21 January 2014

New Skill: Glass Blowing




Another one of my 2014 resolutions is to learn a new skill every month. Nothing practical like learning a foreign language or knife throwing, just stuff that has made me previously wonder, How do they do that? And couldn’t get a satisfactory answer on Wikipedia. You know, get myself to dig a little deeper. Expand some horizons. I figure this will be a good mental health exercise as well as a good way to tick some boxes off my life list. It’s also probably going to read like I’m humblebragging my way through 2014, but I’m cool with that if the end results can bring some nifty Instagram photos and a whiff of self improvement.

So, that said, first step on my new pathway to becoming a better person involves a blow pipe and a firey pit of death. Yaaass! 



To be fair, this new skill came to me by accident. I have wanted to try blowing glass since I saw a Dale Chilhuly sculpture in the Schiphol airport in the 90’s, but glass blowing not that sort of thing they teach down at the local community center. You know? Molten glass does not come cheap. And it’s mucho dangerous. It was pure luck that I stumbled into this new skill (literally, we stumbled into it).

Earlier this month when I was in Virginia with family, Aunt Cake and I planned an excursion to the Chrysler Museum. Bad news – museum was closed for the season. Good news – the glass center across the street was open. We thought it would be a gift shop, but no, it was a full out glass blowing studio (!!) AND they started a class not two minutes before we walked through the door (!!!!!!!!). I thought it would be fun to watch, but Aunt Cake sneakily saddled up to the registration desk and signed me up to participate. Fourty-five minutes later, I made a candy dish. Check it...




I’m not going to give a play-by-play because this isn’t a DIY post (and because they made these nifty videos already) but I will say, molten glass is nothing to mess around with. It looks like neon taffy when it comes out of the oven, but judging by the cookie-sized burn-gash on the instructor’s inner arm, it’s not taffy. Most of the other students in the class were adults, but there was one kid, maybe ten, and I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it made me to see him spinning a big metal stick of this stuff. I mean, the instructors had things under control, but if you are reading and thinking it would be a fun thing for your kiddo’s next birthday party, yeah, don't. This is not a kid activity.

This is an I'm an adult and I deserve an afternoon to myself that does not involve day drinking activity.



If you are ever in the South-Easternish part of Virginia, stop by and check out the Chrysler Glass Studio. They offer year-round classes in lots of different construction techniques, and are pretty reasonably priced (compared to places in Chicago, at least). My candy dish came out crazy nifty and next time I’m in town I’ll go back to do a "champagne paperweight " (the fancy swirled up blob kind).  Can’t wait!

Stay tuned for next month’s skill, currently underway and going rather horrible; the ukulele.

22 comments:

  1. We have a glass-blowing program at the high school where I work. It is amazing how many kids go on to do this after they graduate. V. Queen

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    1. High school? Wow! That's impressive.

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  2. Nice candy dish. Dale Chihuly is the reason I’ve always wanted to learn to glass blowing as well, but I think just about anyone who has seen his work feels that way he’s pretty amazing. If you can find it his PBS special “Chihuly Over Venice” is fascinating.

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    1. Will look it up! Thanks for the rec :)

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  3. You will love the ukelele! So fun!!!!

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    1. Oy. So far it's awful. I think the thing hates me. Fingers crossed!!!

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  4. Love your dish and your fabulous resolution! My brother knows glass blowing and he told me my favorite thing about it the process. When you accidentally drop a piece and it shatters, that's called a 'floor model.'

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  5. I love watching glass blow. There's a gentleman named Bob Fritz who has a studio in Lombard (http://www.freeblownglass.com/glass-blowing-workshops.html) He's part of a local artist collective that has a big sales party during the holidays. He is super, duper nice and makes beautiful creations. If you want to check out someone local, I recommend him!

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    1. Ooooo - cool! I will look him up, thanks!

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  6. Aww, your candy dish is cool! Thanks for sharing.

    The "Chihuly Over Venice" program is totally worth finding and watching. He's amazing. You want a full gallery of his work? Oklahoma City Museum of Art has one of the largest collections in the world of his work. You can spend an afternoon staring at in amazement--okcmoa.com has pics of the collection, but visiting in person is even better.

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    1. Oklahoma, huh? Gosh, I never knew!

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    2. Wow, now I know what I'm doing the next time I'm in OKC! (And now I'm wondering how the heck I've never been to this museum for all the times I've been out there . . .)

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  7. Girl, you are amazing! Sounds like you made some kickass resolutions for yourself this year. Can't wait to see what else you learn!

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  8. I can't believe you MADE THAT.

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  9. Omg that is so cool!! Definitely adding that glass studio to my list of places I want to visit!

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  10. Sounds like 2014 is going to be a good year for you. I already love reading your blog, but now I get more of a kick just seeing what you will do! My list for the year is much simpler than yours - keep the place cleaner, exercise more regularly, and a few more things that I got out of the habit of doing. I like the idea of learning something new each month. And the "floor model" from michelle made me laugh!!!

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  11. Great job! It's loverly!
    Yeah, it's kinda fun isn't it? Like, wow, I did that?!
    Years ago, I did a little try-it at Wheaton Glass in Millville NJ (they have class sign-ups also). If you're ever in Corning NY, I think they do classes at Corning Glass.
    -- Lynn in snowy ("only" 3" this time, but almost zero temps and windy) southern NJ

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  12. Check out this video on installing the Chihuly exhibit in Jerusalem, which he designed to take advantage of Jerusalem stone and light. Just like in the Goldilocks story, it was "just right."
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwJ-sjEnzvk

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  13. My 13 year old grandboy has had glass blowing throughout his 3 yrs. in middle school. There is even a hot shop on campus. So jealous!

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  14. I always wanted to try glass blowing! As for the ukulele: I don't play, but I practice notes, & it's not awful. I found the Ukulele Underground site to be very helpful, as is Uncle Ron's Bootcamp. I can just barely strum along with the recordings, but it's fun! BTW, a crappy uke will make your practice go poorly, so invest in a good uke & decent strings!!

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  15. The West Michigan Glass Art Center offers glass-blowing classes. Of course, you'd have to get to Kalamazoo to take them, but the are a blast! I took a lampwork class and made tons of gorgeous beads. http://www.wmglass.org/Home.aspx

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