Blown Glass: They Do Still Make It Like They Used To
Blown art glass is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing
hobbies in North America... and it is about time. Glassblowing
has been around since 27 BC in Syria, though the first evidence
of manmade glass products occurs in Mesopotamia in the late 3rd
century BC. But the advancement of actual "blowing" glass using a
tube transformed the materials usefulness. The new technique
quickly spread throughout the Roman world.
Harvey Littleton, a ceramics professor, and Dominick Labino, a
chemist and engineer, are credited with starting the most recent
"studio glass movement" in 1962. The two held workshops at the
Toledo Museum of Art. This is where the current method of melting
glass in a furnace for use in blown glass art was originated.
Thus, Littleton and Labino are credited with making molten glass
available to artists in private studios.
The actual process of preparing the glass for blowing is very
involved though. The glass is melted in furnaces using the sand,
limestone, soda, potash and other compounds. The actual
transformation of raw materials into glass takes place well above
2000 degrees Fahrenheit.
After the glass has melted, the artist uses a blowpipe to
shape the glass. The blowpipe is about five feet long and is used
for blowing a parison of molten glass. Molds are used to impress
There are two types of modern glassblowing but offhand
glassblowing is the type most people picture in their mind when
they think about this kind of art. The artist gathers a glob of
fused glass at the end of a hollow tube called a blowpipe or
blowing iron. The molten glass is then fashioned into its final
form by various techniques of blowing and shaping with hands,
tolls and molds. The second kind of glassblowing is lampworking.
Lampworking is the softening of a glass tube by heating it in the
flame of a torch. Next, the softened glass is manipulated into
its final form by blowing and shaping with hands and tools. Any
number of things can be created using either technique; sculpted
animals, ashtrays, vases, aquarium pieces, beads, paper weights,
perfume bottles? the list goes on and on. Moreover, practically
every major part of the world at one time or another in its
history has been known, in some part, for its glass art. However,
Mexican glass art is the most popular.
Mexico is the land of the master craftsman. Known throughout
history as being expert potters, weavers and wood carvers,
Mexican artists have really made their mark as glassblowers.
Beginning in 1542 in Puebla, these artists produced glass items
in a variety of shapes with little more than a long pipe and a
glob of melted glass. Experienced Mexican glass blowers will even
add effects as small bubbles, blobs of color or pebbles to their
finished to pieces to make them stand out.
Authentic Mexican glass is easily identified by a ponti, or a
place at the bottom of the finished product that indicates it was
mouth blown. Another feature of Mexican glass is its individual
nature. No two pieces are ever exactly alike in size, shape or
design, which simply adds to the unique nature of each piece.
But the most unique detail about this glassblowing is how
little it's changed since its inception. For the most part,
glassblowers are still producing beautiful works of art the same
way they did back in 27 BC? melted glass and a metal tube. This is
one instance where my grandpa was wrong. In the case of
glassblowing, "They are still making them like they used to."
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Allen Shaw is a successful author who provides information on
glass and bottles.
"I am the news director at USA News Network and have been
working as freelance writer for 2 years. I've been published in a
few magazines, newspapers and websites and my specialty up to
this point has been movie and music reviews."
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