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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Glassblowing @ Luke Adams

Looking for a fun afternoon activity we came across a Groupon for glassblowing at Luke Adams Studio in Norwood. The Groupon described the activity as follows:

Get started working with molten glass by coming in for our 1 hour workshop.  Students will make a Pumpkin, Paperweight or an Ornament.  Pick your favorite colors and our teachers will help you do the rest.  Students will have something of their own making to take home.  All glass pieces need overnight annealing (a cooling process) and will be ready for pick up or shipment the next day.  Students from 12 on up are able to participate in this class. 

It sounded like fun and having made a St. Patrick's Day pint glass a few years earlier I felt confident that this would be another great experience. After purchasing the Groupon we went to their site and booked our appointment immediately. It was a good thing we had since there was very limited options within the valid window. Obviously it was a popular activity with many other students having already booked classes. On the day of our class we arrived a little early and checked in.

We filled out a liability waiver and our request sheet. The request sheet had us to pick the option we wanted to make, the colors, and any other special requests so when the class started it was all decided. I would learn that this allowed the class to move forward quickly to accommodate everyone within the hour's allotment. As we waited for the other guest to arrive we explored their gift shop. They had many ornaments, stars, pumpkins, paperweights and many complex items made of glass.

I selected a ribbed ornament with Ruby Red, Blue, Lime Green and Green. Both Grace and Dan ahd also picked ornaments. Ornaments require three people to work as a team to complete the task. Step one was to retrieve molten glass from the oven. Our instructor helped us collect the right amount of glass to be manageable. Next we cooled the handle of our blowing iron in a water bath while spinning to keep the molten glass centered. With the handle cool enough to touch we moved to the gloryhole to heat up the molten glass even more.

We added color by pressing the molten glass at the end of our blowing iron into small fine colored glass trays. The molten glass picked up more and more color. With the color added we put the blowing iron back into the glory hole to melt these newly added colored glass pieces into our block of clear molten glass. Once it was fully melted together and still glowing red we pulled it out of the glory hole.

Next I sat down and using a pair of diamond sheers I created the swirl pattern by spinning the blowing iron while firmly gripping the tip of the glass. The piece on the outside of the sheers we knocked off into the water below. We also used a water soaked block to help form the glass into a ball which would help keep the shape we wanted for the ornament.

With the molten glass cooling we reentered the gloryhole to heat it back up. Once glowing red again our instructor took over to create the initial bubble for us. This required skill and technic that newbies might struggle with. After creating the small bubble she flattened out our glass. This process allows us to slide the molten glass into the ribbed mold to create the ribbed pattern we were looking for.

Now as a team we worked to inflate the ornament into a balloon while also shaping. Dan used the mouth piece to inflate the ornament while I spun the blowing iron. Using the jacks I began to create the inside edge of the ornament where we would attach the loop to hang it. Once to the desired size our instructor took over and moved us to another table where she put the ornament still attached to the blowing iron on a mesh heat resistant cloth where she tapped the blowing iron firmly detaching it from our ornament.

Now detached I used a blowtorch to keep the glass molten as our instructor retrieved a small amount of glass from the oven to make a loop. This was a fine and delicate process we allowed her to do for us. Once done my ornament was placed into the cooling oven where it would cool slowly. That process is called annealing and is necessary to prevent the glass from cooling too fast and shattering.

We repeated the process two more times for Grace and Dan each taking turns at the different jobs. With a little time left over I decided to make a paperweight. I picked red, blue and white. we used the same process to pick up glass in the oven and add color while using the gloryhole to mix it in.  Instead of blowing an air bubble into the inside we grabbed a pair of jacks and firmly gripped it and spun the color into a cool shape. We also poked the cooling glass to create divots which when the clear glass outer coat as added created small air bubbles.  This piece too went into the cooling ovens to anneal.


It was a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to try something different.

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