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Collecting and Appreciating the Art of Handspun and Blown Glass

Updated on December 15, 2017
TeriSilver profile image

Teri Silver is a journalist, commercial copywriter, editor, broadcast anchor, and Public Relations Specialist.

Carousel Alley
Carousel Alley | Source

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).

Tools of the Trade
Tools of the Trade
Tools, Torches, Bits & Pieces
Tools, Torches, Bits & Pieces

Glass-Blowing Studio

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 in various colors
Rondels in various colors

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.

Teri's Glass Menagerie
Teri's Glass Menagerie | Source
Some of this and some of that ...
Some of this and some of that ... | Source
Run, run Rudolph!
Run, run Rudolph! | Source

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

Swan Song
Swan Song | Source

© 2013 Teri Silver


Submit a Comment

  • poetryman6969 profile image


    3 years ago

    Love this kind of art. You can never buy every piece that you like because there are so many pretty pieces.

  • WriterKat profile image


    4 years ago from KittyLand

    It's so intricate and beautiful. Thanks a lot for sharing such a nice hub on a unique topic

  • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

    Chitrangada Sharan 

    5 years ago from New Delhi, India

    This looks beautiful and you have described the process of creating these lovely art pieces so well. I had the opportunity to see this process, LIVE and it was an amazing experience. That's an interesting hobby you have, of collecting them.

    Thanks for sharing this interesting and beautiful hub!


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