Local Heart, Global Soul

November 12, 2011

“Spiky” Toasted Sandwiches are Fabulous (For Some)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There is a café at the Leerdam Glass Studio that our ravenous brood are now making a bee-line for.

Hot chocolates are a welcome edition as the rain pelts down outside and it’s  the perfect time to sit out the intermittent downpours.

Himself had a big breakfast and just opts for coffee, Little Mr. heard that there is a “tostie” (toasted cheese sandwich) on the menu and is an instant happy chappie, Kiwi Daughter spied poffetjes  on the menu (a very Dutch traditional sort of tiny sweet pancakes, served with butter and dusted with icing sugar), and I get a chilli chicken sandwich.

Sadly this is one occasion when a simple toasted sandwich isn’t entirely what it seems, the bread is quite heavily seasoned,and is full of grains and “bits” and our fussy Little Mr. quickly complains that the bread is “spiky” (by which he always means means “spicy”) so Himself and I try a bite and   … Little Mr. is right,there is a lot of pepper, maybe some mustard seed? Himself and I love it but it’s never something that would suit Little Mr’s under developed taste buds.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are a 99% brown bread household, so for Little Mr.  a “toastie” in a cafe  somewhere generally means plain white bread, which is in itself a treat, so he makes inroads on the filling instead and grumbles a lot.

The café staff are friendly and for the non-fussy members of our family at least, lunch is a tasty success.

There are some nacho chips that came with my lunch that Little Mr.  inherits as compensation.

Fed and watered and refreshed, we head out just as the clouds are parting and the sun starts shining again.

This has been a great place to see glass blowing close up and personal…  the kind of thing  it would be nice to bring visitors to too.

I think there’s a very good chance that we might be back here again one day.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

November 11, 2011

An Excellent Judge of Fine Art… (Um… or Not).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

On the other side of the glass blowing working area, there is a small gallery where it’s possible to buy various pieces of glass that have been made here.

All of it is decorative, some of it is functional and sadly none of it is suitable for our house full of rough housing kids and their friends.

Little Mr. especially made the staff nervous has he perused the shelves of fragile wares and the shelves were set close enough together that negotiating  past them and the various  precariously shaped pieces on crutches didn’t seem like the wisest of ideas (I had no wish to extend my “Queen of accident prone”  title to hundreds of  Euro’s of glassware).

Therefore I had to request that Himself temporarily abandon our lunch order at the café  a few meters away so that our energetic six year old son was not left unsupervised at close quarters with expensive breakables.

I took a seat in the café and watched from a short distance away whilst Little Mr satisfied his intense curiosity of the forms and colours on display.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

All of a sudden Little Mr. broke away from Himself and dashed up to the lady at the counter, clearly agitated, he stood on tip toes to tell her something and she bent down to listen, then straightened up in a huge hurry and made for the display. My heart sank…Oh No! Has Little Mr. broken something?

Then the look on the ladies face changes from one of compete anxiety to an almost bemused smile and I notice that a startled Himself is now grinning broadly and trying not to laugh out loud.

There was  a long cucumber shaped piece of  glass art on the bottom shelf and since both ends are raised and a bit pointed, it’s natural resting position is laying on it’s side.

Sweet Little Mr. in his inncocence actually thought it had fallen over and was broken (and No, he hadn’t touched it at all!)  and rushed off dramatically to report the “accident”  to the lady, who clearly had a heart stopping moment as she thought something was really broken util she saw it.

It was also clear that she wasn’t entirely amused for the first seconds, but it was blatantly obvious that Little Mr’s comment and concern had been made in complete innocence and after Himself explained that “it’s not broken, it was made to be like that“, Little Mr. was happy.

(Not any further ahead in his understanding  or appreciation of modern glass art mind you), but happy. I guess we should have been pleased that the artist who created this piece was spared the humiliation of our six year old offspring thinking that their work  for sale was already needed repair.

I thought I’d taken enough photos to have captured an image of the “broken” piece, but sadly looking at the computer images later I see that I managed to miss taking a photo of  that one. Oh well.

Himself dragged a far too energetic Little Mr. swiftly to our café before he could do anything more embarrassing.

It’s definitely time for lunch.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

November 10, 2011

The Tools of the Trade…

Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

My regular readers will know that I adore strange and wonderful things…  manhole covers, decorative windows, tiles, architectural stonework  and tools to name but a few.

(sigh) Yes, tools.

Give me old fashioned  wooden dippers for wetting the papers and woods during the glass making process and I’m there, zooming in with my camera lens. Give me old fashioned cask buckets of water and tin containers and I’m loving the mixture of hi-tech and olde worlde  style things.

