the tools of their hands, to the tools of the trade – saw, pliers, torch, hammer, files, polishing cloth, stone setting pusher, drill bits, burrs, sandpaper, graver. These hands have highly developed sense of touch, and ability to execute the tiniest of precise actions.
These hands have been my hands, for almost 30 years. These hands crave to touch metal, feel the coolness, the hardness of it, and yet as it gives way as it bends. It is hard, and it is not hard. The touch of metal, it’s magic, the bigger magic of turning a sheet of silver in to a beautiful ring. Changing it. My hands long to create. Flex their muscle memory.