Last night I attended my first ever glass class . . . and my last ever glass class! Holy hot furnace batman! That glass blowing stuff is a scary hobby. The furnace is 2100 degrees! And its full of hot molten lava, er, glass.
There were six of us suckers, of course I meant to say, students in last nights class and one talented instructor. We were all new to this business of working with hot molten glass and five of the six were right about my young age. Two women and four men and the part I actually liked the best was that we really were a group of like souls. No one was there with anyone else and everyone had signed up just to try something different.
So for being new, why did they all seem like naturals? I swear, I was the worst student in the class. For one thing, I was a little too short for gathering the liquid glass out of the furnace so the instructor had to find me a step stool. That didn’t make either one of us that comfortable. But I collected my glass like everyone else and have the photos to prove it! I just don’t have the paperweight yet since it has to cool for 18 hours before we can take them home.
I do have though a whole new appreciation for glass work. Even the simple stuff involves a lot of steps. Basically last night, after learning about all the tools and the ovens and how to use everything, the instructor worked with each of us to make a “simple” paperweight. I say simple that way because here were the steps — for each:
- Heat the tip of your glass collecting pole in a separate 2100 degree oven. Twirl the pole the entire time while your hands and face are melting off from the heat.
- Move from that ridiculously hot oven to the actual glass furnace (which reminded me of a scene out of “Scrooge” for all you fellow followers of that classic movie!)
- Get on your step stool, have the oven open, stick your poker stick in, look and “feel” for the liquid glass with your sunglasses on so you don’t burn the corneas in your eyes, collect the glass, level out your pole so it doesn’t drop off, calmly step off the stool and back away from the furnace. Keep twirling the pole so the glass stays on.
- Get over to the specially formed glass work chair/tool area. With your free hand check to make sure you still have eyebrows.
- Then, keep twisting the pole, while reaching over and getting your first tool to form the blob of glass into a sort of ball.
- Now get up out of the chair without burning yourself and still turning the rod, walk over to the color table and dip your blob in your color(s) — I chose gold and white — mostly as a salute to our wonderful sunny day.
- Then go back to the first oven that melted your hands and face, and heat the blob so that the color chips melt on it.
- Next, unbelievably, you now repeat the process: collect glass from the furnace — a much bigger ball now since it went on top of the first ball, form it, put more color on it, heat it in the first oven.
- Now though, you get to play with it at the work area with the tools and that was my favorite part. The glass starts out so soft and then gets progressively too hard to work with but while its hard you get to poke it, pull it, cut it, and twist it — all while remembering to turn your pole at the same time. Aaaaahhhh!!!
- You repeat that step two or three times — heating it up in the hot oven each time — depending on your design and how fast the glass cools.
- Finally the instructor takes over, (though with me he was never far away) and takes your blob that doesn’t look like much, walks it to the furnace and dips it in, putting a clear glass ball around your creation.
- Fabulous! It isn’t going to be the worst paperweight made on the planet, its going to look like something cool. You just have no idea what yet. The only color you see mostly is just red. The colors don’t really start showing till it starts to cool.
- Then the instructor works it with the tools at the table until it looks like it is going to fall off the pole and shatter into a million pieces at which point you will grab your purse, curse the world and head for home.
- But somehow it hangs on and now he is telling you to walk it across the room to a special holding stand, Oh, and keep twirling the pole — but don’t jerk on it or it could fall off.
- Oh and grab the big tweezer tools which you just forgot and have to go back and get. And pick them up right Julee for crying out loud. (I’m thinking at that point that there are a lot of ways these tweezers could be used . . . )
- The instructor now goes back in the oven with a different pole, grabs some molten glass and blobs it on the table next to where you’re standing.
- Then he runs behind you, straps into a welders hat and gloves, stands at the end of the pole and instructs you to whack the pole with the big metal tweezers.
- Voila! The paperweight drops off, he catches it, mashes it onto the blob of molten glass he just put on the table so it has a stand, runs behind you and shoves it in a cooling oven.
- And you start again with the next person.