Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day + Handmade

My first memory of Earth Day was in 1991.....while attending Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY. The neighboring State University (SUCO), had an all day event planned, with bands, vendors and lots of information.

To be honest......I went for the music. Some of my favorite local bands were playing, the sun was shining, and we were all excited about the prospect of being outside, listening to music and escaping our day to day college life.

But, the day quickly became more than music. It was inspiring and motivating. Recycling, the rainforests and global warming were the hot topics (and they still are, 18 years later). I returned to campus with a new found appreciation for our Earth, and a new beaded necklace.

I loved that necklace..... a simple, beaded necklace. Handmade. And I loved it (that bears repeating). From that point, I made a conscious effort to buy more Handmade products. I went to street fairs, and filled my jewelry box with handmade goodies (many of which I still own). I went to bead shops, and started making earrings and necklaces (many of which I do not I gave most of them away, or they reached an untimely demise).

I fell in love with creating. And I'm certain that April 22, 1991 is one of the reasons I do what I do today.

Happy Earth Day! And Hooray for Handmade!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Furnace work

I'm a "Furnace" glassblower. Why is that important? Because there are two types of glassblowers out there......furnace, and lampworkers. And we are very different. We work with different equipment, different materials (all glass is not created equal), and we make different objects.

I'm here to tell you about Furnace work. So, what better way to start than by showing you the Furnace.

It's about 6 feet tall, and 5 feet wide. And it runs 24 hours a day, operated by compressed air and natural gas. The idling temperature is 1950 degrees, and the working temperature is 2100 degrees. Yes, that's hot.

Why 24 hrs a day? Because glass has to be molten for us to work. It would take too long to heat glass to a molten state on an as needed basis.

(Open door)

Looks a little intimidating, doesn't it? To be honest, it is. Until you understand it. Then, it's just part of the process.

believe it or not, you can stand pretty close to it when it's open......just not for very long. Unless you want to get burned, or just singe some hair off your arms.

Inside the furnace sits a free standing crucible.......a ceramic bowl. It's made to withstand high temperature, and it is filled with approximately 150 lbs of molten, clear glass.

Here, the furnace has been turned off, and the door removed, and is a nice photo of the inside of the furnace.

A question we are frequently asked is "how do you get the glass in there?"
A: We use a powder/pellet, silica based product (that we buy, it's called 'batch'), and we use a very long shovel. I'm serious. And scoop the batch into the furnace while it's hot. We then spike the furnace temperature to 2350 degrees. Over a 16 hr cycle, the batch melts to molten glass. Viola.
By now, I'm certain you are now wondering how to get the glass out of the furnace. Well, that is a story for another day.

But, I'll give you a hint, it involves these pipes. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Quest

8 years ago, I spent a week in Venice......Tanner Glass was just over a year old, and I was trying to find my place in the Glass world. I knew Venice would provide so much inspiration, but I had no idea how much. There were two places on the island of Murano that I could not miss visiting on this trip.

This is the story of the first place.....the home of Dino Tedeschi.

Dino made glass tools......the best glass tools (in my opinion). To buy them, you had to know someone who knew someone who knew Dino. Or you had to knock on his door. I chose the later option.

Armed with only a sketchbook, and a map (similar to the one pictured) I set out to find him. A daunting I don't speak Italian, and using a Murano map is about as effective as directions on finding a needle in a haystack.

Based on an address scribbled in my sketchbook, I managed to arrive at the doorstep of a toolmaker, named Dino. Wrong Dino. Through broken English and Italian, he directed me elsewhere.

Those directions landed me on the doorstep of a toolmaker, named Carlo Donna. Not Dino. But, I was getting closer. Carlo Donna was a leading toolmaker, spoke decent English, and knew Dino personally. I explained that I wanted to purchase some Dino jacks (his signature tool), and asked if he could help me.

He called Dino, told him what I was looking for, and gave me explicit directions to his doorstep.

I thanked him profusely, purchased a super sweet set of tweezers, and headed out to find Dino.

(as an aside, Dino speaks about 4 words of English, and I speak about 8 words of Italian. "Andiamo a sciare".......let's go skiing. Not terribley helpful in this situation).

I arrive at another doorstep, ring the bell, and the door is answered by a woman (Dino's wife). She is about 65 years old, little, and speaks no English. She invites me into their kitchen, sits me down at their table, and offers me some tea (I only know this because I said "si", and tea is what I was given).

Dino appears in the doorway, "ciao" is said all around, and he sits next to me and places 3 sets of Jacks on the table.

I picked out the ones I wanted. There was not a lot of talk, but there was a lot of smiling and nodding going on. It is amazing how well you can communicate without speaking. I managed to understand how much they cost......paid him, and was ready to say thank you, and good-bye, fully content with my purchase, and my experience thus far.

Not so fast.

He sits me back down, and places a small, red journal in front of me....and a pen.

*my heart is racing as I tell this part*

I open it, and quickly notice that this is a list of all the people that have sat right where I was sitting. Heavy hitters in the Glass world, from all over the world......had all sat at the same kitchen table, and purchased their Dino jacks. Some shared stories, some shared photos. It was amazing. Artists like Dante Marioni, Sonja Blumdahl, Lino Tagliopietra, and countless others. I was speechless.

And he wanted ME to sign that book? Um, okay.

I wish I could remember what I wrote (aside from my name and state). Regardless, the fact that I became part of that history is something that will stay with me forever.

I left the Tedeschi home, walked around the block, found a bench, sat down, and cried a little, as I was overwhelmed by what had just happenned.

I signed "the book."

It was at that moment, that I knew I was a glassblower.

(My Dino Jacks).

Sadly, Dino passed away a few years later. And his tools have become highly sought after.....

And these aren't for sale.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Coming Soon

The process.......

I am heading to the studio today, with camera in hand, in hopes of getting some good pictures of what I do.

After all, glassblowing is pretty darn cool. And, it inevitabely invites the question "how did you do that?" Much of what I do is based on ancient techniques. I just add my own spin to those techniques. Feel free to tell me what you'd like to learn.......
I'll start with the journey of a Sea Stone. To my customers, these seem to be pretty mysterious......
(and as we learned from previous posts, everyone loves a good mystery).
But before that can happen, I will share some stories about my Glass career, and provide a little insight and education about the studio, glassblowing, and what I make.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Mystery solved

The mystery plant in my backyard is no longer a mystery......thanks to the comments on a previous post, and from some super sleuthing.

As it turns out.....if I had really thought about it, this was no mystery at all. You see, I share my backyard with my neighbor (we live in a duplex, turned condo). And she planted the Day Lily last year. It was given to us by our fabulous next door neighbor, Robin. (thanks Robin!)

All I had to do was ask. And I got the answer. (move over Nancy Drew).

As for mystery #2? Well, the lone crocus is gone. Dug up and moved (by a critter?)

A new mystery begins......