Asthma and Art
Last updated: August 2021
A friend of mine once told me, “...we live to experience art.”; a phrase that has stuck with me through many phases of my artistic career. We all appreciate art, music, sculpture, paint, cars, to experiential pieces. Art is something that we surround ourselves with consistently as humans. In fact, it is through art that anthropologists have understood the cultures of our past and attempt to explain the cultures of today.
If there is something that is inherently human nature, it is the appreciation and creation of art. So, how does having asthma affect how we experience art? As an artist with asthma, asthma has influenced my relationship with art in multiple ways.
Experiencing art with asthma
Experiential art can come in many forms and in my experience, my asthma has affected the way that I interact with art. Here are some examples of how my asthma has influenced my relationship with art:
- When going to a concert, my asthma was consistently flared by the smoke from others around me, so something I would make sure to have close is my rescue inhaler.
- At a music festival, I would wear a face-covering to protect my lungs from the dust that is omnipresent and very triggering for my asthma.
- There are some exhibits that use smoke machines or fragrances, making me decide against seeing the art piece.
There are far fewer experiential art pieces for us to enjoy in the days of a global pandemic. However, when reflecting on my experiences of the past, I noticed how much asthma influenced how I interacted with the art. While the pandemic has put the brakes on experiencing art, it has not slowed down the creation of art--which is also affected by my asthma.
Creating art with asthma
I have been an artist since I was young; playing with lego, ignoring the instructions, and pursuing my own imagination’s product. As I grew older I continued to develop as a creative, although graduating to other mediums some of which came with complications for my asthma.
- Paint: I’m happy this was short-lived, I am not the best drawer or painter. While working with paints I noticed that some would have a fume to them that would trigger my asthma.
- Wood: At one point, I carved tikis with a chainsaw. Although very fun and a great way to use the wood stumps around my house, the sawdust became problematic. After wearing a mask and getting flustered with managing a mask while working with a chainsaw, my interest in this medium faded.
- Stone: I loved working with stone. Yet once again, the dust created from filing and sawing was not for me and my lungs.
- Epoxy: For anyone that has worked with epoxy, they know how strong and foul the odor can be. I decided working with epoxy was not the best fit for me considering how long the fumes lingered.
- Clay: Clay is amazing. I worked with clay for years. My first job, while in high school, was as a ceramics teacher at a local art studio. Clay didn’t bother me at all either--my lungs would feel fine and there was no obvious danger.
Although I loved working with clay, I found another medium that has held my interest and is still my primary medium to this day.
My art today and how it affects my asthma
The medium of art that has resonated with me most is glass. I love the way it moves, the ambiance of flame, and the magic of the final product. I also like that, while most mediums have only interacted in a negative way with my asthma, glassblowing has made me appreciate the beauty I can create with my breath.
Unfortunately, glassblowing is one of the most dangerous mediums for my lungs. The torch produces gasses, which are picked up by a vent hood above the station but are not ideal to begin with. Also, I specialize in something called ‘fuming,’ which uses the fumes of sublimated silver and gold to color the glass. The result is unparalleled, but unfortunately, the fume can be dangerous for the lungs.
How I stay safe
I realized I really needed to find some solutions because I loved the craft so much. My solutions have been great so far:
- There are specific guidelines for how much air-flow you need in a glassblowing studio to be safe. I make sure to double them.
- While fuming metals, I make sure to wear a respirator.
This jargon might be hard to grasp for non-glassblowers, but the point is that I identified the problems and thought of some simple solutions. I did this because I love glassblowing and plan to do it for a long time.
Get crafty, get creating
Creating can give us pride and confidence; things we all need. Sometimes, the things we do can affect our asthma or vice versa. Do your best to simplify the problems and think of some simple solutions. If you’re having trouble working through something, contact a community to help you think outside your box! Share with that community what you create so they can experience your art.
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