For Christmas last year, I got my boyfriend, AGP, a gift certificate for a class at a local glass blowing studio, Manchester Hot Glass. We finally used it the other day (just in time for this Christmas! Hah!) and received excellent tutelage under the shops owner, Andrew Weill, during a two hour class where we were taught the very basics of glass blowing.
The glass studio is located right in the heart of Manchester, Vermont, and at it's core is a artful glass gallery and repair shop. But once you step into the fancifully decorated workshop at the back of the storefront, you are transported into another world of hellish temperatures and iron torture devices - for torturing the glass, of course. Heat bellows from his two furnaces, one full of molten, blinding white glass ready to torment, and the other used to set and melt pieces in progress.
Blowing glass is not a user friendly process. First, everything is hot. Hotter than hot. Molten globs of glass are pulled out of the first oven, stuck safely on a long pole, mixed with pretty colored glass flecks, and then melted again into a workable ball. The pole must be spun at all times, lest the glowing ball of glass drip like honey onto the floor, or worse, develop an undesirable, wonky form.
The first few items we made were paperweights - the perfect way for a beginner to get the hang of manipulating fiery glass and maneuvering the pole in the appropriate, sphere forming way. We formed the ball shape with a pad of wet newspaper; ash and smoke was flying everywhere, and hands were slapped before they moved dangerously close to the action.
And promptly, before the glass could melt in an unattractive way, the products were whisked away while the colors were still igneous to the 900 degree oven where they would cook some more and then slowly cool over the next twenty four hours. The purple and yellow paperweight I wanted to make looked more like neon red magma to me!
We moved on from paperweights to actual glassblowing, which is a lot like blowing bubbles into flaming hot molasses. Blow, shape, blow, shape, until the cute little bubble is switched around and teased open with the torturous tweezers. And violà! - whiskey tumbler.
We made a few more gorgeous items that day, including a whimsical vase (AGP) and a speckled carafe (me), but all of our projects were tucked away in the oven before we could really get a good idea of how they came out.
Everything about glass making is brisk and agile. There is no time for stopping or fumbling, which is why Andrew and his assistant, Molly, were there every step of the way, guiding our hands and poles so we could create attractive, professional quality pieces. We left ripe with anticipation to come back to see the fruits of our labor.
The end products were so beautiful! Definitely worth the wait to see how they came out. It's hard to believe we made these ourselves - thanks to Andrew and Molly!
And you can bet that whiskey tastes better out of blown glass tumblers that you made yourself.