I have certain safety rules for myself when I’m working in my studio:
1. Wash hands frequently.
2. Wear gloves/goggles/dust masks when appropriate.
3. No eating, drinking or carnal interactions near hazardous art supplies.
4. Move slowly and mindfully during dangerous activities.
5. Always know the location of all sharp tools and objects.
I’m pretty good at following rules #1 through #4, but #5 sometimes evades me when I'm in the grip of passionate painting. Like one night last summer, when I was crawling around on the floor, working on my installation about the human condition. I happened to be wielding an X-acto knife as part of the deal, and yes I wore safety goggles, but the lenses grew steamy from my hot, heavy breath. I could only sort of see what I was doing, but I didn't care: I was having a blast. I felt like God, recreating the Universe, except this time getting it all wrong like it’s supposed to be.
Suddenly, I realized I had no idea where my X-acto knife had gotten to.
I froze in place and looked cautiously around. There was no way I wanted that thing to sneak up on me.
Alas, I couldn’t locate it…the X-acto knife was nowhere in sight.
Exhausted and sweaty, I decided to put off my search until the next day, when my studio would be bright with sunshine. Before I retired for the night, though, I took some safety precautions. Since I basically live in one big room, I barricaded my work area with plastic lawn chairs, painting taborets, display easels, used bubblewrap and boxes of packing materials. I wasn’t taking any chances, not with an X-acto knife loose in my place.
The next day, I suspended work on my installation and searched for the X-acto knife. It was kind of like having a snake loose in my home, but a snake would have gotten hungry at some point and come out of hiding. Wearing heavy boots and work gloves, I made sweep after sweep of my studio, cautiously poking in corners and looking underneath heavy furniture. I cleared debris, organized, vacuumed and dusted in places the sun doesn't usually shine. Still, no sign of the lost X-acto knife.
I finally gave up. I accepted the fact that the X-acto knife had escaped. I figured the thing had rolled into a crevice somewhere and was permanently installed as part of the building. Feeling defeated, I went out to buy a new X-Acto knife. As I drove home from the art store, I made an executive decision to construct a special box for the new X-acto knife, something decorated with buttons and bows and a hand-lettered sign reading “X-acto knife lives here.” I resolved to always put the instrument in its beribboned box when I wasn’t actively using it.
As soon as I returned home, I went to put the new X-acto knife into the storage drawer where I keep studio tools, thinking I’d leave it there for safekeeping until I finished creating its pretty new
Yup, you guessed it: the missing X-acto knife was lying in the storage drawer. Apparently I put it there the night before without noticing what I was doing,
So now I have two X-acto knives, and if I lose both of them, I’ll have two snakes loose in my place.
Life just keeps getting more perilous all the time.