Adding Color to Art Glass
Next, it’s time to color the piece. Different kinds of colored glass such as powders, frits and bars are utilized to create varying patterns and designs in the piece. The glass artist takes the hot glass on the blow pipe and rolls it over the color. Then, it’s back to the Glory Hole where the colored glass is heated to melt into the clear glass. Again, the glass blower keeps turning the pipe to maintain the shape at the end of the pole.
The glass blower rests the pipe on the steel “arms” of the metal bench and keeps turning it with one hand. With the other hand the artist uses instruments like wood blocks, newspapers, wooden paddles and stainless steel tools. This process needs adequate coordination between both hands. The artist may be forming a circular piece, an oval, or intends to make a plate or bowl.
The artist may need to add more clear glass or color. The heating process needs turning in the Glory Hole and shaping at the bench and will require multiple repetitions.
Blowing into the Pipe
The actual blowing begins. It starts with a blowing on one end of the blow pipe to form a bubble. Then it’s back to the Glory Hole for more melting and turning and to the bench for more shaping. This cycle gets repeated many times, depending on the size and shape desired by the artist.
Once the shape is deemed fit, the piece has to be relocated to a “punty” – another steel pipe that’s been heating over flames. Moving the piece from the blow pipe to the punty enable the artist to form the opening of the vase or the bowl. The punty will be attached to the bottom of the piece.
Using heat resistant gloves, the artist picks up the hot piece and rapidly transfers it to a cooling oven. This oven is maintained at 960°F and then slowly cooled down over a time of 14 hours to room temperature. This gradual annealing is done to prevent the piece from fracturing or disintegrating – although sometimes things are not always perfect.
Glass blowing requires extraordinary patience, tenacity and skillfulness. That said, people across all ages and many physical abilities (including disabled people) have learned the art of blowing glass and revel in it.