I freely admit to my addiction for making jewelry. Even after an extremely stressful day at the office, I hole up in my studio to unwind and let the creative juices flow. Before I know it, I’ve gained my second wind and blissfully worked two hours beyond bedtime.
However, even though I am a self-proclaimed jewelry junkie, there are some aspects of the creative process that I don’t particularly enjoy. While performing these processes, I sometimes zone out. My mind will wander to the pressing issues of how I would word the obligatory birthday card for someone I don’t like, or why Hobby Lobby can’t open for just a couple of hours on Sunday, or why “Harry’s Law” was cancelled, or why I can’t seem to be satisfied with my hair color. Important things that my mind needs to process.
One especially mundane part of working with polymer clay is sanding and polishing the baked pieces. I love experimenting with color and texture and different design techniques, but to call the finishing process interesting would be akin to folding underwear for three hours.
Last week I had a particularly hair-raising, or perhaps I should say hair-curling, experience while performing this tedious task. I tend to amass a pile of polymer pieces to be sanded and polished. My logic is that if I allow them to accumulate, I’ll suffer through and have it done all at once. Then I can return to the more stimulating designing/creating activity. This is the way it was done before Ford created the assembly line, and you can see the mess that Detroit is in. I use this same reasoning when I schedule medical procedures. Get everything done on one day, if possible, and enjoy the rest of the year.
So, I diligently wet-sanded about ten pieces of polymer clay to a shiny finish using no less than four different grades of wet/dry sandpaper on each piece. Messy doesn’t even begin to describe it. Afterwards, to get that stunningly gleaming finish, I moved everything to my work bench, where one of my most useful pieces of equipment – the Flex Shaft – makes its home. We call this tool a Dremel on steroids.
Replacing the drill bit with my one-inch buffing wheel, I began the laborious process of polishing every square millimeter of the newly created pieces. Ho-hum. I could have used the bigger, super-duper grinding wheel with the polishing attachment, but that thing scares the bejeebers out of me. It can grab your hand or an article of clothing faster than a shopper can grab an iPad on Black Friday.
So, picture me standing there with the Flex Shaft polisher in my right hand and the polymer clay cabochon in my left, day-dreaming about the best way to cajole my husband into taking ballroom dance lessons or buying me a chocolate diamond for Christmas.
This will seem off-topic, but it’s very relevant. I’ve been growing my hair out for the last three years or so. It’s finally at a respectable length. I know all the safety rules about long hair and power tools, and I am especially careful about not allowing my hair to get too close to my work. Before my last haircut, my bangs, which I am also growing out, were long enough to stay behind my ears. After my last haircut, they now, annoyingly, tend to fall in my face.
This is my recollection of what happened as my mind wandered to where I would park the Mustang convertible that I would surely find in my driveway with a huge red bow on it when I retire. The errant strand of hair fell between my eyes, and I instinctively reached up to move it back…with the hand that was holding the 26,000 rpm (according to my husband) Flex Shaft polishing wheel going at full speed.
The rest is kind of a blur. The room spun for a moment as my mind blanked out the pain. My foot eventually came off the pedal that made the polisher go; I may have actually stepped down harder on it as all this was happening. I remember that when I dropped the tool, it continued to spin for a few seconds as it dangled from its cord, minus the polishing wheel. I’ve never taken drugs, but I think I now know the feeling. Wow, where did that wheel go, man? I actually was looking around the studio for the polishing wheel; I probably had a stupid grin on my otherwise numb face.
When I finally did reach for my head, my first comment was, “Oh crap!” I found myself with a massive dreadlock over my left ear. My face hurt under my left eye, and my skin tingled all over. I was shaking just a bit, but I managed to get to the bathroom and look in the mirror. This called for another “Oh crap,” a personal scolding, and a few other choice words.
Ironically, I had a hair appointment in 45 minutes, so maybe she could figure out a way to get the dreadlock undone without cutting too much of the hair. Wait a minute! No! No one is cutting this hair! I’ve worked too hard getting past that point of no return to cut it off now.
I went downstairs and told my husband that I needed his help – PRONTO! He followed me into the bathroom. When he saw my hair, he looked incredulous. “What the (expletive) did you do? You’re going to have to cut that, you know.” “No way, mister. Just see how bad it is and start untangling.”
What do they use for chewing gum in the hair? Butter? Peanut butter? Mazola oil? I had all three and I’d try them until I found something that worked.
I told him I couldn’t find the power polishing wheel. It had broken the shaft right in two and must have flung the wheel across the studio. He seemed pretty impressed by that.
Patiently, he worked on the dreaded dreadlock, trying unsuccessfully to stifle a laugh. I’m glad I could provide his humor for the day. He looked as giddy as a puppy getting his belly rubbed.
“Boy, that thing is in there tight,” I said as he untangled. “That’s because the wheel is embedded in the middle of your hair,” he said. Oh, great! ”Do we have another shaft that I can use with a new power buffer,” I asked. At least I had my priorities in order.
Finally, the wheel came out, looking kind of like a gigantic Q-tip but nothing like its former self. “You’re going to have to cut your hair,” he said. “No way, buster!”
I moved to the other bathroom where I kept the conditioner and began spraying it on the dreadlock, which felt like curled-up steel wool. With my wide-toothed comb, I slowly and gently began working the hair loose, alternating spraying and combing.
Finally, it smoothed out. I was surprised to see that there were only a few strands of long hair on the comb when I finished. Whew! I dodged the bullet on that one. I pulled the hairs off the comb and threw them away. Then I turned around and saw it on the floor at my side. That curled-up hank of hair. I looked in the mirror, and there it was – the place where it was yanked out of my head. Fortunately, it’s barely noticeable because it’s close to the hairline and my long hair covers it.
The left side of my cheek stung and looked like I had suffered rug burn, and there was a scrape on my nose. I guessed that it was probably the Flex Shaft itself that got my face while the polishing wheel was wrapping itself around my hair. Eventually a bruise formed under my eye, but fortunately it was barely noticeable, and no one suggested that I move to a shelter for abused women.
I’ve learned another lesson the hard way. It seems like that’s the only way I learn lessons. I can’t say that I was not following safety precautions because my hair was not hanging too close to the tool. Oh, no. I brought the tool to my hair.
I’ll do what I can to protect myself from future incidents like this. I wonder if my safety goggles will fit under a football helmet.