What is glass, this is a very common question and one I only know a little about. So, I thought I would do some lookin’. Scientifically glass is generally soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica (SiO2) plus sodium oxide (Na2O) from soda ash, lime (CaO), and several minor additives. The additives help with viscosity, color, and transparency. Volcanic Lava is technically glass. When cooled we call it obsidian. This is a natural forming glass which was used in prehistoric times for arrow heads and tools. What we know of as modern, man made glass is credited to Ancient Egypt, somewhere around the early to middle Bronze age. Amulets and beads have been found which date back to this time. Eventually man figured out a pretty stable recipe for glass which included sand, plant ash and lime. Around 1500 BC the first vessels were made with hot glass. It was made by wrapping hot glass around cores of earth and dung. Once everything was cooled the cores were removed, giving you a hollow vessel. We still practice something similar with beads and small vessels on the hot torch…. earth and dung are no longer necessary in the technique though. In 300 BC the blowpipe was developed by the Roman Empire. Molds were invented along with new colors and the use of gold and silver inlays. During the dark ages Europe lost most of its knowledge of glass making but the Middle East retained that knowledge and expanded on it. As the Middle Ages came about, glass was back in Europe. ©2009 Jupiter Images Venice, being situated on the far end of the Adriatic Sea, was part of a trade route from the Middle East into Europe. Those secrets of glass were retained there and became the center of glass making in the middle ages. In order to protect the island from fire, and to help maintain a monopoly on the secrets they had learned and developed, the glass industry was all moved to the island of Murano in 1291. Many innovations and a distinct style was developed on the island. Leaving Murano was punishable by death. Over time techniques were shared and developed throughout the world. Many regions of the globe have specific specialties and distinct styles. This is a brief overview of the beginning of glass. I know that after barely scratching the surface of what’s happened in glass, I’m pretty curious. So, I’m planning on continuing this search and learning more. This is going to take some studying on my part so if anyone has something to contribute, please do! My plan is for the next post to be about Middle Eastern glass and I’ll follow the development of it from there.
With summer here, the number one question that I’ve been getting is, “Where can I really learn how to blow glass?”. While we offer a beginning 3 hour class and a 6 week ACC Class, one of the best ways to get a solid foundation in any form of glass art is to go to an intensive course in one of the many craft programs available. I thought for my first real post I would share some of those programs and where they’re located. (Note: many of them are booked already for this summer but some have year around options or it’s something to keep in mind for next summer). Pilchuck Glass School Located on a tree farm just north of Seattle, WA They have sessions that run from May until September. They offer classes in blown glass, kiln work, hot casting, torch work, and cold working/engraving. Most sessions are 2 1/2 weeks long but they sometimes have shorter ones. http://www.pilchuck.com Also in the Seattle area is Pratt Fine Art Center http://www.pratt.org/ They offer week long classes all year around. They’re a great resource and offer far more than just glass. Penland School of Crafts Located just outside of Ashville, NC Situated in the Appalachian Mountains, Penland is renowned for not only glass but ceramics, metal, fiber, and wood. It’s near Ashville which has a large glass community and tons of art to check out. They also have programs in the summer that are about 2 weeks long. If an 8 week course is more your style they offer those in the off months. http://www.penland.org/ Haystack School of Crafts Located in Deer Isle, ME Haystack is about 4 hours from Portland, Maine. It’s right on the coast and so beautiful! They also offer classes in all sorts of mediums along with amazing glass classes. Most classes are 2 weeks long. http://www.haystack-mtn.org/ Urban Glass Brooklyn, NYC Located on the 3rd floor of a building in the heart of Brooklyn, Urban has great classes and just got a facelift. They have a brand new shop all built by Wet Dog Glass. http://urbanglass.org/ The Studio Part of the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY This is a state of the art facility offering glass blowing, casting, torch work, engraving, etc. Not only that but it’s across the way from one of the largest and most comprehensive glass collections in the world. You’re within walking distance of the town of Corning where there are lots of glass shops as well as galleries. Don’t forget to check out Steuben, a leader in hand blown and engraved crystal. http://www.cmog.org Pittsburgh Glass Center Pittsburgh, PA Another amazing facility…. they offer classes in hot glass, torch, kiln work and cold working. https://www.pittsburghglasscenter.org/ There are more programs but these are some of the best known. If you’re looking for something closer to you, please don’t hesitate to comment. If I know of a place I’m happy to share. ‘Till next time! Morgan