Glassblowing is an ancient art form that is making its comeback in the modern age. There are very few crafts that have been continually practiced for so long and the hot-glass resurgence is well underway.
It’s alchemy and chemistry and sculpture all rolled into a fine art that produces beautiful creations. Luckily, this form of art hasn’t been lost to the ages, as it is still practiced at a few universities around the country.
Glassblowers are artists who gather liquid molten glass at the end of a pipe and then manipulate the blob of glass with a slew of very primitive hand tools. When working with the molten glass, the artists must continually reheat their piece as the glass gets cold and stiffens up easily. Sometime artists will blow a bubble of air into the glass to obtain the hollowed-out shape needed to make things like cups and goblets.
During the process, the molten glass glows bright orange while the artists use a bench with flat arms to roll the pipe back and forth as they shape the glass. This is necessary because hot glass acts almost like honey at about 3,000 degrees, and the artists use centrifugal force to keep the shape even and centered.
“I think people are drawn to its molten state because it behaves exactly the opposite from how we normally see glass,” said Minhi Winkempleck, a Production Manager and Lead Artist at a company called Artful Ashes.
Viewing windows or view spaces are a popular sight at many glass galleries around the country.
“Glassblowing is very much an athletic approach to craft and art making, which gives its spectator qualities,” said Winkempleck regarding why so many people like to watch the process.
Some people might say that right now in America we are going through an arts and crafts appreciative movement. With so many things being produced cheaply, people are starting to have more appreciation for a well-crafted item. Is this why glass blowing is gaining momentum and popularity as of late?
It is true that people have been blowing glass since before Christ was born, but glass manipulation has mainly been used to create functional items.
“In essence, glassmaking, though it’s been around for centuries, actually just began as an expressive media in the ‘60s and has been fighting its way into the fine art world ever since,” said Jesse England, who is also a Production Manager and Lead artist at Artful Ashes. “So glassblowing, for the purpose of art and not just high craft functional ware is still young and it’s maturing still.
“Galleries and museums are just now listening to what artists working in glass have to say,” he added. “It is now regarded with some seriousness instead of being put into a craft type category.”
Both Winkempleck and England work with glass by trade but also create glass art that is shown in galleries around the country. Like most glass artist they both are working hard to grow the image of glass as an art form.
“With social media being so prevalent, people are now able to see molten glass in all of its glory through Facebook and Instagram,” said Winkempleck regarding the growing popularity of glass art on the Internet. “Nowadays everyone wants a ‘glass experience’ almost more so than the object itself. It certainly brings perspective and appreciation of glassblowing to a whole new light.”