The Art and Craft of Glassblowing

You wonder to yourself and ask, “Is glass blowing an art or is it a craft?” Where does the line cross between either the art or craft of this ancient practice? Depending upon what the artist considers themselves to be in this tradition of glassblowing depends if they think of themselves as an artist or what they are doing, just a hobby of sorts. The bottom line, does it matter given such an exact science of glassblowing. Still, there are some who are deep into the practice that they still debate the issue of craft versus art at its finest. After all, the glass blower must possess an artist’s eye for the clever and unique and sculpture their work accordingly.

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An artist must be able to manipulate the glass into a work of artistry, sculpting and maneuvering the glass into a single finished product.

Any glass blower says that it is all in the perfection of the technique to end up with a decorative object worthy of mention. An artist argues that it takes a high level of perfectionism and skill to make a piece of glass perfect it in any design, form, and style desired. An artist goes far beyond a mere occasional hobby or craft of glassblowing.

Can you compare a hobby to a more in-depth process of glassblowing, driving the artist to extreme measures in creating and designing a perfect glass product through great skill and technical abilities?

Every glass blower is an artist possessing their particular technique and individualized craftsmanship, taking ownership for a unique label on their glass products.

Glassblowing is an ancient art and not especially an ancient craft; there is a difference. The glass blower can create many ordinary objects out of the glass while many people sit in awe of how they were able to accomplish such a marvelous feat.

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The glass blower must be familiar with the danger of blowing glass as they must work close to hot furnaces and fire well over 2000 degrees. The artist must be keenly aware of the process of glass blowing and the equipment needed, successfully creating unusual glass objects. Additionally, the artist must know how to use this equipment and expertly rein in on the exact process to beautifully create objects of interest.

Glass blowing is not an art that one can take up in their living room or basement. Glass blowing is accomplished where there are exceedingly hot furnaces and be able to run these furnaces. The artist must possess all the specialized tools and equipment of the trade. The artist must take control and own the glass blowing process, and devoted to creating new objects of interest out of glass. This process is not on a whim nor is it quick as it takes a glass blower much time and consideration to create unique glass pieces.

Glass blowers say that glass like many other materials has a mind of its own. The artist must force the material to do what they want it to do creating what they have in mind.

It is a fascinating thing to watch a glassblower artist at work, creating the molten glass, and the whole process is a two or more man process in which trained persons must collaborate with the artist in a precision format. This material collects onto the end of a long blowpipe. The molten glass is thick and transparent.

It is the glass blower who sits and holds the blowpipe while spinning it as it sits inside the furnace opening while the blowpipe turns the blowpipe another trained person must blow air into the pipe. This air causes the glass at the end of the blowpipe to create a hollow type of balloon on the end.

This process does not stop here and lends itself to more complicated maneuvers designed the glass into shapes the artist has in their mind. As the blowpipe comes out of the furnace, the artist continues to turn and twist the pipe using tools to intervene and help shape the object. This process is exceedingly dangerous, as the artist has little protection between his skin and the hot molten glass.

Another tool a glass blower utilizes is a large oven in which the artist places their creation slowly cooling the glass from over 1000 degrees to the room air temperature. This oven cools the object slowly, thus preventing cracking or breaking.

In the end, each artist must decide to cross their line of glass blowing from just an occasional craft to becoming a glass blowing artist.