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Cheryl Hughes: Face Time

My Career As A Woman

It has been nearly a year since I approached Sandra B. about teaching me the craft of fusing and slumping glass.  I had met her at a Christmas bazaar the previous fall, and I had been to her house to pick up some bottles she had done for me for Christmas gifts.  I was reticent about asking for help, because I knew it was a source of income for her, and I didn’t want to encroach on her territory; but my fascination with the craft won out, and I asked her if she would teach me.

I was pleasantly surprised by her willingness to help me get started.  She helped me search for a kiln, gave me bottles to get started on, let me load her two kilns—so I could get a feel for what I was doing—and gave me a list of websites that carried decals I would need.  Sandra turned out to be one of the most generous and patient people I have ever met, and when people like that cross your path, they change you.  Sandra made me a better teacher.

This past Christmas, my daughter, Nikki, asked me to teach her to sew.  She had seen some of the cloth books that her sister, Natalie, had made, and she was inspired to learn the craft herself.  Nikki would be home for only a few days, so we would need to get right to it. 

I decided that the cloth books I had taught Natalie to make would be the ideal project for Nikki.  Nikki is a perfectionist, and I was really hoping that perfectionism wouldn’t undermine her efforts.  I’m old enough to know that anything worth doing is worth doing badly, but I wasn’t sure she would see it that way.  Nikki started out pretty hard on herself—fretting over some uneven cuts and mismatched edges—but she loosened up after a while, even laughing at her mistakes.

“Mom, look at this seam,” she said, as she held it up for my inspection, “It looks like I had a stroke mid-way through.”  I introduced her to the seam ripper and watched as she removed the uneven stiches and re-sewed the seam.  She was pleased with the result.

As I watched Nikki learn, I remembered a one-on-one teachable moment with my dad.   In the fifth grade, I had to collect leaves for a leaf booklet.  My dad was a sawmill man, which meant my family spent a lot of time in the woods. Dad helped me find and identify each leaf for my booklet.  I never forgot that day, I never forgot how much I admired him for being able to identify every leaf, and I never forgot which leaves went with their respective trees. 

It is the face time that makes the lasting impression.  The undivided attention makes us feel that we can learn.  The passing on of skill and knowledge keeps us connected to each other in all three realms—past, present and future.  Maybe, one day, Natalie will teach my granddaughter, Sabria, how to sew.  If she does, I will be part of that process.

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