Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Glass Blowing in Red Hook

On Sunday, I took receipt of an extraordinary birthday gift. C had arranged a session at Pier Glass in Red Hook. With our friends Peter and Bob, we took the water taxi from pier 11 in Manhattan on a shimmery summer day. (It’s free and brings you to the IKEA store a short walk from our destination.)

Kevin, who is one of the owners and glass making experts at the studio, would be my instructor. He had previously warned me to wear no synthetics (The high heat of the place might melt a polyester shirt!) and no sandals (The idea of dropping molten glass on your foot needs no explanation.), and to bring a bottle of water.

He carefully walked me through the process while he made a drinking glass. At one point, I distracted him by asking him the derivation of two glass-making words: marber and sofietta. While trying to answer me, he lost concentration and broke the piece and I resolved to be quiet and to research the words after I got home.

The most fantastic part of the experience involved extending the metal rod into a vat of molten glass, collecting it as one would scoop a dollop of honey from a jar with one of those corrugated wooden dippers. I kept forgetting to keep the rod turning to keep the glowing glob of glass from slumping but I always managed to save it from disaster.

C and Peter documented the entire event meticulously. Here are some of the pics and vids.

I learned that in glass blowing, the expertise lies in knowing how the glass will react to heat and motion. It is an extremely sensitive process. Not particularly forgiving. It made me want to sell off all the glass I’ve ever collected and replace it with my own stuff. While returning on the watertaxi, I was deeply saddened by the overwhelming brevity of a life in which one manages to get one’s laundry done because one must, but one does not have time to make all the glass one imagines while looking at sunlight flattered by the ocean.

Here is the vase I made. In it is a flower I also made allowing me to use other tools for crimping and stretching glass.


Birdie said...

That looks like an absolute blast. I've watched artists at work at the local studio, and it's a collaborative ballet to produce a piece. But to join in! I'm so jealous.

Art glass is my favorite medium by far, a wonderful blend of form and light, always employing the most appealing shape in nature: the curve. I'm lucky to own several pieces from the artist Michael Mikula. Yours will be beautiful capturing the light of Florida.

Tate said...

Beautiful!!! I have always wanted to give that a try. I think I will have a go at it soon.

dpaste said...

Wow, that is a really beautiful piece. I would be a bit scared to work with molten glass, but to be able to make something like that would be amazing. And to think it's so close by, in Red Hook.

Tony Adams said...

The instructor hands you a piece of chalk to draw on the floor the shape you want to make. I could have been more elaborate with curves and turns, but I like the simplicity of it.

Spouse Walker said...

Fascinating. I loved it. That guy is a good teacher too. He knows every move you need to make. That vase is beautiful and the flower too. What a fun filled day. I would never have thought of such a thing.

Spouse Walker said...

Will he let you make a square window covering with various blobs and colors? IE: for the bathroom or hallway.

Tony Adams said...

Dear ewe,
I suppose he would, but to get the correct size might be difficult. I talked with the other instructor about glass fusing. I asked her about making tiles to do a backsplash. She said it's easy to learn and then they just charge for materials and studio time. With glass fusing, because the molten glass spreads, you use a frame to keep the shape as desired. You position the glass strips or pieces and the furnace does the rest.

Gavin said...

What an unusual, but clever and awesome b-day gift! And you have a beautiful piece to remember the day.

rusty, out on the factory floor said...

A few years ago My Beloved and I took a series of classes in glass-blowing. And the lesson that I took from that experience is that the act of creation is not accidental or casual, but deliberate and focused.

I can't recall how many times I would slip my piece through the glory hole only to lose it off the punty.

And your vase is beautiful in it's simplicity.