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What To Expect In Your First Visit

A Quick Primer On Why Glassmaking Grabs Your Attention

The Creeping Drama of Potential Disaster

The first thing to emphasize is that not every piece is going to survive. That's important because the first thing you'll notice is that glassmaking is a team sport. At certain key points in the process, if things aren't just plain perfect between the teammates, that beautiful piece of hot glass is going to shatter on the floor. Every transfer from blowpipe to bitrod carries risk, and the risk multiplies as the piece grows. Our Studio Team is supremely talented and deeply experienced. It's not a guarantee.

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The glass is clear. It's only orange here because of its heat. Click to enlarge.

 

A Fleeting Glimpse of the Final Product

Nowhere is the chance for error as high as the final break-off point, when the piece leaves the rod to land in the gloved hands of someone wearing a flameproof suit. What started as a 2,000-degree blob of molten glass has become a 900-degree object of art, and it must be cooled slowly lest it shatter or crack. You'll only get a quick glimpse of the piece because an assistant is going to hustle it quickly into a slow-cooling oven. The cool-down process is called annealing, and in most cases, you can see the finished piece the next day. Larger pieces take longer. For one particularly stunning piece of glass art in our collection, it was so thick, so large and so complex, it had to be cooled for months.

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How to dress for a 900-degree kiln. Click to enlarge.

 

The Mix of High-Tech and Ancient

Our Glass Studio is so high-tech the kilns can be controlled by iPhones. It's as energy-efficient as it can be, with excess heat being recirculated to heat the building, and we recycle all the scrap glass. There's a closed-circuit TV system that can switch between three cameras to provide the studio audience with closeups projected on big-screen TVs. There are lights and music, and then there are hand tools next to the glassmaker's bench. Considering all this technology, it's worth noting a Venetian glassmaker from the 15th Century would be instantly familiar with the jacks and blocks and shears being used today. It might take some time for the time traveler to get used to modern natural gas torches and furnaces, as opposed to the wood-fired practices of his day, but he'd see the same basic techniques of his era being used to this day.

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To many glass artists, glass is a lot more interesting while it's still molten. Click to enlarge.