When I decided to jump on the Wineglass Half Marathon bandwagon with Kathleen, one of the things I was looking forward to the most was trying glassblowing. I’ve always been intrigued by glass. It’s something so fragile, yet under the right conditions in the beginning it can be molded, blown or shaped into anything you can imagine. Years ago I visited Seattle and got the chance to see glass blown in person, but never had the chance to do it myself. Well, this was going to change.
The one unique thing about the Wineglass Marathon weekend is that they provided runners with a lot of activities to do. Sure, there usually is a page on every race website about local things to do, but this race actually hosts events. There were options of glassblowing through the Corning Museum of Glass. However, after some quick research, I found another place in Corning, that also did glass blowing, which was Hands-On Glass Studio. Kathleen was able to snag reservations for Friday. We wanted to do this first thing as we didn’t want to have to ship our items but rather pick them up Saturday and take them home with us.
Kathleen had made the appointment for our glassblowing on Friday, but due to some scheduling craziness on my part I actually thought I would have to miss it. Luckily, pretty last minute, the Hands-On Glass Studio was able to accommodate a small time switch and I was able to still do this. Since it’s the fall and Halloween time, the options for glass blowing were a round ornament or a pumpkin. Kathleen already decided on doing both. I was wavering, but went in for both and am certainly glad I did.
Upon walking into the studio the first two things I noticed were the different furnaces in the space as well as all of the amazing glass pieces throughout. Hannah welcomed us to the studio and explained how everything would work. The hardest part of the whole adventure was the first thing you had to do: Pick your patterns/colors for your pumpkin and ornament. Well, it seemed Kathleen picked hers out within seconds but of course I hemmed and hawed around for what seemed like forever before I finally decided on my colors and patterns.
We were so lucky in that we were the only people at this time to do the glass blowing. It was certainly great one on one attention. However, even if there was a bigger group of people, I don’t think it would take away too much from the experience, but having the ability to ask any questions in a little more detail was great. Hannah was certainly so patient with our questions and even went above what she needed to do to teach us about the whole process, start to finish.
First up was Kathleen. As Kathleen was getting set up, Hannah explained to us that the glass that was being used for us today was soda lime glass, which is made up of limestone, soda ash and silica as the main ingredients. The first up for both of us would be the ornament. Hannah explained that we need to blow consistently through the blow tube and if we needed to take a breath, not to suck in as it would collapse the glass. Hannah started the glass in the furnaces and then brought them over to apply the frit, which is best described as almost being like sprinkles on ice cream. The frit is what gives the glass the colors and designs we picked.
The whole process seemed to go by pretty quickly. Once Hannah got each item started, there were just seconds to get the blow tube sanitized and ready to go. I think the whole act of glassblowing for each the ornament and pumpkin was done in less than 30 seconds! I actually felt that the pumpkin was a little harder to blow than the ornament and Hannah did warn us of that. The pumpkin had to go through the mold to get the waves on it so it actually looked like a pumpkin.
Finally it was my turn! I think the whole time the thing I was most nervous about was sucking in from my breathing on the blow tube and collapsing the glass. Luckily though I avoided that both times! Once you were finished, they pulled your creation from the blow tube and attached either the pumpkin stem or hook for the ornament. From there they put all of the items into the annealer to properly cool off. You can’t let it just cool off as it’s still over 1,000 degrees and it would shatter to the cool temps.
The whole adventure took maybe an hour (if that!). The cost? Very reasonable! For about $50 we were able to get both the pumpkin and ornament. When we went to the Museum of Glass the next day, the prices were pretty comparable, but honestly, the attention you got was not. We saw some classes which were busy at the Museum. I am very happy we went with Hands-On Glass Studio. I can’ recommend them enough for glassblowing. If you find yourself in the Corning, New York area, make sure you check them out. The best part is that the special item to make rotates around holidays/seasons. In fact we were talking about what they should do for Christmas and I suggested a wreath. It seems like it is something they could easily do (not that I am an expert), so I told them when they start making them, I should get the first one. Let’s hope they go with my idea!