I remember when I was a young child of around 5 or 6, I was fascinated by my father's hands. He was 27-28 at the time, but age didnt hold much context or relevance to me, just the fact he was older, and that I could see it in his hands. The veins were bulging and winding under the skin like rivers, almost backtracking their course in their paths. His tendons were thick and ropy when he used them, knuckles taught and knobby, hands ashen and dry from hard work. He worked many odd jobs when we were younger in Australia: construction worker, courier, early shift baker (which meant lots of a palm heart pastries for breakfast from the day olds bag he'd bring back) .
Photo by Daniel Y. Goat Flickr
I only learned recently all the odd jobs and manual labor he did to support the family when I was little. When I was kid there was something magical about the detail and texture of his hands, how different they looked from my own small fresh young hands, skin pink and soft. I think I knew on some unconscious level something had changed them deeply to make them look that way.
I've been At Art Center College of Design for three terms now, a year to the day.
My hands have experienced a lot, some of it for the worse. Barehanding acetone, burning myself, cutting myself, covered in grease, grime, epoxy. The ache in my hands from 18 hours of sanding, drilling, and cutting, and only 2 hours of sleep. Some of it was for the better. overcoming my conscious block and finally remembering how to draw without hesitation like a kid. The automatic turn of the pencil to keep the tip needle sharp. the glass smooth finish to a piece perfectly sanded down. Although they probably will never match the sheer degree of roughness that my younger fathers' and blue collar lifers, they now have stories to tell.
A design education is unique in that its just as much physical training as it is mental. I can tell if something is out of perspective, I can intuit flat spots on a surface by running my hands over it. If a glue joint is sound by flexing and torsioning it ever so slightly. Oh, and you can't forget the sanding, the endless hours and epochs wax-on-wax-off zen like quality to sanding,
My hands used to be constantly sweaty, a combination of physiological and psychological. I used to be a nervous guy, always overthinking social situations, nervous around new people, they'd get clammy and I'd have to wipe my palms just before I shook someones hand, lest they meet my own special "clammy salmon" shake. I'm not so nervous, the constant stream of Decide and Do has burnt away the excess, the overthinking. Also the chemicals have probably done their fair share of burning away my sweat glands - This is the first time in my life I've had to use hand lotion. (another aside - the callouses on the tips of my fingers intermittently result in dead taps on touchscreens)
I see the similarity to my fathers hands, the knowledge imparted to them through work and trial, though the veins aren't quite a warped or pulsing, the skin not quite as rough or scarred, they do hold their own kind of magic to them, their own history.