I like looking “behind the scenes”, so when the glass blowers take a short break from their hot work and go off to get a cool drink, I  “take a look around” from the front and record what I see.

Certainly for every successful creative effort there are a multitude of failures as one discard box attests.

I find it interesting that the various  tools of the trade have either remained  in their traditional form because  they are so efficient that they don’t need any changes, or in the case of the kilns, have arrived completely and totally into the twenty-first century as modern technology makes this part of the process more eco-friendly, more efficient and safer.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

November 9, 2011

Problem? Hmm… I know! Pass me a Blowtorch!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

…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.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)


November 8, 2011

Put THAT on your Pipe and Blow It!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I tried to look up some information on the history and process of glass blowing  as we would see at Leerdam but the website is not incredibly informative. Fortunately I’d picked up a  free information sheet during our visit, so these facts come from that,  and from the commentary given whilst we were there.

There is an overhead video screen that shows parts of the process, (like the “tapping off” of the glass at the end from the pipe at the end of the process), but since we are on the very front row of the tiered seats I literally have ring-side view.

Leerdam is regarded as the centre of the Dutch Glass industry and is sometimes called the Netherlands Glass City.

Leerdam’s first glass factory was founded in 1765 and glass was made manually. Today glass is made using computer controlled equipment but professional  glass blowers have not completely disappeared from the scene. At Royal Leerdam Crystal, glass objects are still manufactured using traditional methods to this day and here at the Glass Studio it’s possible to see first hand how this traditional craft is practised.

Experienced Masters and young ambitious glass blowers practice their craft in teams. Glass blowers come from around the world to study techniques at Leerdam and they can assist each other even when they don’t  speak the same languages because  basic glass blowing techniques are the same world wide.

Vocational training takes four years on average, and upon completion of this training the trainee becomes an “Assistant”. Depending on talent, becoming a fully trained glass blower then takes several years more. Only then, finially,  will they have earned the title of Master glass blower.

Glass is made from sand, soda and lime. When mixed together  it’s called “the blend” and is placed in a melting crucible which consists of a small pot in the centre of a stone melting kiln. Temperatures in the kiln are kept at 1500  C  (2732  F) to melt the blend and once it turns into molten glass the temperature is reduced to 1150 C  (2102 F) to keep the glass fluid and ready for use.

The steel blowing pipe is roughly 140cm long and is used to take the molten glass out of the melting crucible. The glass blower inserts te pipe several times into the molten mass, adding layers of glass to the mass to achieve the amount of glass they need. When making large pieces, the  molten glass on the pipe can weigh up to 10 kg.

Once the desired amount of glass is on the pipe, the glass blower blows air into the hollow centre of it resulting  in a round form that is the starting point of the object being made.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Phew, it’s certainly warm in here… more on hot glass blowers tomorrow…

 

November 7, 2011

Leerdam is World Famous For…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

So, What is there to see and do in Leerdam?

Naturally, top of the list is a visit to one of the establishments Leerdam is world famous for:  Glass making.

We drive to the local “VVV” (a well known abbreviation for “Vereniging voor Vreemdelingenverkeer” which quite  literally means  “Association for the Traffic of Foreigners”, but is far better known in English as the  “Tourist Information Centre”)

The VVV  wasn’t easy to find at first, it looks like a nondescript office at the bottom of a block of flats. Himself goes inside to inquire about the best places to visit. It turns out we have two options to see glass blowing in action, the first is Royal Leerdam Crystal, and the second is the Leerdam Glass Studio.

Unfortunately we also find out the Royal Leerdam Crystal is a massive building and that the tour involves rather a lot of walking, when the lady at the Information Centre heard that I was on crutches she immediately shook her head, not for me this tour. Then the final blow: the Royal Leerdam tour isn’t open to children, you have to be over 16 years of age to take the tour (health and safety apparently) so we scratched this pace off our list completely and continued on to the Leerdam Glass Studio.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

On the way there we again got lost,  took the scenic route  and passed by the Royal Leerdam factory, it was a massive complex and the car-park alone presented more walking than I would have been comfortable with so I was glad we were skipping this one.

The car-park for The Leerdam Glass Studio is very close by on the city wall, and there is a large hall inside the Studio (all on ground floor level) where the public can take a seat and watch glass-blowers at work. The site is small far more  intimate and for me, with some sitting down pauses, far more manageable.

The building itself sits opposite the city wall and  although it is a new building  I’m happy to say that it has been designed in a very sympathetic style that blends in well with the older archetecture  on the other side of the canal.

The rain has stopped so we can make our way inside…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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