I live in a beautiful part of the world – but it’s a high-risk area for fire, and these dry, hot months always make me anxious.
Over the years, we’ve had to evacuate three times. While each experience was unique, one thing was constant throughout: when forced to make quick, sometimes split second choices, the decision-making process becomes intensely streamlined.
In retrospect, there were instances when I was surprised with my choices of what to grab and what to leave behind. This is also true with my art. The thought of possibly losing one’s precious work is daunting and while I prefer not to spend a lot of time thinking about it, I’ve found that the decisions I’ve made in these extremely intuitive moments, about what’s precious and what may be less precious, have been awfully revealing to me.
Sometimes when I’m struggling to find direction with my work, applying this “fire test” and asking myself if this or that is something I would rush to snatch if I only had a few moments can be very helpful. It enables me to flip my thinking from “What are things I like?” to “What do I genuinely treasure?” There are times when that slight shift in perspective leads me to meaningful realizations. The fire test can be an effective way to frame so many different parts of one’s life, from cleaning out closets, to deciding which people are important to you, to how to spend free time, etc.
Of course, the main thing I learned is that if my family and I are safe, there’s nothing which cannot be replaced or remade or at least remembered, and there are absolutely no “things” for which risking your life is worth it. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that my heart goes out to all the people whose property and lives are threatened, or even worse, affected by fire.
I did however, gain something valuable from our family’s multiple evacuations. When I’m feeling puzzled or stuck with my artwork — or other parts of my life — the fire test can be quite a clarifying device. And you don’t have to actually be in the path of a fire in order to make use of it.
Read more by Melanie Rothschild
Melanie Rothschild is a self-taught artist whose elaborate interior accessories have been sold in stores throughout the United States including Neiman-Marcus, the shops at the Smithsonian Institution, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center and hundreds of others for almost two decades. Her work is shown in fine art galleries and has been licensed to Target. She considers moxie, an irreverent nature, and a respect for mistake-making to be the tools of her trade. Melanie has a master’s degree in the Study of Creativity and an undergrad degree in Anthropology. She is from and lives in Los Angeles.
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