My girlfriend Bonnie and I took an intro to glassblowing class at the Corning Museum of Glass (1 Museum Way, Corning, NY). I went into it with absolutely no experience and came out of it with a pretty good idea of how glass is made… along with some confidence in my ability to make a few glass pieces. It was also quite fun and I can see it becoming an addictive hobby. The class costs $200 and takes 2 full days (Saturday and Sunday). You can check out the different classes and schedules at the Corning Museum of Glass by clicking here.
The class takes place in a “hot shop” (see top photo) which is located in the building across the parking lot from the museum (which museum visitors can tour). Let me just say… the word “hot” does not come close to describing the intense heat coming from the glass furnace or the glory hole (where you heat the glass). When your hand is just a few inches away from 2300°F the hairs on your finger singe off. It’s hotter than anything I’ve felt before or can describe in words (2300° is literally hotter than Lava). One side of my left hand was red for a week.
On day one we learned some basic techniques and how to use many of the tools. By the end of the day everyone in the class had made a glass flower and a paper weight. Both of which were pretty awesome and not that difficult. It doesn’t sound like much, but you really can have a lot of fun being creative with color and designs when it comes to the simple things. Towards the last part of the first day of class, we learned how to blow glass, which basically means to blow a bubble down a hollow tube into the hot glass at the end. It sounds easy… it looks easy… it is not easy.
In the morning of day 2 we focused on things you could create with basic glass blowing such as a cup, a bowl and an ornament. By the afternoon we were pretty much left alone to make and practice anything we wanted with the instructors there to help us along the way and give us ideas for peices we could create.
The class was a lot of fun. Just the knowledge of it all was worth it. For me, I’ve always wondered how objects and designs looked suspended within glass like you see a lot of times in paperweights or elaborate glass art pieces. I’ve also wondered how color and designs were created within glass. After this class I have a good sense of how different glass pieces are created and I have a new respect for professional gaffers.
The teachers were good (Jeremy Unterman and Aric Snee [AricSnee.com]). They knew their stuff and were very helpful. However I think the class size of nine students was three too many. There were three work stations and three students per station. Having 2 people per station would have made more sense and given each student more time to actually get into the details of the techniques. With three students per station, the instructors didn’t seem to get around to us as much as we needed as beginners, and with 2 other people always before or after me, sometimes I was just standing around. I also think the class should be broken down into two classes. One for basic techniques and then another just for glass blowing. I came away from “Beginning Glassblowing” class with a good idea how to make a non-blown paperweight and flower with cool designs, but with little confidence in my ability to actually create blown peices (let alone a good bubble).
Then again, glassblowing isn’t something you can get perfect in a beginner’s class. I realize now it’s something that takes a lot of practice to master. Once you’ve taken a class, you can rent time in the hot shop durring their weekly open schedule to make your own glass peices or just to practice and hone your techniques (about $30 per hour). You get a discounted rental rate in the hours after your class lets out, if you want to stick around and make a few things. So say you don’t know what to get your family for Christmas. You could spend an hour in the hot shop for $30 and everyone could get a glass cup or an awesome glass flower made from scratch by your own hands.
All-in-all we had a lot of fun, met some cool people, learned a lot about making glass, and brought home a bunch of our own works of art to impress our family. If you’ve been to the museum, seen the hot glass shows, and think you’ve gotten the most out of CMoG, you should go the next step and take a class. I walk around the museum now and I have a new respect for everything I see. Bonnie and I are looking forward to renting some time in the hot shop and taking the next level of class.