Monday, April 3, 2017

04.03.17 Hot Stuff!

We had a great time raising money for Hill Country Ride for Aids and hanging out at the Salado Glassworks a couple of weekends ago.  Watching glass artist extraordinaire and gallery owner Gail Allard and his colleagues heat, shape and blow glass for hours was a blast.

When you walk into the gallery you are met with an explosion of color...there is glass on the walls, hanging from the ceiling, on the shelves - in all sizes and shapes - and all created by Gail and his fellow artisans.

From the gallery you can walk through to the huge studio where, on this particular Saturday afternoon, Gail and three others, were all working together to make amazing creations.

The studio is huge - with bleacher seating so that you can sit and watch (for hours...) as glass artists work their magic.  The process starts with a small amount of clear molten glass (about 2400 degrees and it has the consistency of honey) - called a "gather" - collected on the end of a long pole.

The hot glass is then rolled and dipped into chips of colored glass, heated in a furnace and shaped - often multiple times - before the blowing a small amount of air into the pole and trapping it - causing a bubble to form and expand the size of the glass.

It was amazing to watch one of the guys blow just a puff into the tube, cover the opening and see the glass expand as the air inside got hot.

It's definitely a team effort - and takes at least two people to make a single large piece.  After the air bubble is created, there is a transfer to another pole (made me nervous just to watch) and then the open end is heated, shaped, and you can see the piece evolve until it is finished.

Gail spinning a huge bowl open
Photo credit: Salado Glassworks.
The finished pieces are separated from their poles (another impressive and highly skilled task that appears to involve just a few taps - but watching you know better) and placed in an annealing cabinet to cool.

When I first learned that in glass making the term annealing refers to the slow cooling that takes place to ensure that the piece doesn't crack when subjected to future changes in temperature (such as mug that hold hot coffee or cold beer).

When I first heard someone talk about annealing glass (last summer at the Corning Museum) I was a little confused - because while glass annealing involves cooling, in jewelry making (or most other types of metal work) annealing involves heating the metal to make it more workable.

Photo credit: Creative Side 
As metal is worked, it becomes harder - so you anneal a piece as you go in order to make it softer and ensure it doesn't break as you bend or shape it - because metal, especially argentium silver (my metal of choice) can crack if you stress it when it is too hard.

Back to the glass...I spent a lot of the day watching, and learning - and the staff was so gracious with their time and information - they even sent me home with a couple of trinkets and some glass to play around with.

Until next time (which will be in two weeks - the kiddo is coming home for break - so the blog will be back on April 17)..

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