Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hot Glass Class

I have been fascinated with glass art since my teenage years. There was a glass artist who made small glass animals and trinkets not far from my house when my husband and I were dating. On one of our early dates, he bought me a small, seated bull that reminded me of the children's story of Ferdinand. It is blue. It was the first of many animals and trinkets that aren't always on display but are still very special to me.

I love to watch glass artists but never thought I'd have the chance to try being one myself. That happened this past weekend because of a Mother's Day gift. It was a great experience with five other participants and the instructor, Logan.

Logan knows everyone wants to try blowing glass to see what that is like. It is hard! He assured us that no one ever keeps the item blown in this class, it is just for the experience. Imagine blowing up a balloon that doesn't want to get started. It was much like that. With no training, our blown pieces had a life of their own and after photos were taken, they were broken to be recycled.

Here is the last picture with the glass outlined. Odd shape, right?
Logan explained what we would be doing next. Molten green glass was gathered from a furnace onto a rod, rolled a bit and then we used a tweezer-like tool and also a scissor type of instrument to pull, twist and snip the glass. The very hot glass glowed orange and in no way gave any indication of being emerald green when cooled. Here is my practice piece. Logan suggested we give these works artsy names, such as Man's Struggle With Society so that friends and family will think these are more than green blobs.
I shall call this masterpiece:  Kermit, in fetal position with looming shadow
After we all took a turn with our practice pieces, Logan demonstrated making a pulled flower and a paperweight. Molten glass was gathered on the rod, then dipped in colored bits of our choosing. To make the flower, the end of the rounded glass mass was smacked on the bottom with a paddle-like tool, making it resemble a hockey puck. The tweezer tool was used to pinch and pull out bits that would eventually make a flower. The flower below is one that I bought. The light blue color comes from recycled glass. White was added to make the milky color in the base of the blossom and stem.

Three of the students made flowers and the others made paperweights. These began with gathered glass on a rod that was dipped in our choice of colors (mine were blue, white, yellow and green) and then shaped much the way the practice piece was done. Snipping into the glass creates places for air bubbles to form in the paperweight, a look that I was going for. After that step, it was dipped in clear glass again, rolled on a metal table, and the rounded paperweight shape was achieved by rolling the rod to turn the glass while it rested in a wooden cup-like tool. 

Once that was done, the paperweight was removed from the rod by Logan. I held a torch to the bottom of the paperweight until the glass was glowing again. He smacked the bottom with something that resembled a wooden spool. This flattened the bottom. At this point in all of the glass creations, they went to an annealing oven where they cooled slowly for 72 hours. 

Here is the paperweight immediately after shaping. It still looks more orange and red, yet I didn't use either of those colors. 
Yesterday I returned to pick up the cooled items. I am very happy with my paperweight!

While I am not about to add glass work to my list of hobbies, I would happily do this again, especially with friends. I plan to take a lampwork class which is a different technique, and often used to make glass beads for one of my other favorite things in!

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