Learning how to blow glass is not hard, but it does take a certain understanding of this craft , as well as a lot of practice before you can consider yourself a master of handling the blow torch. If you want to know what to expect as a future gaffer have a look at our glass blowing for beginners post, it will be quite revealing.
For your convenience, the process of glass blowing is outlined below in clear steps, but before you rush over to the first store to get the needed tools and supplies you first need to learn the safety rules so that you won’t injure yourself, injure others or burn the whole place down.
And if the phrase above makes you question whether or not glass blowing is right for you, do not worry because this is for everyone who follows the safety rules, understand and employ the scientific techniques behind handling and shaping hot silica, and as long as their imagination flows freely and they get a good amount of practice the results will be spectacular.
If you wish to become a glass artist and make beads, pipes, vases and more, read this beginner’s guide that we’ve put together for you. It will teach you everything you need to know about making stunning art, including the very important safety rules, a quick history of glass blowing, great newbie tips , as well as some simple techniques for shaping the glass, spinning the rod, creating handles, adding colors to your objects, and more.
The glass blowing basics, explained in greater detail in our beginner’s guide, are quite simple: the artist takes a lump of preheated silica and shapes it with the help of specialized tools and utensils (such as a blow torch, for example) to turn it into the object of his, or her desire.
When working the preheated lump the gaffer continuously rotates it to prevent it from getting out of shape; also, the molten lump is kept hot at all times in a special type of oven to prevent it from cooling while working it as cooled objects cannot be manipulated with ease.
By following this process artists are able to come up with a variety of handmade pieces, such as:
- Vases, pitchers, bowls, and jars
- Drinking cups and goblets
- Decorations, ornaments, or jewelry
- Sculpted figurines, artwork and more
Glass Blowing In Studio
The process of glass blowing in a studio is a bit different from the technique used at home. Not by much, but it’s different even if for the only reason that instead of a torch (although the blow torch can be used in studios, too), it uses large furnaces that produce a lot of heat, and these furnaces cannot usually be installed at home due to their size and dangers they pose.
Glass blowers refer to in-studio glass making as large scale glass making, the reason being that it uses large furnaces instead of a torch, and can produce very large objects in size, something that is not possible to do in your own home considering that some of the materials and ingredients used in this form of art require higher temperatures and conditions than what can be produced at home.
In studios, the process of glass making starts with the gathering of hot glass on a special type of pipe in which the gaffer can blow whenever he needs to re-shape or enlarge the lump of hot silica, and then use tools like marvers, jacks, shears and the alikes to give it its final shape, after which the final product is then inserted into a special oven where it cools down and turns into the beautiful objects we all love to see get materialized.
The Process (At Home)
As mentioned above, the process of glass blowing at home differs from the one carried out in studio or workshops, because at home you will most likely not have enough space to install furnaces and the required annexes. And this considerably impacts the objects you can make, as well as the tools and ingredients you’re going to use.
Therefore, the tools and methods used at home will be slightly different to those used in a studio and thus, the types of pieces you can create at home are also limited in size and sometimes in variety, too as you won’t be able to use special powders and other ingredients that are used to blow silica at large scale.
This is why home glass blowing is usually great for creating small objects like beads, small ornaments, vases, mugs, bowls, pipes, and other similar (still fancy and gorgeous, though) objects that you can be proud of. If you wish to create larger, more intricate objects your home is usually not a good fit.
Steps (How To Make Glass Art At Home Or In Studio)
When you break it down, the process of glass making is simple and tends to follow these steps:
- Create a pile of molten glass by mixing some ingredients (usually filtered sand, potash, soda ash, and limestone, but other ingredients may be used as well, depending on the object you’re trying to make);
- When this mix has reached its melting point (usually 2000 °F, or 1100 °C) collect some of it with the help of a special rod called the blowpipe, by dipping it (multiple times if needed) into the pile of molten glass. How much you gather on your blowpipe depends on what you are trying to create, so 2 or more gatherings may be needed if you’re working on more complex objects which require a bigger quantity of glass;
- After you’ve gathered enough molten glass on your blowpipe you blow air into the newly gathered dollop while constantly rotating the blowpipe on the marver. This continuous spinning of the blowpipe on the marver, combined with blowing air into the chunk of molten glass allows you to create a very basic shape of what you want, whether it’s a vase, bowl, mug, or an abstract object. In this step you can also tweak the shape of your object by pulling at the glass with specialized tools;
- (Optional) If you wish to create colorful objects now is the time to do it. At this point in the shaping and air blowing process artists usually add colors to their objects, creating visually pleasing pieces. Adding colors can be accomplished through several different techniques that allow you can create thousands of different hues and textures;
- When the desired shape has been achieved, and the colors have been added in, the next step is to transfer the shaped glass onto a different rod (which is usually made of graphite, or stainless steel). This special rod serves quite a few purposes, depending on the project you’re working on, but most of the time it allows you to work on the top of your piece by keeping the bottom stuck to the rod. This tool also facilitates the creation of handles, and adding decorations to your object;
- After all of these steps have been done correctly the piece of glass is then inserted into the glory hole for further heating (reheating the object in the glory hole will keep it from breaking or shattering) and to be prepared for the final stages;
- The final stages include adding last minute details or shapes to the glass, adding handles (if you’re creating vases for example), and other decorations;
- Lastly, the finalized piece is then inserted into a special oven where it’s gradually being cooled down to avoid breaking.
This is, in a nutshell, how glassblowing works. However, depending on the piece you’re making other simpler, or more complex tasks will be included in the basic process, or adjusted according to the specific techniques used in creating that particular object.
Additionally, other ingredients may be also included in the basic setup, or added as an extra, as some projects need a different setup, require different supplies, or a different sequence of tasks to be performed.