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Open Studio: The head of the glass

Post Time:Dec 19,2011Classify:Company NewsView:358

Balancing a 4-pound solid teaching rod with my left hand, I waited in line for a chance at the hot molten glass.


I was one of eight students participating in a Wednesday Night Open Studio introductory glass-blowing class at the Chrysler Museum of Art's Glass Studio in Norfolk.


The hourlong class is one of several classes and workshops that offer the hot-glass experience - but it does not allow students to actually blow glass using a blowpipe. Students who want to produce a bubble should enroll in the two-hour teaser.


Glass Studio technician Robin Rogers provided a run-through of the process in the shop before allowing students to take part.


It gets hot in the shop; the furnace housing the molten glass is kept at a blazing 2,150 degrees.


With safety glasses on, I watched.


Rogers began working with glass as an undergraduate at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio in 1995, and he later opened his own studio in Montana.


"Place your right hand on the end of the rod and practice turning clockwise," he said. The rod should always be in motion.


One-by-one instruction was the same, and came with a warning that the rod would get hot beyond a certain point.


"That's hot stuff," said Chris Edmondson from Virginia Beach, who was taking the class with her husband. Edmondson had accidentally touched the hot part of the rod.


I was sixth in line and growing more nervous watching. I really didn't want to burn myself and was thinking, "Just how hot does that rod get?" I comforted myself knowing we were handling the rods without gloves, so it couldn't be too bad.


"How many people get to have this experience? It's an adventure," said Keith Denson, also from Virginia Beach and standing in front of me. He and his wife came to the class with the Edmondsons.


"Patty, it's your turn," Rogers said.


Trading my cool teaching rod for a heated one, I headed toward the furnace. Rogers slowly opened the furnace door, and I could feel the heat on my hands. With intense concentration, I lowered the rod into the hot liquid and began turning to gather the molten glass. The process reminded me of twirling spaghetti around a fork.


Once the rod is removed from the furnace, gravity is used to pull the glass off. At this point, a bubble would be crafted if I were using a blowpipe. Shaping is done on a cool surface by rolling the glass on a steel table called a marver. Sometimes a marble surface is also used.


From there, I took my glass to the "glory hole," an oven used to reheat the glass for working, its heat rivaling that of the furnace. Looking into the oven was like staring at the sun.


Rogers dubbed the round adjustable shade attached to the oven "glory vision." The shade allows you to look directly into the oven while working the piece.


I ended up having to repeat the process and was determined to do it myself even when Rogers offered to lend me a hand.


From there, I went to the workbench and used tools called jacks and tweezers to finish the piece. In all, the process took a little more than 5 minutes from start to finish.


And Denson was right: It's an adventure.

Source: http://hamptonroads.comAuthor: shangyi

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