How to Learn Glassblowing

Artistic expression can take many forms. In addition to painting and sculpting, art may be in the form of clothing, blankets, or decorative household items. One of the most beautiful and practical uses of art is in the form of glassblowing, which can be mastered by almost anyone with the right instruction. And after seeing an art exhibit of Dale Chihuly stuff, I knew that this is one cool hobby that I wanted to learn. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far…

Finding a School

Glassblowing requires the use of specialized tools. In addition to the glass, furnaces that can reach more than 2400 degrees Fahrenheit are required. A bench with a marver is needed, along with a blowpipe and punty. For more elaborate designs, paddles, shears, blocks, and many other tools are necessary. Since few people outside of the professional art world have access to these tools, the best way to learn glassblowing is to find a school or class nearby that offers a class.

People in some areas, like Tacoma, Washington, have an advantage. They can often find freestanding glassblowing centers that offer regular classes, and the market for glassblowing prices is competitive enough to keep prices low. In most parts of the country, classes in glassblowing may be available at a local art museum, art college, or community college.

Preparing for your Class

In most cases, you’ll want to wear closed-toe shoes and have long hair pulled back and out of the way. Most schools require that students provide their own eye protection, and some require that students provide or purchase their own aprons and gloves, although that may be included in the price of the course. You’ll probably want to bring a notebook or sketchbook to draw designs, and to avoid clothing with long, flowing sleeves or flammable synthetic materials.

If you’re not sure whether glassblowing is really for you, ask your school if they have any one-day workshops on the topic. Some schools have shorter sessions where you can work with a glassblowing expert to build a single piece; this allows you to experience glassblowing before making a major investment of time and money.

A Short Primer

While your instructor will probably go over glassblowing, knowing a bit before beginning will help you to feel more comfortable in the glass studio. Modern glassblowing involves three furnaces: the crucible or furnace, filled with melted glass; the glory hole, used to reheat pieces while working on them; and the annealer, used to slowly cool the glass to prevent cracking. The tip of the blowpipe is preheated and then used to pick up a blob of molten glass, which is rolled on a marver to cool the outer skin of the glass. Then you blow air into the pipe to create a bubble. Over time, the piece can be expanded, and larger pieces require far more time and energy. Once the piece is finished, the molten glass is transferred to a punty to create the opening.

Glassblowing is an ancient art that has created some of the most beautiful and lasting pieces of art in the world. With modern tools and techniques, glassblowing is a fun way for even a hobbyist to create beautiful, unique sculptures and pieces.

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