A couple of weeks ago I stepped out of my comfort zone and I signed up for a very quick 20 minute glass Christmas ornament class at Terminal City Glass Co-op in Vancouver, BC . I enjoyed a one -on- one “instructional opportunity” with a very nice ( looking – ok, not just nice to look at but very patient too!) young man named Brad. I have to admit that my first attempt was a complete flop – literally. Blowing a glass Christmas ornament is really hard! You ‘ll just have to take my word for it . Brad kindly came to my rescue – with a long rubber tube that he blew through…. no questions please 🙂 – and I ended up with a really descent ornament that I can be proud of!
I have been making lampwork beads for about eight years … and I have never “felt” the heat like that! (And, it wasn’t because of Brad 🙂 Actually it was an inferno! There were furnaces full of molten glass and blazing fire. I surprised myself by being surprised… Obviously it is going to be hot – but this was much more than a typical hot flash!! (yes, I am I am Fifty something!…) I have seen glass blowers doing their thing before but believe me it was something else to actually be the person doing the “Thing”!
I first donned a pair of safety glasses and a fingerless glove on one hand to protect myself from the glare of the flame and the heat. Next, we heated this massive steel blow pipe in the Glory Hole (a huge barrel like structure that is lying on its side full of fire – with an opening on one end) till it was glowing. We then moved the blow pipe over a few feet to a similar looking “hole of fire” except that this furnace was actually a vat of molten glass. We dipped and rotated the pipe in the molten glass to pick up enough glass to make the ornament. We removed the rod while constantly rotating it so as the molten mass remained centered on the rod and did not droop to one side. Quickly, I rolled the very hot glass in a mixture of different colored crushed glass called frit. I choose a green mixture. Apparently, I have very good “frit” pick-up :).
We returned the rod with the molten “glob” to the Glory Hole to melt in all the frit. Then, I removed the rod and gently rolled it back and forth on a steel table to smooth and shape (marver) the mass of glass. One more quick heating of the mass of glass and we moved to the rolling bench. This is where I made my first pitiful attempt to blow puffs of air into the pipe to try and expand the mass of glass on the other end of the pipe. Brad was much better at this than I was… but then again he used a rubber hose. (You have to take the class to really understand what I’m saying!).
Next, we kind of “pinched” off the now somewhat Christmas ornament looking shape using these huge tweezers… and another kind person (I don’t know her name..) was waiting to help fashion the hook on the top of the ornament. I have done this part many times when creating my Christmas Icicle ornaments – so I was feeling a little more comfortable at this point.
Quickly, the ornament is placed into an annealing kiln where it cooled down at a very slow rate ( just like all the beads I make) so as to avoid any thermal shock to the glass. This takes several hours so I returned a few days later to pick up my treasure!
The whole experience was a lot of fun, but I do not think this is something that I will be adding to my repertoire very soon. However, I do hope to be able to offer other types of Christmas ornaments for sale soon. For now, I am content to make Christmas icicles. I hope you like them too!
Merry Christmas to all!
If you are interested in ordering glass icicles please email me for pricing.