defined by what’s left behind: the trimmer

Posted on Categories craft

most great stories become great through a process of trimming, so that what’s left behind is the perfect, essential shape. part of growing up and letting to know yourself is to realize and accept what you are not. we have to let go of as much as we hold on to.

in the glassybaby hot shop, after the glass grows to fill its mold, it is transferred from the blowpipe to a different pipe, called the punty. isaac the trimmer gathers some clear molten glass on the end of the punty, and then pokes this molten glass onto the bottom of the almost-finished glassybaby, held up by the mold-blower. holding the punty in one hand, isaac grasps a pair of wet tweezers in the other hand and twists a little ring at the base of the glassybaby where it attaches to the blowpipe. this little touch of room-temperature water is like an ice-bucket challenge for the glassybaby, to wake the glassybaby up and let it know that it’s time to move on. like a pitiless parent, the mold-blower taps the blowpipe and “chink,” the glassybaby is off the blowpipe and on the punty, swinging toward the blazing heat of the gloryhole furnace, in the hands of the trimmer.

these hands must be able, experienced hands, steady, guided by eyes that know exactly what to do without thinking. at this point, the glassybaby has graduated from the school of the mold, and so has attained the final shape of its bottom half. isaac and any other trimmer must have patience, because each piece of glass that sticks onto the end of the punty will behave differently. different colors have different personalities and emotions, all depending on a thousand factors beyond the trimmer’s control. each piece comes with baggage. one might be overly slippery, prone to sagging off center, and another might be obstinate, too cool to want to be trimmed and shaped.

whatever the nature of the glass which isaac gets on the end of his punty, he must work with it, adapting the speed of his spin, the length of time it stays in the gloryhole, and the force with which he pulls at the lip with the tweezers.

first isaac heats the glass, then he sits down with it, laying the punty horizontal on metal rails in front of his bench, rolling, rolling, tugging the edge of the lip out away from the base, little by little until the glassybaby is stretched out like a fancy vase. then he puts down the tweezers and picks up the shears, cutting into the part that he stretched out until he reaches the perfect line, and then cutting all the way around the glassybaby in a ring at this line. now the glassybaby is the right height.

at this point isaac brings the glassybaby back into the gloryhole for one last dose of heat. back at the rails, rolling again, keeping the glass centered, isaac picks up the “jack.” the jack is a big pair of metal tongs, which are waxed in order not to stick to the still-molten glass. the jack goes inside the rolling glassybaby, gently pushing the glassybaby outward in the center, and thinner at the lip. here, isaac’s hand must be perfectly steady, and fully-imbued with the perfect glassybaby shape. roll, roll, expand, smoothen, roll, and then, finally, done.

the glassybaby is, finally, a glassybaby. all extraneous glass is gone. the curve of its profile is smooth, sumptuous yet understated, from the clear ice at the bottom to the perfect lip at the top. isaac touches its base with wet tweezers and taps the punty, so that glassybaby is let go, now held in a wooden clamp. for the finishing touch, isaac heats the bottom with a blowtorch and

stamps it with the glassybaby seal, says congratulations, and then places it into the annealer, where it will cool down to room temperature over the course of the next whole day.