Of Fire and Air
Through the years I’ve dabbled in many arts and crafts. I learned to throw pottery on a kick wheel in college. I’ve painted with watercolors, acrylics, and oils. I learned to sew. I’ve created images with needlepoint, cross-stich and embroidery. When scrapbooking was the rage, I was "all in" on creating scrapbooks for people I love. One Christmas a few years ago, I built dollhouses for my three granddaughters. Along with my oldest daughter and my mother, we made furniture for those houses.
All of these arts and crafts satisfied some desire in me to create. They all gave me joy. They were often gifts to others.
And…they were all “hands-on.”
When a friend invited me to a demonstration class on glassblowing, I was intrigued. The invite suggested we would enjoy light refreshments and get to make something.
I had seen a snippet of someone glassblowing on a PBS documentary. I couldn’t see how we would be able to make anything, but I went. The project, he told me, was an ice cream dish.
Glassblowing. I didn’t know what to expect. Well, that isn’t all true. I knew it would be an extremely hot venue.
We watched with others in the group as our instructor told us how the large furnace in the middle of a line of furnaces reaches a temperature of over 2000 degrees F. We sat on the bleachers across from the work area as she retrieved a glob of the molten glass from a smaller, hotter furnace by reaching in with a long, hollow rod. (I’ve since learned it is called a punty.) She twisted and turned the rod to keep the glass from dropping to the ground the way you turn a spoon of honey to keep it intact until you spread it on a biscuit.
|Our instructor retrieves |
a glob of molten glass
from one of the smaller furnaces.
I watched in awe as the molten glob of glass began to take shape from the mere act of continuous movement and the force of gravity. She put the glass on the tip of the rod back into the fire a few times to keep it the right temperature. Each time, when she removed the molten blob, she utilized the natural force of gravity and the turning of the rod across a frame attached to the bench where she sat to get the glass the size and shape she needed for her project.
|Turning the glass on |
the rails attached to the bench.
When the fiery hot glass was finally the right length, she retrieved a large cherry wood ladle from a bucket of water and put it under the glass project as she continued to roll the rod back and forth across the frame. The wooden ladle had to be wet to keep it from bursting into flames from the hot glass.
This is when glass began to take on a new shape. She blew ever so lightly on the other end of the rod. We watched as this hot matter inflated. After a few more steps, she finished her project and it was time for us to try it.
|Yep, that's my air filling that glass ball.|
We didn’t go near the furnace. We did roll the rod holding the molten glass, hold the cherry wood beneath the glob of hot matter, and we blew lightly to inflate the glass. To make the bowl shape we had to suck in a bit of air so that the inflated bulb came back in on itself to create a bowl shape.
The experience was different than anything I had ever done before.
It took a while for me to fully digest what I encountered.
We took a glob of molten matter and using the force of gravity, fire, air, and movement, we made glass bowls. Without ever touching them.
This was a first for me. It was fun and informative, yes. But by engaging in this ancient art, I found a new sense of appreciation for the creative minds God has given us.
It reminds me of how God formed Adam from the dust of earth. How he breathes life into all of us. How he created everything from nothing. Like glass, we take on many shapes. We are described as “vessels.” And while it’s true our hearts can be shattered, we can also let the light shine through us.
If you live in the Cincinnati area and would be interested in learning more about glasswork, contact Neusole Glassworks in Forest Park. You can click on the link. It's pronounced "new sole," but for me? I think it's pronounced "New Soul."
Update: Here you go! My friend, Tom, picked up our bowls. Made even sweeter with Homemade brand Butter Pecan Ice Cream! Yay!