Saturday, August 13, 2011

ArtsQuest Glass Blowing Demo - in Detail

I briefly showed you some photos of the process of glass blowing on yesterday's post. It was so cool, though, that I wanted to show you all of the photos that I took, to give you a better idea of what this process entails.

In the first photo, Lindsey has already gotten the "gather" on the end of a heated blow rod. She rolled it into colored glass powder,and is reheating it, so the colored glass melts onto the gather. Then she will push it into a mold that shapes it with length-wise striations.

Next, she adds another layer of molten glass to her original gather, and will then add another layer of colored glass to it, which she will put into the glory hole, to melt.

Above, she is shaping the gather, and cooling the surface slightly, on the marver (the steel table that she's working on) which will help with the addition of another layer of molten glass, or another "gather" onto the first two gathers.
At the bench, Lindsey does some twisting, and more shaping to the gather, and takes off a bit of extra molten glass with some shears. Now the striations that were in the sides help to create a twist pattern in the colored layer.

She is letting the twisted glass cool a bit after the last flash (quick heat) in the glory hole.
After this cools a little, she will add another gather, then shape it and start the blowing process.
Making blown glass requires assistance. There should always be someone around to help you, when you make glass. The gaffer is the person whose piece is being made. In this case, it's Lindsey. She has control of the piece and gives direction to her helper.
While shaping her piece, she has her helper blow into the rod to get a bubble started in her piece. This will be expanded after she adds another gather to increase the size of her piece.
You can see here, above, that she has added another gather, and is shaping the piece with a "block" which is a scoop carved from fruitwood of some kind, and kept in water. Otherwise the piece would burn up from the intense heat of the molten glass. They are made to help shape glass into nice, evenly rounded shapes.
Lindsey then shapes the gather, pushing more of the glass to the bottom, so that it has a sturdy base. Also, this makes the sides thinner, helping the vessel increase in width when she does the next blow.
Here she is stretching out the neck of the piece, using the giant tweezers. She pulls on the base of the piece, while constantly turning the rod, so that the vessel doesn't become lopsided. It is molten, and the weight of it will make it droop if the rod isn't constantly being turned by the gaffer.
It's hard to see in this picture above, but the gaffer is using two paddles to evenly flatten out the sides of the vessel, after the last blow. She wanted to shape the vessel into an urn, which she will add handles to towards the end of the process. Her assistant turns the rod 180 degrees whenever it starts to droop down, maintaining a straight-necked vessel shape in the process.

Above, she has already had the assistant put the piece onto a punti (a temporary hold on another rod) so that she could detach her piece from the blow rod. I'm sorry I don't have any pictures of that, but I was watching raptly at the time! She is stretching out the neck with tweezers, making it thinner, and easier to give a nice open shape to.
Here you can see that she has an open neck on the vessel and has just come back from flashing the piece in the glory hole. She'll next add the handles, which the assistant will bring to her in the form of a long piece of molten glass...
She cuts what she needs from the taffy-like glass rope, and then bends it to the shape she wants, and attaches it where it looks best to her. Then she uses the tweezers or jacks to shape the opening inside the handle.
If you look closely (click on the photo) you can see she's stretching that glass rope down to create a thinner handle. She'll loop this a bit, and curl it. It will attach to the vessel and she can then work it a bit more to make a nicely shaped handle.
The second handle is always the hardest, she says. Because now you have to make a good match to the first one using imprecise methods. We call it "eye-balling it." This is something artists are good at... it separates the novices from the pros.
Lindsey now has a matching set of handles on the vessel, and needs to reheat the base so that she can remove it from the punti before placing it in the kiln. The assistant will catch the piece while wearing some serious gloves, then they will give the base a nice heat, smooth it out, and then put it into the kiln for about 12 hours. If it doesn't cool very slowly, then the piece will crack. It's always exciting to watch a glass blower at work! The weather wasn't too hot, but the glory hole and the oven holding the molten glass sure make up for the difference! Watching the demo also reignited my own love of glass making. I think I'm going to take another class in the fall! As long as I can get a job soon!

I hope you enjoyed seeing this process. It's definitely better in person, but I know that not everyone has the opportunity to see this in real life, so I did this post just for YOU.



Brandi said...

That's amazing, Shari! Thanks for sharing it with us!!

Lemons Don't Make Lemonade said...

That's awesome. It really is.

Shoe said...

What a cool post... I love watching glassblowers at work and it's really interesting to know how it was done! (Wish we could see a close up of the final product though :D )

shari said...

Thanks, all... I know. I couldn't get a good shot of the vase because as soon as they got it off the punti, they put it into the kiln. It has to slowly cool over 12 hours. If I can get down to the Banana Factory soon, I'll see if they have it there for me to photograph...

I'm glad you enjoyed seeing it in action. I hope to take another class there in October!

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