Glass is made from a mixture of about seventy percent sand, soda ash, and several other hazardous chemicals. I mix this myself and load them into a special furnace, which reaches temperatures of 2,500 degrees. The furnaces run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days each year. Natural gas is not cheap for glass artists. The mixture of glass must melt for 24 hours before it can be used in any piece of art.
A blowpipe is used to get gathers or layers of glass from the furnace. Gathers vary in size according to the weight of the glass – from a 1/2 inch diameter pipe on a perfume bottle up to a 1 1/2 inch diameter pipe for pieces that weigh 30 pounds. Glass artists work from the inside out on a piece. The larger the piece, the more layers of glass there are. Generally, the colored glass, dichroic glass, cane, designs, and detailing are done first using a variety of hot and cold glass chips and colored glass. Yes, ALL that you see in my work IS glass.
Not much else could withstand these extreme temperatures. Every time I put another layer of glass over an inner layer, I get 2,000+ degrees in my face from the furnace as I spin the pipe through the honey-like molten glass.
Molding and shaping the glass using a variety of sizes of wood blocks (bowls with handles), blowing air into the piece, using wet newspapers to shape, metal molding, swinging the glass with help from gravity, pure brute strength, and lots of skill and finesse are all part of the art of glass blowing.
After creating a piece, keeping it hot at all times using a reheating chamber that reaches temperatures of 2,700 degrees, the piece is then broken off the pipe using precise marks and skill. The glass is placed in an annealing oven for 2 days to cool it to room temperature so as not to stress the glass and cause cracking. Finally, the glass is cut, ground, polished, cleaned, and signed which can take hours on some pieces. I expand my capabilities everyday with this medium.