Serving Art Educators
and Students Since 1994
Integration: History of Glassmaking. Artist: Dale Chihuly
For most art teachers in the public schools, the budget and space isn't there for a blast furnace and the steel tables and other equipment. The solution is to take your students on a field trip to a local glass blowing studio. The instructors usually give the students limited access. The older the student, the more involved they can be with the creating of a glass object.
I instruct any number in a group in glass blowing and fusing. My goal is to explain the process and get the public to understand how wonderful this medium can be. It is not a widely understood medium and it is hard to explain unless people see it in person. Glass fusing is not as exciting as watching someone blow glass, but it is an easy and safe way to get kids to understand the process of the medium. I have been instructing glass blowing for over 12 years and I know how to keep people safe in the hot shop and I have a level of excitement about the medium that is contagious. After a hands-on class or even a demonstration, everyone will have a new respect for the medium and they will never forget the experience.
I also do group demonstrations for any size where I touch on the history of glass and the properties of the medium. It is easy to get people excited about this medium when they see it in person. Glass is worked at 2100 degrees F (1,093.3 Celsius) out of the furnace and there is lots of different things we can show people depending on the interest of what the kids would want to see or learn.
For field trips to a glass studio, cotton clothes and either glasses or sunglasses if they are doing a hands-on exercise. You should have some safety dark glasses on hand, but if they bring their own then they will probably fit better. If you are an art teacher and have a kiln in your art room, you can buy glass fusing kits for your students. Following are a few kits available:
In a glass blowing class we go through creating either create a pumpkin, apple, flower, paperweight or we blow an ornament. There are seasonal things I offer as well, but that is a good enough example of the things offered. On the first lesson I usually do solid work then if they want to continue on to do multiple lessons then we can get into blowing cups, blows and vases among other things.
Glassblowing is a glass forming technique that involves inflating molten glass into a bubble, with the aid of a blowpipe. What I teach is glass blowing but I don't get into blowing glass on the first lesson. Most classes I teach are beginner lessons creating paperweights in a number of different shapes. We first start with a 25 minute demo where I explain the process and how to stay safe working with molten glass then I have 2 people go at a time to create a paperweight. We have a furnace that is 2000 degrees where molten glass is kept and we dip, or gather, into the furnace multiple times to get enough glass to work with create our paperweight. We add colored glass to the second to last layer to make it the color each artist wants it to be. During my demo I explain different designs to create on the inside as well as different shapes that can be created for the outside. This is a wonderful experience for anyone wanting to learn about glass. I also explain the history and background of glass blowing while i am teaching. After the students are done they know the terminology that we use in the glass studio and they fully understand the process of creating something out of this exciting process.
Many art teachers have the tools necessary for glass fusing. They can use the ceramics kiln they may already have. Fused glass is glass that has been fired (heat-processed) in a kiln at a range of high temperatures from 1,250 °F to 1,500. There are 3 main distinctions for temperature application and the resulting effect on the glass. Firing in the lower ranges of these temperatures is called slumping. Firing in the middle ranges of these temperatures is considered "tack fusing". Firing the glass at the higher temperature of this range is a "full fuse." Glass is placed in the oven and then fired overnight so nothing is hot around the students.
What I teach is stacking shards and pieces of scrap glass together so that we can create anything that the artist can think up. I have created eyes, mouths and other features to create animals and people or make believe creatures. The opportunity for creativity with this medium is wide open and I push students to create anything they want by showing them how to cut glass and where to place pieces of glass to achieve the desired goal that they set. This opportunity is good for students that do not want to experience the heat of the glass studio where we blow glass. Basically we place our glass in the oven and then after we have everything placed then we fire it overnight to melt the glass together.
I will instruct people on how to get glass out of the furnace and we manipulate the glass while it is hot to add colors and then we shape and form it into what we want. In the ornament class we actually blow to get a bubble then we put a hook on it so it hangs in a window or outside. The flower class is the cheapest experience, but it goes faster if you are looking for the cheapest event.
After a sampler class is over I usually do a demonstration to show how to blow glass to create a vase or a bowl.
Glass fusing is a bit easier where we stack up glass shards and scraps to create anything the students want to create. I have eye balls and smiles if they want to make faces or animals. After all of the glass is loaded in the oven I will fire it at 1450 after the students leave and after it cools overnight the finished product can be enjoyed by everyone.
There is a lot more information I can give if you contact me about it. Private lessons are two hours long at $60 an hour for one person or $50 an hour for multiple people. In that amount of time we make between five to eight things each. We can do a Sampler class where everyone makes one item at $45 per person for groups of 8 to 20. Glass Fusing is priced at $75 total to fill up my kiln and any number is welcome.
Demonstrations can be decided by contacting us for details depending on how many people it is affordable at 40 for the blow time and 5 per person if you have more than 20 people coming in.
I do not give grades or anything it is more about the experience and I am very patient with everyone that comes in. This medium is easy to understand, but difficult to smooth at when you first start. It is a lot of fun and you learn a whole lot about the terminology and process, but a one time event is enough for everyone to learn all they want to know about the medium.
See other glass art lessons on IAD:
Below are a selection of glassblowing videos on YouTube: