Sadly they are no longer teaching classes.
The Set up
A month ago The Lady turned the ooh so terrible age of 31. As far as gifts go, I like to either give something I make or something the two of use could do together. Back before I had met The Lady, I did a meet up kind of event through Match.com. It was held at a Glass Blowing Company in south Austin. The meet up itself was fun enough and I would highly recommend you go to one if you’re looking at such an event. At worst, it’s a nice way to get out of the house. Moving on, Part of the meet up was being able to “make” your own item. I chose(I had to look up how to spell that. choose/chose…) to make a tiny cup. The people who ran the glass blowing shop did pretty much everything except pick out the colors and do the actually blowing through the pipe. It was limited, but I suppose it also wasn’t the point of the evening. Anyhow a month later I met The Lady and somewhere along the lines I mentioned the event. She seemed intrigued and said she would like to try it herself. Soon…ish, her birthday rolled around and I signed us both up for a class at
Finding the place proved to be a bit more challenging than one might expect. It was off a fairly major road, but nestled behind a Rent A Car place. We actually drove up to the correctly the first time thinking it was the back entrance. And after a bit of driving around and almost parking is said Rent A Car’s parking lot, we decided that the first spot was the correct one. And it was! Much rejoicing. We go, meet the teacher, Ian, who seemed like a nice enough guy. He told us a little about what we’d be doing while we waited for the last member of the class to show up.(Limited to 3 per class-nice). We’d be making a total of 3 items, a paper weight, an ornament, and a cup. A few minutes later the other member shows up and we are gleefully whisked away to the Glass Blowing Area.
That was want’s particularly cold, but it was a little chilly sitting around 42 degrees. The Lady and I were both suitably dressed. Now why do I mention this? Because if you have ever wondered how hot it must be to keep glass a liquid, wonder no more! About 2400 degrees Ferinheight.Then you have the ‘Glory Hole’ while was sitting around 1000 degrees and various other warmers and things to burn yourself with.Basically it was hot. Thankfully The Lady and I know the value of layers, so it turned out to be just fine.
The Paper Weight
First up we were going to make a paper weight. The process for this was fairly simple. For each of the 3 items, Ian would make one first and then we each take a turn repeating what he did. I ended up going last, but that made it nice as I was able to see it done 3 different times. First I choose my colors, a sort of lime green and white with red speckles. Then I took one of the steel rods shown in the picture above and proceeded to put molten glass on the end. This involved Ian opening the over, which blasted out that 2500 degrees of heat at your face. Inside this oven site what amounts to large bowl which Ian said hold 150 gallons of liquid glass. So you stick the rod a few inches in the blow, all the while turning the rod and pulled it out. Because the rode is cooler and prodably some other reason that I don’t know about, the glass sticks to the rod. But you still have to be constantly turning the rod because the glass is still a liquid so it will drip off onto the flow, as The Lady discovered a couple of times. Next I rushed over to where I had my colors laid out, and swirled the glass which is the span of 10 seconds had hardened more than you would think.I’d say it was close to a Play Dough consistency.
Next I stuck the rod, now sprinkle with my chosen color, into the Glory Hole. Ohh the color is just bits of colored glass, while the glass from the over is clear. The idea with sticking it in the glory hole, is to melt the small pieces of colored glass into the base clear glass. Then I repeated the process and added my second color. Once the second color was added I took the rod, over to a bench that had two arms stretched out where I could lay the rod down and roll it. Next I used a what looked like a large wooden spoon.
To Shape the glass into a more roundish shape. Then using some tongs, I poked the glass a little which I was told would add bubbles. Then I went back to the Hell Oven, put another layer of clear glass on, used the wooden tool once more to shape it. For the final step, I added a bit of water to where the rod ended and the glass began. This made it easier to break off the glass off of the rod without cracking the rest of the glass. A simple tap on the rod while my paper weight sat nicely on a bed of cotton and boom! A new paper weight. Ian then placed it into a cooling oven, which would slowly lower the templater of the glass some it doesn’t cool to fast and break.
The Ornament actually turned out to be the easiest of the 3 pieces to make. First, I once again chose my colors and then retrieved some glass using the same type of rod as before. I added the first color and then reheated the whole thing in the Glory Hole to melt in the new colored Glass. Rinse/repeat for the second color. Next is where things diverged from the paper weight. Instead of going to sit down in the seat with the outstretched arms, I was directed to a table upon which I would roll the glass into make a cone like shape.
Once the general shape was achieved, I blew into the rod(which is hollow) and formed a small bubble inside the glass. Then I reheated the glass in the Glory Hole and took a seat on the bench with the outstretched arms. With a little help from The Lady, the original bubble was enlarged until it was more or less round. And that was it! I took it over to the cotton area where I broke the Ornament off of the rod.
This one started much like the ornament did. Where it was different is that instead of creating a larger bubble after the initial one, I used the tool to shape it into a more cyndalar shape much like I did with the paper weight. After another stint in the Glory Hole and more shaping, it was time to transfer the glass to another rod. To do this I let the rod cool for a minute or two. Then Ian retrieved another rod with a small piece of molten glass on the end of it. While he was doing that I flash heated my glass for 5 seconds and I returned to the bench. Ian then place the new rode onto what would be the bottle of my glass.
Adding a bit of water to where the glass met rod I was holding, I tapped the my rod, breaking the spot where it was connecting to the glass, and BAM! Glass transferred to a new rod. It was pretty cool to watch. Next I reheated the glass and then came what I thought was the “scary” part. If you’ll remember, at the beginning I added an initial bubble, this left a hole into the center of glass.To make a cup, I took the tongs, pinched them together and place them inside said hole. With Ian’s help, so as to keep it level,I let the tongs expand, thus widening the hole and creating a cup! A quick use of the blow torch to give the bottom a shine and Bobs Your Uncle!
Overall I would say the experience and take home pieces were definitely worth the, somewhat high price tag. If you have the time and think you might enjoy it, I highly recommend you give it a shot! Ohh and here are my final products which I was able to pick up two days later after they had been cooled down slowly inside of another oven.
Thanks for reading!