On Saturday we begin our Studio’s annual two-week summer closure, a time for the entire staff to rest, renew, refresh, and think deeply about the meaning of what we do. Sometimes in the rush of day-to-day deadlines -– we just completed shipping six different Donor Recognition projects! –- we have to stay focused on the details to get everything done.
But when we have a chance to step back and breathe, we always remember the big picture. Let me tell you a story that speaks to this.
In 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed most of the city and reduced its venerable Old St. Paul’s Cathedral to charred timber and rubble. The famous architect Sir Christopher Wren was hired to design a new church. After many plans and revisions, construction finally began in 1677. Thomas Strong, Wren's master stonemason, laid the first stone of the new cathedral.
One day Sir Christopher was surveying the progress the men were making. He stopped at one stonecutter and asked him what he was doing.
“I’m cutting blocks of stone,” the man said, a bit testily. “Each one the same as the next. And the next. And the next. Every bloody stone just exactly the same.”
Sir Christopher wisely moved on. He approached a second stonecutter and asked the man what he was doing. “Why, I’m earning a living to feed my family,” he replied, apparently puzzled that anyone, least of all the boss, should need to ask.
Then Sir Christopher spotted a third stonecutter, very intent on his work. “What are you doing, good sir?” asked the architect.
The man looked up at him. He was covered with stone dust and his hands were heavily callused. He looked tired, but he looked satisfied, too.
“I am building a monument to the glory of God,” he said.
The joy and satisfaction we take in our work depends in large part on the context in which we hold that work. For me, designing and carving architectural art glass is not just about sandblasting tiny lines and curves into panels of crystal, or even about running a successful small business in a field I love.
It’s about creating timeless works of art that deeply honor the donors, institutions and staff members who are making vital and heartfelt contributions toward the betterment of our world. I myself feel honored to be a part of their endeavors.
And that’s what I’ll be thinking about in the coming two weeks as I rest, relax and refresh my energies for an exciting autumn in the Studio. We'll be back at work on Monday, August 9, ready to hear about your new projects!