Thursday, October 8, 2009


I go through a lot of shoelaces.

The metal shop I make sculptures in has a concrete floor and since there’s not a great deal of sitting involved in sculpting, I’m on my feet all day when I’m working. I’ve tried several different versions of boots and shoes to see how they handle the environment and how they can protect my feet. Tennis shoes or walking shoes are great for standing all day, but they are generally made of cloth. Welding, using a plasma torch and grinding produces lots of sparks and drops of molten metal and generally speaking, when things fall, they fall down. As in where your feet are.

So after getting several nasty burns on the tops of my feet I graduated to the more reliable work boots. But those heavy things are tough on the feet and knees and I’m not exactly a spring chicken these days. Eventually I found that New Balance (attention New Balance executives: send me free shoes) sells some more durable hybrid shoes that hover somewhere between leather hiking boot and walking athletic shoe. These are great and they usually keep me from feeling like a 90 year old man when I get home.

The problem is the shoelaces. The shoelaces are woven thread and while they look cool they also melt and burst into flames at times. So very often while I’m working I’ll suddenly feel as if there’s more room in my shoes. Or I’ll be jumping up and down trying to bend a stubborn piece of steel and I’ll hear a snap. Or I’ll put on my shoes to begin working and the laces will shred to bits as I try to tie them.

I get the irritated sigh every time I ask my wife to pick up a new pair of laces the next time she’s running errands. It’s deserved….she’s bought a lot of shoelaces in the last several years. We’ve tried to simply keep with the woven thread laces only to have them burn through again. We’ve tried leather laces only to realize that while leather may not burn exactly, it will disintegrate under intense heat which is really only a couple of scientific words away from burning. Right? I didn’t do so well in chemistry. Either way, a major fail for the shoes.

Would it kill an inventor to generate a non-disintegrating shoelace? Maybe something out of chainmail or steel cable? Surely I’m not the only person having this problem. Or maybe what I’m really saying is that sculptors have it rougher than other artists. Right? I mean, can I get a witness here?

I know a painter may ruin their flooring or get a spot of cadmium red light on their jeans or maybe even get an ulcer from too much coffee, and that’s bad stuff. And you photographers with your chemicals that smell unsavory, I realize the lingering stench in your nose could make your filet mignon taste more like sirloin, seriously, I feel your pain. Few things are worse than sirloin. And those of you who use the computer for your creative output, with your digi-pens and i-whatevers, how are you even still reading this with your fading eyesight? The headaches from that blue light from Hades, the squinting, the carpel-tunnel. This is not to be taken lightly. Let’s not leave out the writers. I mean, there’s the….well, they have to….ok, writing’s easy, let’s move on. But really? Do you guys need special armor plated shoelaces?

But sculptors face real issues. After the creative problem solving gets going there are the physical obstacles to overcome. There are power saws who dream of slicing off an artist’s fingers. There are hammers that have but one goal in their cold steel lives – to smash the delicate bones in an artist’s hand. There are eyes to put out, limbs to cut off, flesh to burn. And just when you think you’re safe you can fall into the clay mixer, electrocute yourself by grinding into your own power cable, or snag your face on a low hanging piece of metal. Can I interest you in some heat exhaustion? How about a few crushed vertebrae from heavy lifting?

What were we talking about? Oh, shoelaces. I go through a lot of shoelaces.

Come on art friends. I kid, I kid.

1 comment:

Professor Shoelace said...

Try Googling Nomex shoelaces. That's what firefighters use.