Bloody Fear: Dust on the Bench Pin

by gingermeekallen on November 4, 2009

Today I greeted dust on my bench pin. This is a first.

Never before, in 18 years, has there been dust on my bench pin.

The Bench Pin, the center of the studio universeFor a metalsmith, the bench pin is the center of the studio universe. It’s like the bottom of a skillet for a chef, or the fretboard for a musician.

My bench pin has been covered by many things before, such as metal filings, wax shavings, or polishing compound. But never, ever, just plain dust – the stuff that collects when you don’t use something.

My last post was ten days prior to my first-ever surgery. I had always been fairly healthy, but I was having surgery because of a benign tumor. I expected to be away from the studio for a while, but I didn’t expect to be away this long. Without sharing too much medical detail, after my surgery, I developed a surgical infection. As I was overcoming the infection, I suffered a pulmonary embolism. What that means is that a large blood clot originated in my pelvic vein, traveled through my heart, and lodged in the pulmonary artery feeding my left lung.

When I arrived in the emergency department, the physician congratulated me on arriving alive. I spent a week in a cardiac telemetry unit, and came home still breathless much of the time.

Recovering from pulmonary embolism is a long process. Among other things, my recovery includes a season taking blood-thinning medication. This medication is necessary to protect me from further clotting, yet at the same time it puts me at risk of extensive bleeding in the event of an accident. This means I have been instructed and cautioned extensively. I am banned from contact sports such as hockey or football – ok, no problem there. But, I am also banned from sharp tools. This is the problem.

Metalsmithing always involves some element of risk of injury. My apprentices will tell you that I am a stickler for safety in the studio. Many injuries can be prevented. It’s the ones that can’t be prevented that I’m worried about.

Most metalsmithing injuries are superficial. For me now this means that a small cut that would normally clot and stop bleeding in five minutes will take fifteen minutes to stop. In my years in the studio I have had only a couple of instances of more significant injuries (I’ll spare the details). But there is always the chance.

I have metalhead friends who have offered to do the dangerous parts for me, and what a blessing they are! As I consider ways to work around my limitations, I begin to wonder if it’s the risk of injury or the frustration of limitation that bothers me most. I’m not sure, but I realize I am becoming more comfortable with the awareness that I have so many more questions than answers.

So, I sit and stare at my dusty bench pin. I have little experience with being inhibited by fear, but this is how I find myself today. I sit in my purple chair at my bench for the first time in three months, my callouses long gone, and I wonder what to do.

Will I find my way back?




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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

sam November 12, 2009 at 3:47 am

ya know…you COULD choose to see this as a blessing, if you wanted. A chance to reevaluate what you do, a “chance” (not an option, per se, more a forcing?) to do it differently. I myself do not often look up and change direction, and so it pleases the universe to throw obstacles in my path, to force that redirection. I know -surgery? infection? pain? therapy? a BLESSING? well, actually I mean the fact that, after all that, you still have the mental and physical desire to sit and stare at your bench pin. and to write rather compellingly about it. My father is finding growing older a challenge, and chooses to focus on what he can no longer do – I tell him that list is just going to get longer, and he should focus on the things he still CAN do, while he still can. It’s a choice. Good luck with yours, and may joy and creativity surprise you on a daily basis.
Blessings, Sam

Kerri Duncan November 7, 2009 at 9:39 am

There is always a path… through it, over, under- the way may be soft to your eyes… but there is always a path… revisit hammer skills- the inevitable journey to the past- like most artists- we sprung and have evolved from an older time where hand and hammer were the venerable keystones of your craft.
-Spoons, bowls, chalices, simple chargers- the chasing hammer and a multitude of textures… curved forms abound…
-This is only a suggestion… just one path… Some of us have had other impositions (read as nudges) to our pursuits- where paths have to be explored to move. Remember moving UP and FORWARD are only 2 directions… consider ALL directions in order to find a path.
-To you a speedy recovery and I know your rehab is daunting- be safe and just dont stop.
-K Duncan

Hans Meevis November 5, 2009 at 9:51 am

Hope you get better soon dude. What about some wax work?. Carving wax can be done in a very gentle manner.

Helen Hill November 5, 2009 at 5:26 am

All the best for a speedy recovery Ginger. Take your work in a more gentle direction for a while. You never know, it may give you inspiration in a new direction which you might otherwise not have thought of.

Michael Sabo November 5, 2009 at 2:27 am

IMHO, sit and look around a bit. Become familiar with what once was so “natural.” Look at your scrap. Pick up a tool… “play” a little… “what if I….” peace.

Jamie King November 4, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Celebrate your survival. It’s hard on a daily basis, but that’s what it’s really about. I’ve nursed my Dad through embolisms twice. It can’t be rushed, but the day will come when these difficulties are just a memory. NOTE FOR FUTURE: If you ever need surgery again, ask about having a screen/filter placed in your leg vein. This is what they did for Dad’s most recent surgery. No more pulmonary embolisms. Good Luck!

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