My mother always told me not to play with fire. Maybe that’s why I was nervous as I lit the torch to take a stab at my first glassblowing class, Boro 101, at Glasscraft Inc. in Golden. After learning the various ways I could burn myself, my heart was virtually beating out of my chest. But as I turned the propane/oxygen on and the flame burst forth from the torch, all of my worries seemed to melt away.
Putting on my trusty (and oh so stylish) safety glasses that filter out infrared light so that I could stare directly at the flame without damaging my vision, I looked on as Brian “Shackman” Schmitt (my instructor) demonstrated how to hold and turn the glass rod. Seems simple enough, right? I wish that were the case. While Schmitt made it look easy, methodically turning the glass between his thumb and forefinger, I found myself struggling to maintain the same slow and steady rotation. Luckily I wasn’t the only one who found it to be difficult. As I looked around the room at the five other members of the class, I noticed a few faces wrought with the same frustration I was experiencing. But after practicing the movement over and over again, I began to feel comfortable with the technique.
Next on the agenda: gathering. Heating and rotating the end of the rod in the flame, Schmitt showed us how the glass begins to accumulate into a ball at the rod’s end. Attempting to imitate Schmitt’s demonstration, I started to turn and heat up my rod. But once again, the task proved to be harder than it looked. While I was able to get the glass to collect at the rod’s end with no problem, it was keeping the shape of the ball that proved to be difficult. I had gravity to thank for that (as I later learned). Well, gravity and my lack of patience. The thing with working with glass in a flame is that it has to be rotated at a continual rate of speed. If not, the glass droops off axis. And the result isn’t pretty (as my first few feverish attempts at the task proved). Thankfully, Schmitt was there to save the day. As he made his way around the room to help each of us on an individual basis, he pointed out my mistake and quickly helped me correct the error.
With these basic techniques under our belts, Schmitt moved on to show us how to make leaves (as in leaves on trees, flowers). Combining all that we had been taught, this part of the class enabled the six of us to put our newfound skills to the test. Using the gathering technique to create a ball at the end of the rod and then steel “mashers” to first flatten the glass and then mold the glass into a leaf-like form, I found myself smiling, thinking about all that I had accomplished. In a mere four-hour class I had gone from the nervous, clueless girl (when it comes to glassblowing, that is) to a confident and knowledgeable glassblowing machine (with my own work to take home to prove it).
As home to one of the country’s top glassblowing educational facilities, Glasscraft Inc.’s Boro 101 class in Golden provided an introduction to the art of glassblowing that left me craving for more. Luckily, my journey doesn’t have to end here, as Glasscraft Inc. offers a plethora of different studio classes on a monthly basis. For class details and more information visit www.glasscraftinc.com.
Jessica Kleinman is an art and culture intern/writer for 303 Magazine. She is currently studying journalism at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her posts on Twitter.