the mold-blower

like class for glass: the mold-blower

Posted on Categories craft

we have all been lucky enough to go to school, and yet we are also all lucky enough to be unique individuals. so it is with every glassybaby.

in the glassybaby hot shop, the overlayer creates two-layered, glowing orbs of glass, and then pass them, on the end of their blowpipes, to the mold-blower. our glassblower hero, isaac, followed the same progression through the hot shop that glass does — after he worked for a while as overlayer, he became a mold-blower. his job was to give each glassybaby its basic, exquisite barrel shape. let’s hand isaac the blowpipe.

he’ll keep it spinning, centered around the blowpipe axis, as he approaches the furnace, into which he dips the glowing orb, gathering a third and final clear layer of molten glass, to surround and protect the color within. this clear molten glass heats up the color layer a bit, keeping it malleable.

next, isaac takes a seat at a bench with two straight rails extending out, like arms, in front. he braces the blowpipe flat on the rails, rolling it with his left hand, always maintaining the spin to keep the shifty glass in balance, rolling, rolling, rolling. with his right hand, isaac hefts the “block,” a thick wooden ladle, out of a bucket of water. he cups the block beneath the spinning orb of glass, rounding out a smooth shape and an even temperature. the cool water on the block gives off a little steam when it kisses the glass, which it cools a bit, to create a “skin” across its surface. this cool “skin” is important — cool skin won’t stick to the mold, like molten glass would. left hand roll, right hand shape, roll, shape, roll, cool.

when the glass is centered, rounded, and medium-hot, it is ready to find its form. isaac stands and swings the glass over and down, spinning, into the mold, and slowly blows into the top of the blowpipe. this blow isn’t a sudden pop, like the overlayer blow, it’s a steady expansion of air inside the glass. this air pushes the glass around it out, to fill the mold.

the mold — you may wonder, if we use a mold, why is each glassybaby different? why aren’t they all the same size and shape?

think of it this way. if we all went to the same school, would we all graduate thinking the exact same way? no, we are shaped also by our genes and our parents’ words and what happens to us after school. likewise, each glassybaby is lowered into the mold with slightly different ratios and temperatures of clear and colored glass, spin and blown by unique movements of hand and lung, and then passed off to the trimmer, to be finished, by hand.

stay tuned to learn about the trimmer, who performs the final, most-advanced step in the glassblowing dance.

this post is the third installment of our “glassblowing dance” series of blog posts. read the previous posts here:

1: “making the baby”
2: “overlayer, dropper, and charger: the dance begins”


mericos rhodes

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