March 2021: Swirl

Posted by Carol Ann Savage on


As a glass worker living in 2021 it’s amazing to reflect on a substance that was created almost 3500 years ago. Through the ages, craftsmen developed the skills of glass blowing that allowed for both practical items, such as light bulbs, pitchers and windows, but also beautiful pieces of art. Skills first cultivated by the Romans and then the Italians continue to inform and influence the work of glass workers today. My time visiting and studying at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY has illuminated the contributions to the art of glass work from countries all over the world- seeing the many pieces on display in their collection is always truly inspiring, as are the live demonstrations by contemporary glass workers- I highly recommend it to anyone who can make the trip!

The hollow bead you see above was created on the end of a 12 inch long stainless steel blow pipe. There are many similarities between the creation of this small bead and a larger piece done in a hot shop. Instead of a crucible containing molten glass I have a torch that melts the glass rods as I need them. The ‘glory hole’, a furnace to warm pieces in progress, is the end or the sides of my flame. The kiln I have is just a smaller version of the ones found in a larger studio. The kiln controls the temperature as the glass cools back to its solid state.  Other equipment including blow pipes, marvers, tweezers, cutting shears and gravity are all similar, only smaller.

When I make hollow beads I start with a blueberry sized gather of glass on the end of my blow pipe. While continually rotating the hot glass, I blow to create a small bubble inside the glass ball. More glass is then added and the shaping begins. Once the design is completed another hole must be added to allow for stringing of the bead.

One joy of making hollow beads is it allows for much larger pieces to be created as they weigh almost nothing. A very satisfying technique to spend time exploring!

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