Learning how to blow glass, the different techniques of shaping it, how to use the tools, or how to add colors and decorations to create stunning art (pipes, beads, ornaments, sculptures, and more) means first learning the basics of this demanding, but very fulfilling art.
These basics cover quite a few topics, but in this article we will only mention the most important ones when you are first starting out with glassblowing. The topic we will be covering in this article are the expectations (what you’re getting into), the lingo (terms and slang used by gaffers), and the safety rules.
When first learning about glassblowing, a lot of folks wrongly believe that this is a very chaotic, dirty, tedious form of art, when in reality skilled gaffers put a lot of time into getting the intricacies of their project right.
The huge quantity of distinct elements, patterns, and colors that these artists are capable of is out of this world, particularly when you consider that they have been obtained from a shapeless, colorless chunk of heated glass.
So, let’s talk a little about the basics of glass blowing and what your expectations should be as a future glass blower.
First of all, glass blowing is a demanding activity. It takes dedication, but the end result will make up for everything you’re putting into it. Also, by “demanding” we mean that you have to be ready to pay good money for the tools and ingredients you’ll be working with, but don’t worry, there are ways for you to save money as we’ll explain on the beginner tips page.
As a glass blower, there are lots of tools and supplies you’ll be working with, including safety gear which will add up to your expenses even more, and which is mandatory given what a hazardous activity glassblowing it. Also, while you won’t be needing high quality (thus expensive) tools when you’re just learning the craft, you will definitely want to invest in better ones as you get the hang of it, and you’ll need to deal with more complex projects.
In addition to the financial aspect, you will also want to apply specific know-how if you wish to end up with art that is beautiful and looks just the way you wanted. Ending up with a bowl instead of a vase, or a bong instead of a pipe requires specific tools and materials to be used in a certain way to obtain the desired object. You can learn how to apply these techniques to create your own beads, pipes, vases and more in here.
Add to these the fact that glassblowing is a hands-on activity, where you will constantly need good hand-eye coordination, where you will constantly use your hands and need to keep your focus, and you can see how demanding (and interactive) this craft really is. So, you need to understand what you’re getting into should you wish to become a glass blower and when you do understand what it takes to perform this craft you need to prepare for it accordingly.
Although not much can be said about learning the lingo it should still be noted that knowing the terms (what tools are called like, or which terms and phrases professional gaffers use) is also part of the glass blowing basics. Before trying to master this form of art it’s better to learn the lingo so you know which tools you need for which project, and what to ask for when shopping for supplies. So, don’t neglect this aspect!
Last but definitely not least, the safety measures and precautions. Glassblowing is a process that involves working with high temperatures, fumes, and other hazardous materials. It’s thus very important to have the right safety gear when performing glass blowing at home (and not only), a good ventilation system, fire preventing and suppression measures and to also follow the safety rules religiously if you wish to prevent accidents.
Some of the protective gear items you are going to need as a glass blower are listed below, but please note that these aren’t the only items you’re going to need. They’re just the most common ones so that you can get an idea of what you’ll need, but in reality – and depending on the projects you’re working on – other, or more safety gear might be needed. We go into more details in our beginner’s guide to glass blowing that you can find here.
- Special eyegear is one of the tools you will need. The glasses protect your eyes from the harsh flames. You wouldn’t want to end up blind all in the name of art.
- Gloves are also a necessity especially for studio blowing. Working with chemicals like sodium nitrate and hydrofluoric acid which are very corrosive necessitates the use of gloves.
- Respirators are also a necessity when it comes to safety. The fumes produced by the glass when heating it are mostly toxic. Wearing a respirator while working protects you from ingesting the toxic fumes produced.
- Another safety measure that is mostly used in studios (but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have these in your home, as well) are fans. Installing fans and proper ventilation in the studio or your working area at home cleans the air. This goes a long way in preventing respiratory problems.
When dealing with glassblowing safety should always come first. With the high temperatures and the chemicals involved in this art you can never be too careful. Also, with the long working hours that are inclusive in glassblowing it is imperative to ensure that the position of the working table and chair is appropriate to avoid straining your back, as back straining over a long period can lead to spinal injuries and other complications.
So, don’t take these things lightly! If you believe that what we’re saying here is too much fluff, or that you can’t be bothered with remembering all of these rules, we are sorry to say it but glass blowing is not for you. However, if you are a responsible adult who understands the importance of playing by the rules and who cares about themselves and the ones around them, then glass blowing is a rewarding activity indeed, both moral and financial.