Glass blowing techniques have been around since the 1st Century B.C. This particular practice can be dangerous, as it deals with raw materials melting at extremely high temperatures, but the results are unrivaled as you can create amazing works of art and practical tools like glasses or bowls.
Glass is made mostly of materials such as sand (which is the most commonly known ingredient in this form of art), but lime could also make glass.
Below we will take a look at some of the most iconic methods for making glass art, some of which you can use yourself, but please note that some of these methods are no longer current and you shouldn’t bother with them anymore.
When talking beginner techniques with regards to glass blowing we usually mean the truly basic techniques of spinning the rod, shaping the glass, blowing a bubble into a chunk of molten glass, or adding handles, colors and other ornaments to the various projects that we make. All these methods are explained in detail in our beginner’s guide to glassblowing, so be sure to check it out as we won’t be cover them in this post.
However, apart from these basic methods, there are a few techniques that you can use to make glass art, which are mentioned below.
Lampworking – also known as flameworking – is the process of manipulating molten glass using a blow torch. This method is used to create beads or other smaller objects, such as paperweights.
Flameworking involves the use of a blow torch to substitute the furnace and it’s mostly used in home glassblowing, If you are thinking about making small glass objects like beads, tumblers, ornaments and figurines lampworking is perfect for you and definitely the most user-friendly technique used by gaffers today.
One of the earliest techniques, core forming was done by gaffers who would shape the body of the glass vessel around a ceramic, clay-like material acting as the center, or core, on the end of a metal rod. It would be dipped into the hot silica to create a sort of elongated bulb, and then cooled slightly on a flat surface by rolling the rod back and forth to create a bulb-like, elongated object. Then, colorful tails of hot silica would be wound around the vessel, and finally handles would be added as adornment, and a rim.
Once the vessel had cooled, the core would be removed. Examples of core forming were containers that would house perfumes, or oils. Many articles made using this method would often imitate marble. Core forming is considered an ancient form of glass blowing, and is rarely used by modern gaffers today.
This is another method of glass forming, and is done by pouring molten glass into a mold, often made of sand, graphite, or metal. The molds were often two or more interlocking pieces that would be used to form things such as dishes or bowls, or even pendants. After the glass inside had cooled, the mold would then be chipped away to reveal the precious article inside. This practice dates back to the Egyptian period.
Glass casting would also be formed in hot clay ovens called kilns, which you may recognize from clay baking techniques. This method was also used to create figurines of animals, pieces of jewelry, or trinkets that would adorn shelves in houses the world over. Your grandparents might have some lying around their houses, as well.
The process of creating mosaic glass is started just like core forming, but instead of a vessel being formed, a long cane of glass would be stretched and molded, and wound and twisted to create long strands that would then be fused with other long strands of hot silica to create small pieces, which would then be cut, arranged, and melted back into each other to create unique works of art. For example, these small pieces would be melted into tiny discs, or cut into curves, wedges, or triangles and would then be melted together in a kiln before being stretched over a half sphere mold to create a bowl.
When thinking of mosaic glass, stained glass windows come to mind, as a similar technique is used to create such works. You may find examples of mosaic glass in church windows or lining antique shop shelves in the form of animal or insect figurines, or statues, or decorative dishes.
Free Blown Glass
Free blown glass is probably what most people think of when they hear the term “glass blowing”.
Jerusalems in 50 B.C.E have discovered that they could blow bubbles into molten glass at the end of a long, cylindrical tube. The blown lump would then be rolled on a cold, flat surface to cool and shape before being reheated and blown again to add other shapes and pockets in the piece. This method of adding extra chunks of silica over the previous bulk is referred to as “gathering”.
This revolutionary technique would soon replace some of the older ones as it was allowing glass blowers to more quickly and efficiently create better articles that would soon replace clay containers for household use. Blown glass was decorated in a variety of ways, including pinching, pulling, pressing, painting, and winding trails of glass around, much in the same way as core forming.
Conclusion: These are just 5 of the most known techniques of making glass art today. They are not the most popular ones, but definitely not the only ones either. For example, there is also the furnace method (probably the most common technique used in offhand glassblowing), as well as the glass cutting method (which is similar to the ice sculpting technique, but working the glass instead of ice).
For more beginner tips and techniques be sure to check out our “Introduction To Glass Blowing” guide where we go into more details on how to make your own glass art at home using a blow torch to create simple, or even more intricate pieces like beads, pipes, vases, and more!