Have you ever held your hand two inches from a 4000o F flame but not feel any heat? Sounds impossible…but I experienced that very thing. Where? In The Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY.
The museum not only exhibits historical displays of glass and glass making, but also provides live demonstrations of glass blowing and flameworking.
But the greatest pleasure is found in The Studio building, where, for an additional fee, children and adults can make their very own glass masterpiece – an irresistible opportunity.
From the many project options, the flower and the pendant caught my eye.
A worker took my ticket and asked me to choose three colors from the glass samples in the display box.
She handed me a heavy denim apron, arm socks that stretched from wrist to shoulder, safety glasses, leather gloves and said to put them on before entering the work area.
A professional glass maker led me to a bench-like seat with high arms, specially designed for glass blowing and shaping. He used a long metal rod to pull clear, molten glass out of an oven — the project was worked on the end of this rod throughout the process.
The glass maker laid the rod on top of the seat’s arms with the glass hanging on the outside of the right-side arm. He showed me how to slowly roll the rod across the arms and shape the blob of glass into a short tube.
That accomplished, he picked up the rod and rolled the glass tube in tiny bits of green glass coloring and placed it back into the oven. This caused the green coloring to penetrate the clear glass. He then brought the hot glass over to the seat for more shaping. This process was repeated for the light purple center and the dark purple flower.
Although the glass maker did all of the heating and coloring of glass, he only helped a little with the final sculpting – stretching the glass into a cone-shaped flower. To finish, he helped me twirl the rod to curl the flower’s stem. He then cut the completed flower off the rod and placed it in an oven to gradually cool down overnight.
Over to a new area and on to the next project…
The glass pendant used a technique called flameworking.
This area only required wrist socks, and safety glasses that were replaced with dark glasses while working the flame. But it did have the 4000o F flame throwers (actually they looked something like a welding torch mounted on a work table).
A glass worker lit the torch and explained that all of its heat went forward. She had me place my hand two inches from the side of the flame, and surprisingly, I didn’t feel much heat.
Instead of molten glass, flameworking uses colored glass rods that look like tall straws. One end of a rod is softened in the hot flame (hence the name, flameworking) and shaped.
For the pendant, I melted the end of a black glass rod and slowly twirled it into the shape of a ball about the size of a nickel. Next, I melted a purple rod and spiraled it around the black ball…then used a melted blue rod to circle the ball between the purple lines and also to swirl across all the colors, which gave the pendant a marbling effect.
To finish the project, I flattened the ball by squeezing it with a tweezers-type tool that had large, flat ends.
These projects added an extra layer of enjoyment to the visit.
For a fascinating experience for the whole family, check out http://www.cmog.org. Free admission for kids and teens.