One cannot hurry glass.
Here are a few things I learned while I was away from this blog:
(1) All of my condiments are expired. All of them.
(2) If you forget to add salt to the water in your Neti pot it hurts very very much.
(3) Good things will come within a two-hour drive of you if you wait long enough.
You may remember the Blaschka models from Fit the First. (Or you may not. That's your business.) I learned of their existence in 2009 when I came across them in the National Museum of Scotland, and I assumed it would be a long, long time until I saw any more, because I am not particularly a world traveler. But I recalled them fondly - on about a weekly basis.
What I didn't realize was that Cornell University, less than two hours from me, has like five hundred of these suckers (some of them literally have suckers) and they're on display all the time. I had no idea until I went to see an exhibit of them at the Corning Museum of Glass, also less than two hours away, last week. I'm awash in Blaschka models. I've never been happier!
Leopold Blaschka originally had a career making things like glass eyes. Yes, Corning did have the glass eyeballs, and yes, I did take several pictures of them.
But one day, stuck in the doldrums on a sea voyage, Leopold found himself mesmerized by jellyfish and eventually began making painted glass models of sea creatures. He enlisted his son Rudolph in his scientific/artistic enterprise and the rest, as they say, is invertebrates.
If you happen to read the Wikipedia page on the Blaschkas, you will find that Leopold was quite a good writer as well:
One cannot hurry glass. It will take its own time. If we try to hasten it beyond its limits, it resists and no longer obeys us. We have to humor it.
This and his other quotes are all so beautiful, I begin to suspect he was an all-around aesthete (in the nicest sense).
The light was low in the exhibit, so my photos may not convey the staggering level of detail and terrifying delicacy of these models. The Blaschkas shipped them by sticking them to something immobile, putting them in wooden boxes, and stuffing the boxes with tissue paper. The idea of putting them on a ship or a train or really anything at all with so little protection makes me feel ill. There was a sad, broken anemone on display to show that not all of them survived. (This 1976 New York Times article mentions them being transported to an exhibit in a hearse because apparently hearses have the best suspension.) I'll spare you my photo of the broken anemone - it hurts to look at - but its inclusion demonstrates the completeness of the exhibit. Not only were there a few dozen restored models, but also some non-restored and partially-restored models, and several items from the workshop, which I found fascinating.
First, the tools of the model-invertebrate trade:
And then there are the prefabricated invertebrate parts. I wonder if making tiny eyeballs is anything like making human-sized eyeballs.
And there was a whole wall of the sketches from which the models were made. This one was my favorite:
On to the models themselves! I took a million pictures, mostly without labels, and mostly just a smidge out of focus. I wouldn't want to stop my streak of poor photography after investing so much mediocre work into it.
Look at those graceful tentacles! And the precise and delicate coloring! And each itty bitty little sucker! Incredible. Sometimes the simple existence of a particular thing in the universe pleases me beyond measure, and the Blaschka models are one of those things. (If you're assuming most of the other things are breakfast foods, you are correct.) Perhaps it's slightly strange that I'm less pleased by actual octopuses than I am by simulacra of octopuses.* But taking into account that I'm generally less pleased with real life than by fiction, it makes perfect sense.
*Let's bring back the plural of octopus as octopodes. It is a good, hefty, and I daresay NOBLE word and deserves to return to common usage.
Photos: All taken at the Corning Museum of Glass except the second one down, which is from the National Museum of Scotland.
General information: Wikipedia, and the information at the CMG exhibit. I encourage you to go look at other people's far superior photos by just Googling "Blaschka models." You won't be sorry. Unless you're afraid of cephalopods. Then you'll be sorry.