“what is wisdom?” a friend of mine recently asked. i shrugged. it would be unwise to pin wisdom down with a definition, i thought.
but there are some properties of wisdom that seem right. maybe wisdom is ineffable and only evident in action. maybe wisdom sometimes happens by accident, maybe nobody is wise all the time. maybe wisdom is understanding a process deeply enough to change a single step and create radical new results.
Raya Friday is probably too wise to define wisdom, yet much of her work embodies it. she’s created glass colors and effects never before seen on this planet. she’s taken happy accidents and turned them into crafty techniques.
her latest creation is our new holiday set, called ‘the wise ones‘. each of these three new colors is an experiment, a labor of love, an innovation. i recently spoke with her about how the new colors are created. in our conversation, we ran into a communication problem opposite from my failure to define wisdom: Raya can describe the new glassblowing process, but there is no word for it.
“we’re in uncharted territory,” Raya says. “if you talked to any number of professional glassblowers about this process, none of them would know a name for it.”
the key to the new process is to combine two different heating techniques. one involves the “glory hole” where the glass is exposed to gas and ambient heat, and one is a more-focused spot heating process. i can’t say much more without revealing both trade secrets and my own ignorance.
combining these two processes allows Raya and the other glassblowers in our hot shops to coax new colors out of silver nitrate, which is most often used to create warm or clear colors like “grateful red” and (yes) “wise.”
“it’s a brand new challenge,” Raya says.
“are you proud of creating this unique, gorgeous new glass?” I ask.
“well, I will be very proud, if we can get it consistently,” she says, “it’s a huge challenge. there will
be a high failure rate, especially at first.”
patience, humility, honesty; Raya displays three aspects of wisdom, and then a fourth: a sense
of humor about the set, which she wryly calls “the wise guys.”