Politeness is the art of choosing among one’s real thoughts. — Abel Stevens
I zoomed in on a glittery globe that contained translucent swirls of pink, purple, and green. The sky was a clear, rich blue, and the sun was high above. My high-def Canon camcorder captured brilliant starbursts in all of the glossy surfaces. I panned over a line of glass sculptures that had been shaped and colored to look like pumpkins. A few steps away, I recorded several seconds of a man playing guitar in the shade of an umbrella. Behind him was a colorful sign that read, “Art Glass.”
“This is going to come out great,” I said. I turned to see that only David was standing beside me. Josue was busy catching up with one of the artists; Rosa had wandered off to check out the show at her own pace. My friends were happy to tag along while I gathered information and collected footage for a segment I do on NBC/KNSD’s News in the Morning. It was a gorgeous Saturday to be at the park, and once I was done filming and they’d finished browsing, we were going to drive 26 miles north to have lunch at Hacienda de Vega in Escondido.
“You know, they’re doing a live demonstration of glass-blowing right now. Over there.” David gestured to his left.
“Fantastic,” I said. “You hang back with Josue; I’m going to grab some action shots.”
Once I reached the spot (a work area about 12 feet square that was enclosed by a waist-high wooden fence), I fumbled to switch on my camera in time to capture a young man pulling a long rod out of the circular opening to a furnace, which David later informed me (and which I refused to believe until I confirmed it online) is called the “glory hole.” At the end of the metal pole was an orange-hot clump of molten glass. Before the furnace stood a middle-aged woman, who stepped forward to assist in the shaping of what was beginning to look like one of the many vases I’d already seen at the show.
Realizing I’d get a better angle from the side, I hustled to reposition myself in the small crowd that had gathered to watch. As I moved in closer, an older woman who had been studying the artists and asking them questions about their process noticed me, smiled, and stepped to her right to give me more room. My eyes were on the video display when I detected a glare of hostility from the woman in the work area. I assumed she was irritated with the lady asking questions until she looked directly at the camera and said, “No video.”
“Isn’t this a public display?” I said.
“Well, it’s our work studio — we could do it inside, but it would be too hot,” she said, despite the fact that on its website, the artistic community known as the Spanish Village invites the public to “Come and watch our artists work!” so that people could “Experience the process of creativity.”
I hit the pause button and lowered the camera. I was itching to argue. The bratty kid in me wanted to retort, “How do you know I don’t have a photographic memory?” This wasn’t the first time I’d encountered a cameraphobe who was not learned in the laws pertaining to photographing in public. Even if my video was for personal use, I was within my rights.
“This is for NBC,” I said. “Still want me to stop?” I tried hard to withhold from my tone any hint of the derision.
The woman lifted her hand to brush behind her ear a few strands of hair that had come loose from her ponytail. “The NBC?”
I nodded. “You don’t have to worry about looking bad on camera, I’m only interested in the process. In the end, there’s only going to be a few seconds of this included in my segment.” I would have mentioned this earlier if I hadn’t been in such a hurry to catch the action, but now I was annoyed that I had to explain myself.
What had she thought I was going to do with images of two people shaping a vase? Run home, fire up my kiln, and flood the market? Sell her trade secrets in the art-glass underworld? I refrained from mentioning that I’d already seen her ten-minute instructional YouTube video (which, at this writing, has received nearly 700 views).
When they realized my intentions were not nefarious, the artists relaxed and I raised my camera to get a few more shots of the lava-like glass. But minutes later, as the man moved to return the blob of melted goop into the glory hole, he looked at me and said, in a polite tone, “Actually, this part is kinda proprietary. I’d prefer it if you didn’t film.” I noticed he did not request anyone in the crowd to avert their gaze.
The indignant bitch in me wanted to point out that even Dale Chihuly shares his process, so unless this guy had figured out a way to spin glass into gold, a few seconds of footage was not likely to ruin his career. Instead, I swallowed my temper and said, “No worries, I have what I need.”
I reconnected with the group and relayed the experience. “It reminds me of when security told you to stop taking pictures in the airport terminal,” I said to David. “As if a guy with a giant-ass camera and tripod would be on a covert mission. You couldn’t have been more conspicuous.” I let out a long, vocal breath of frustration and said, “I hate people.” Not wanting to bring down Rosa and Josue with my sour mood, I brightened a bit and said, “I’m just going to get one more pan of this jewelry and then we can go.”
As I filmed close-ups of some lovely, colorful glass earrings, I sensed someone staring at me and looked up. A man had narrowed his eyes at me. “I don’t think Lori would appreciate that,” he said. Here we go, I thought
I was tempted to say, “If I wanted to steal her designs, I’d just buy a few pairs, go home, and copy them.” I marveled at the absurd level of paranoia in the lower echelons of the arts-and-crafts world. People freak when they see a camera in the vicinity of their work, even though they put it on display to be seen.
“Oh, Jesus,” I said. “Tell her not to worry, I’ll edit it out. No earrings on TV.”
“Well, I’m sure if you asked she wouldn’t mind,” the guy said.
“Forget it. I’m done.” I turned to David, Rosa, and Josue and said, “The only thing keeping me from breaking something right now is the thought of that Hacienda margarita waiting for me. Let’s go.”