I love glass as an art form. My first stop in Seattle was the Chihully museum. I’ve watched glass workers every chance I’ve had, one of my favorites of all time was at the Blenko Glass Factory in Milton, West Virginia. There was something fascinating about a team of big bearded dudes in overalls without shirts doing a complicated choreographed dance and creating something delicate and stunningly beautiful.
On a lovely day in Utah when we were to meet my sister and her family from Portland we ended up at Thanksgiving Point and parked in front of Holdman Studios and Glass Art Institute. We wandered in for a peek. My two youngest weren’t entirely thrilled although they thought it was fairly interesting. Mostly they wanted to go back to the donut shop we had just passed. Thanks to a chatty sales clerk I learned that they offer classes. Being from out of town I didn’t really pay attention until she went on to describe them as a one-time project. You only have to wait a day for the glass to anneal and we happened to have a couple of free days later in the week. I signed all three of us up!!!
So here we are. Little guy sits and rolls the first gather on the pipe. The artist pulled the gather out of the crucible… that furnace was so white hot inside that you almost couldn’t see where the fire and the crucible and the glass began and ended.
Next step – rolling out your glob into more of a cylinder.
The artist gathers another layer of glass, you roll it out again, then roll it into little shards of the coloring agents.
This then goes into a furnace and you turn it while the shards melt into the gather.
I’m telling you – even when the fan is on- they open that furnace door and it’s instant burn time! The wooden paddle he is holding will rest on the pipe and shield her from the heat just enough that she stops squawking.
After another layer from the crucible is added, more rolling, more shaping, a second layer of coloring shards and melting, it’s time to flatten out the cylinder. You roll and press it with a steel paddle. It’s fascinating how quickly and suddenly as the glass flattens that you get a hard edge on the molten glass.
Now, with a little help, giant pliers pull the edge. It’s a pretty thick and heavy glob of glass and the edges cool quickly but you keep pulling. Imagine a two pound hunk of cooled taffy. The red color is just the HOT glass.. it will be blue when it cools.
After pulling out the edges, the kids used what looked like a giant pair of tweezers to dent the back of their dish. The glass was placed on that pile of white stuff behind me in the video – a tap on the rod broke it off and they paddled the bottom flat. My project was a flower vase. I think it’s fascinating that as the edges cool the rest of the glass is still molten.
It’s not something I was purchase if I saw it in a shop, but all of us are inordinately in love with the glass we made. Little guy uses his for everything, from potato chips to legos. Little girl carries hers around or just looks at it. Me too.
Like I said – DOING wins hands down. Our second trip through the gallery the kids were fascinated by every little detail, trying to imagine how you spun out such a heavy gather of glass into a two foot wide platter. All of us now noticed every little detail and appreciated colors and shapes in a way we hadn’t before.
I wonder what other art forms and skills I could gain a huge appreciate for by giving them a try?