Sunday, December 13, 2009

I Made Glass


When the kids were little (yesterday, right?), one of our favorite places to visit was Wheaton Village. I'm a South Jersey girl, and it was important to me that they know about salt marshes and pine barrens and glass.

Last year for Christmas, my family gave me the gift of a glass-making class there. (Seriously, who thinks of that? "Let's have Mom twirl some 2000-degree F. molten glass around on the end of a steel pole! She'll love it!" In fact, I did, but how did they know?)

I just got around to scheduling the class. This is not something you want to do on a hot summer's day, and I was happy to be playing by a glass furnace on a bitter cold December day. But I didn't put it off because of the weather, I put it off because I thought I wasn't going to be good at it. Left-handed, clumsy, arthritic - there's a reason I work with nice, soft, forgiving wool.

I had a fantastic time, though. My instructor was right there at every step to make sure I didn't hurt myself or anyone else. And he lent a hand when my weak right hand wasn't up to a task. But I did most of it my own self, right down to pressing the mark in the bottom that says "made by me."

I learned some new words, like marver, which is the metal table glass-makers roll the molten glass on, and the verb for it is marvering. It's from the French word for marble, because that's what they used to roll glass on.

I learned that when you're gathering molten glass on to the tip of your pole, in the glass furnace, the way that you tell where the surface of the glass is (because the interior of the furnace is a pink-orange window into hell, and you truly can't tell) is that your pole-tip casts a shadow onto the surface.

I learned that letting the glass melt to near-liquidity in the glory-hole, pulling it out and letting it drip down about a foot, and then spinning it back up onto the tip, in order to swirl the colors, is a rush right up there with blocking out lace, or seeing the colors progress on a self-striping sock.

I learned that poking dents in the molten glass, and then adding a new gather of clear glass, makes bubbles in the paperweight.

I learned that you may think you've picked out some nice colors, but as far as you can see you're making a red-orange paperweight, and you have to take it on faith that it will look good when it cools.

Thanks, guys! What a great gift!


  1. That sounds like so much fun! Thanks for a great description. I couldn't see the pictures too well -- were you wearing gloves? Doesn't the pole get hot?

  2. You rock.

    And of course we knew.

    And, I at least, still like going there. It's not just for kids. :)

  3. Aah, not to knit-pick, but. . . shouldn't that be "made it _out_ of glass?"