the glassblowing dance

Posted on Categories craft

over the next few months, we will highlight each role in the glassblowers dance. this first post explains how glassybaby are made. 

 it looks like a dance with heat and light. glassblowers step and dip, blow, spin, and roll the molten glass that will become a glassybaby. the dance looks so intricate, you’re surprised not to see dropped glass and burned elbows.

but when you watch a while, you notice how each glassblower repeats a simple process and then passes the glass on to another. each glassblower plays one of four roles in the dance.

the process begins with the overlayer, who dips a blowpipe into the 2300 degree furnace, spins it around to gather clear glass, then blows a little bubble.

meanwhile the colorist is hanging out and shooting the breeze, until the overlayer brings over the bubble. then the colorist lifts up a molten bar of colored glass and lets it droop over onto the bubble.

the overlayer snips off a blob of the color and rolls it smooth around the bubble. then he passes the blowpipe to the molder for another dip in the furnace to add another clear layer over the color.

then, as you may have guessed, the molder molds the glassybaby, spinning and blowing the glass into its approximate final shape. the mold for the glassybaby is like school for a person: every one goes through essentially the same shaping process, but every one still comes out a little different.

the real differences, though, the character traits, are created by the trimmer — the trickiest part of the dance. after the mold, the glass is transferred onto a different rod, which the trimmer spins while pulling out and shearing the lip of the votive.

when the lip is smooth and right (never perfect), the trimmer gently knocks the glass off of the rod, presses the glassybaby stamp on the bottom, and places the superheated glassybaby into the annealing ovens, which bring the glassybaby down, slowly, slowly, to room temperature.

24 hours later, the glassybaby are as cool as they are beautiful, so they are borne out of the oven and into the world.

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