…In a continuation from yesterday’s post I’m looking at the ancient craft of glass blowing and made a photographic journal of the transformation that the glass pieces have undergone during our visit to the Glass Studio in Leerdam.
Glass blowers use a special stool that looks like a workbench with long arm rests, sitting on the stool the glass blower can simultaneously roll the glass with one hand and form it with the other. Whilst rolling the glass on the pipe on the arm rests, the glass blower shapes it with wet paper and a block of wet wood, holding them against the glass as he rolls.
Since the paper and the block constantly moisten each other they don’t stick to the glass, therefore the glass blower always has a bucket of water at his side.
As long as the glass is hot the glass blower can manipulate it as he wants, it can be pricked to make openings or closures, groves can be made and pieces can be added or cut off. This is all done with various pincers and scissors.
Because glass hardens as it cools down, it is regularly placed in a warming kiln whilst it is being worked to keep the glass soft enough to work with so the glass blower can continue working on the piece.
We notice that one of the handles doesn’t attach very straight on the body of the vase, so the man holds the pipe whilst the woman blasts it with a blowtorch, this makes the area of the glass they want to correct soft enough so that they can straighten out the wobble, and mission accomplished they go on to finish the piece.
Once the glass blower has finished working the piece it isn’t the end of the process. The temperature of the glass will still be around 600 C (1112 F) so the blower ”taps” the object off the pipe with a large fork and transfers it to a “cooling” kiln where the temperature has been set also at 600 C to keep the finished temperature of the glass stable.
The kiln stays at this temperature during the working day so that the day’s production can be added to it as the pieces are completed and then at the end of the day when the blowers have finished, the kiln is locked and the cooling process begins. The kiln reduces in temperature very slowly until it reaches 20 C (68 F) and the pieces can be removed.
Thin pieces of glass need at least overnight to cool. This allows the glass molecules to settle and if it were not done the glass would crack or explode. The thicker the glass the longer it takes to cool down so there are two cooling kilns in the glass studio, one for thick pieces and one for the thinner ones.
The process is fascinating and I could sit for hours watching the creation of these fiery molten forms into beautiful glass pieces.