On one of my visits to Tacoma a few years ago, I discovered the Tacoma Glassblowing Studio (www.tacomaglassblowing.com/index ) where you can take workshops to learn to blow glass. Now how cool is that?! I made a small bowl that trip and have wanted to do more ever since.
This trip to Washington I took not one, but TWO classes! First one I went with Himself’s cousin where I made a “stuffed float” and she made a small vase. The second class I made a large bowl.
(I’ve combined photos from all three so you can see the process.)
You start by deciding what you want to make and what color(s) you want to use. The items L is looking at are the possibilities. The colors are in the foreground.
Then you layout your colors into a tray. This is basically how it will be on your glass piece. Anyplace you don’t have color will be clear glass. This is the color tray for my float.
Once you go into the studio, your instructor will select the pipe you’ll use and will gather glass from the bottom of this big kiln called the furnace. The glass is about 2000* F in here!
Straight out of the furnace.
The pipe gets hot from being in the furnace, so you cool it down so you can handle it. Have to keep it moving tho, that molten glass has the consistency of thick honey and can fall off the pipe.
Then you take it over to your station where you roll it around on the tray of color. The chips of colored glass stick in the molten glass.
You mash them in really hard.
Then it goes into a smaller, cooler kiln called the glory hole. That keeps your glass at the right temperature to work. Otherwise it could break while you are blowing it.
The glory hole heats the glass to about 1600* degrees.
After you get your color into the glass ball, you just keep working it a bit. I suppose this compacts it down (I forgot to ask why!).
If you want the color to swirl in your finished piece, at this point you grab into the glass ball with huge tweezers and literally twist the molten glass.
It’s hard to describe what it feels like. Kind of like Silly Putty with sand in it. Except really, really hot…
When you get things like you want it, it is time to do the blowing. A long tube attaches to the back end of the pipe. Here it is a 2 person (or more for the huge things) job. One blows while the other supports the glass.
The glass is shaped with a form that I think was called a jack. They are made of cherry wood. The heat of the glass dries them and they’ll start smoking. You dip them in water to keep them cool. (Surprisingly, it does not make the glass break. I guess at those temps it’s not brittle.)
Another way to shape it is by using a pad of damp newspaper. The instructor was the one to do this step.
The paper pad after use.
The glass cools in the jacks. At first you can’t tell the colors… it all looks orange-red (except for the cobalt).
Then the softer colors start showing up.
At this point it needs to go back into the glory hole to be reheated.
After multiple times of blowing the glass ball larger and reheating, it finally gets to the size you want for your project. This was my large bowl… so it needed to become bowl-shaped. To do that the end is heated to red hot and then you blow hard to pop it like a bubble! After it pops, the opening is worked to the size and shape you want.
Then it goes back in the oven!
Here I am making the base for my bowl. That is the stamp for the studio and a moment later I stamped my initial into it.
My large bowl waiting for the base to be applied.
My large bowl finished.
And this is my ‘stuffed float’. It was made pretty much the same as the bowl, except when the end was popped it wasn’t enlarged. It was thru that small hole the treasures were inserted. The sand is from Akutan, AK and other things were picked up when we went to the seaglass beach. There are a couple small pebbles, a piece of drift wood, several shells and of course some seaglass.
And this is the vase that L made. (Yes, the photo is actually upside down. I forgot to take one of the finished vase. She was getting ready to put the base on it.)
At the end of the session, our instructor made us a glass rose. He took a small ball of glass and started pulling on it with the tweezers. Soon there was a red hot rose forming!
The shop has many wonderful pieces for sale. Beautiful art pieces and decorations…
… and Christmas ornaments…
…and even fun glass pumpkins!
If you’re ever in the Tacoma area and would like to try it, I can’t even begin to tell you what serious fun this was! I’m probably going to do at least one class every time I go out.