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Collecting and Appreciating the Art of Handspun and Blown Glass
The Sparkle of Glass
The art of spinning and blowing glass is a labor of love. Spinning liquid glass into fine threads takes skill and patience -- although I am not an artisan, I sincerely appreciate, not only the beauty of the finished piece, but the talented hands from which it was created. Sure, you can buy glass trinkets made in China but hand-crafted pieces are treasures for curio cabinets and shelves. I have been collecting spun and blown glass for many, many years. (These photos represent only a portion of my collection).
The process for creating the glass itself uses three furnaces; the main one contains a crucible to store the molten glass. The second furnace, called the Glory Hole, reheats the object. The third furnace is called a lehr or annealer and used for cooling the glass. Glass must be cooled very slowly (over several hours or days) to keep it from cracking or shattering under thermal stress. Glass blowing tools include a blow pipe or tube, tweezers, a punty rod, mandrel or pontil, paper, shears, paddles, blocks, jacks and workstation bench.
In order to heat the glass so that it looks nearly white, the torch must be 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. After air bubbles are released from the hot glass, the torch temperature is reduced to about 2,000 degrees. The actual blowing is typically done between 1,600 and 1,900 degrees F.
The terms glassblower, gaffer or glass-smith describe those who blow or spin hot, liquid glass into shapes. In the glassmaking studio, a lampworker handles the torch while the artisan spins or blows into a pipe to create the glass.
Rondels and Glass Blowing
Spun or blown glass pieces begin with rondels; variously-sized clear or colored beads or disks made from very hot, liquid glass. Shaped by a footing tool, handspun glass rondels are mostly solid in color (unlike sheet glass, which can have a small palette). They are thicker than blown rondels. Flash, or mouth-blown, rondels are solidly-colored or clear glass disks with colored edges. Blown rondels are smoother and thinner than hand-spun disks.
When creating a mouth-blown piece of glass, air through a long pipe creates a bubble that forms the circular or irregularly-shaped glass object. A specially-designed pole (called a “pontil”) detaches hot glass from the blowpipe while forming the object’s shape. When the molten glass is formed, the piece is cooled in an annealing oven.
Cane, Murrine & Frit
Rods of glass may have only one color or up to a multitude of hues and patterns. A cane is a single rod of colored glass that, when combined with murrine -- rods with images cut into cross-sections -- can be rolled to create patterns. Pieces rolled from hot, liquid glass are layered into large sections are called frit. Canes are created when the glassblower loads molten glass on a punty -- a metal or iron poker-type rod. The cylinder of hot, colored glass is dipped into the furnaces, retrieved, shaped and cooled. Murrine pieces are designed in whatever way the artist chooses by applying layers of molten, colored glass around a centerpiece. The rods are reheated, stretched and cooled and then cut into cross-sections. Images show through as the patterns are layered. Frit is granulated glass particles that are fused together and layered into sheets or larger pieces. Frit is often used in compounds for ceramic glazes and enamels.
Glass Blowing in Action
Well, I can’t do it. But check out these videos ...
How to Make a Handblown Glass Piano (by Joe)
Glass Flower Making by Mark Lauckner
- Art Glass, Hand Blown Glass & Sheet Glass | Kokomo Opalescent Glass
Hand blown glass and hand mixed sheet glass for art or architecture.
- Rondel Glass - Anything in Stained Glass
Rondels are mouth-blown pieces of art glass that have been spun into circular shapes, often irregular.
© 2013 Teri Silver