If Daniel Seddiqui looks familiar, it’s because he’s appeared in numerous media outlets such as USA Today, NPR, and The Today Show to share his experience in working 50 jobs in 50 states, ongoing expeditions where he explored careers representative of each state’s culture and economy. Last month, Seddiqui was in Providence with an agenda coordinated by the tourism experts at the PWCVB. While he was in town, Seddiqui even took over the @PVDMonthly Instagram account. We asked him to pen a travelogue with us, too.
Until this visit, I did not realize that Providence is to artists as Nashville is to musicians, or Silicon Valley to entrepreneurs. That is an impressive creation itself. I’m on my sixth journey across America to visit every major city and learn a unique craft depicting the culture and industry. The result: a memento from each destination which I call “A Piece of Your City”. The concept was born after overhearing travelers ask one another about what to do. Their brainstorming session resulted in having dinner at a randomly selected restaurant and my heart dropped, thinking: What a missed opportunity to experience something meaningful that connects with the locals. Inspired by Providence’s educational institutions and the idea of creating through the city’s manufacturing history, Providence was stop number three on my latest tour, where my primary hands-on craft would be glassblowing.
Getting noticed between two world-class cities – NYC and Boston – is no easy feat, yet Providence has done that by establishing itself as The Creative Capital. It takes time, a resilient culture of people, and the likes of world-renowned glassblower Dale Chihuly and toy inventors from Hasbro, Inc., among many others to earn such a title. Art and design works are easy to find in the city, from towering murals and sculptures in downtown, to fabricated steel bike racks and garbage cans along the Woonasquatucket River Greenway. I wanted to explore it all. After a morning of touring and eating, I headed to Gather Glass on Atwells Avenue at 1pm for a turn at glass blowing.
Stepping into the Gather Glass workshop with a furnace blowing at 2,000 degrees is intimidating. I was given a long rod to dip the end into smoldering silica sand and instructed to constantly spin it until a bright orange honeycomb shape formed, a process called gathering. After 40 seconds, I’m told to smash the gooey form into a Fruity Pebbles-like “frit” which is a glaze ingredient made of ground glass and flux elements. Next, I insert the rod into the furnace until the color was blended, followed by attaching a mouthpiece at the opposite end of the rod, and blowing. I’m told that if I blow too hard, it will result in a thin layer and crack, which is exactly what happened.
Glass blowing is a delicate process that takes years of practice and by my second try I succeeded and now have a lovely ornament, reminding me of my time here. I can claim that I was a student of Providence, practicing my art in a city that encourages creation for the public to find meaning.
Up next is New York City, where I’ll try a hip-hop class in the Bronx, take a tennis lesson in the US Open Tennis Center in Queens, appear on an Italian cooking show on Staten Island, illustrate with a cartoonist from The New Yorker, and make graffiti art in Brooklyn.
Follow Seddiqui along at LivingTheMap.com