Class 17 of 30 Recap: Glassblowing Sampler Class

June 19th, 2014

Glass tools of torture

Glass tools of torture

Back into the daily rhythm of the 30 Classes in 30 Days Challenge as I doubled up again yesterday with a glassblowing sampler at Diablo Glass School followed by How to Design Characters for Games (recap coming tomorrow).

I am temporarily skipping the recap for class 16: 3D Sculpting since it is a 3 session class happening over the next few weeks, but the experience thus far has been great.

Glassblowing Sampler Class

This actually was not a glassblowing class per se. It would be better explained as playing with melted glass while getting an intro to glass artistry, hosted by Diablo Glass School.

Glass furnaces

Glass furnaces

In other words, there are some really hot furnaces (2200+ degrees Fahrenheit), some tools of glass torture, and multiple ways to manipulate the glass for different desired outcomes, like air bubbles, colors and shapes. Oh yeah, and a bunch of ways to burn yourself really really badly, which the instructors take great care in educating you about so you don’t do it.

I seem to have a knack for picking classes where I have to sign injury waivers going in (CNC plasma cutter, trapeze, and this).

Learning to blow glass would take much more time and practice than the two hours we had would allow. Our wildly entertaining instructor, Sean, and his helpers did give us a glassblowing demo toward the end of the class though, and then promptly destructed the piece shortly thereafter.

Destroying the finished pieces seems like a fun side hoppy of the staff….

Glass or really hot honey?

Glass or really hot honey?

Making a Paperweight

Why a paperweight? Because it is something you can’t really screw up, and it gives you a feel for what it is like to manipulate the molten glass. Seriously, you can’t screw it up.

I started with a long metal rod dipped into the furnace of molten class, taking care not to get too close to the furnace so as to burn myself. At the beginning, it really feels like you are dealing with warm honey that gets more and more viscous as it cools (like taffy and then hard candy), so I had to be sure to turn the rod continuously to keep it from oozing off.

Here is a quick list of the next steps to create the paperweight:

Reheating the bottom of the paperweight

Reheating the bottom of the paperweight

    • Make a couple passes at the furnace to get a workable mass of molten glass on your rod
    • Dip the rod into some colored glass shards to add some colors
    • Reheat the new glass and shards in the “glory hole”
    • Sit at the workbench and begin manipulating the glass with snips and tweezers – this is what will become the inside design of the paperweight
    • Reheat the glass repeatedly as it cools and becomes difficult to work with
    • Once happy with the shape, add a significant amount of new molten glass and start shaping it with a rounded mold to create the rounded shape of the paperweight
    • Use the “jacks” to start creating a fracture point that will sever the paperweight from the rod
    • Fracture the paperweight off the end by simply tapping the rod to create vibrations
    • Heat the bottom with a blowtorch and press on it to create a flat surface
    • Place in a cool down stove to keep it from imploding due to temperature differences on the external surface versus the internal temperature (they demonstrated this for us)

All in all, a pretty simple process.

Diablo is No Joke

Diablo means “devil” in Spanish, and this is appropriate considering how hot is was in the studio. Granted it was 90+ degrees in Boston yesterday, but the glass furnaces make it even hotter. They ask you to bring your own water for a reason. By the end of class, I was once again drenched in sweat.

I would definitely like to go back again (once the weather cools down) to try my hand at some other glass shaping activities. After the demo, actual glassblowing was not all that appealing to me, but there were so many other pieces of art in the school that were more about manipulating the glass in different ways, and that is what I would like to experience.