Glass workshop

Nothing beats raw shaping when it comes to form giving, especially when you use materials that have a distinct will of their own. Each resulting product is unique; a form frozen in time, capturing not only the skill of the maker at that moment, but also the specific circumstances under which the product was made.

Recently I met someone who shares my passion for design and creation, and our mutual enthusiasm truly motivates. Glass working turned out to be on both of our wish lists, and inspired by a recent visit to Glasrijk Tubbergen a workshop was quickly planned.

We drove to Orvelte to meet with Mark Locock; he runs a glass blowing/shaping workshop with the slightly cheeky name “Hot Marks Glass” in this historical little town. The town has been established somewhere in the 11th to 13th century, and the building material for the houses is wood combined with more wood. Not exactly your first choice to place a furnace in that reaches temperatures of up to 1100 degrees Celsius.

After a very warm welcome we got to practise on a bucket of water. The idea is that the molten glass in the oven is transparent and thus it is hard to see its surface. However what is easier to discern is the reflection of the pole in the surface of the molten glass, which is what we practise with the bucket of water.

Moving from water to fire, we first attempt to scoop a decent amount of glass out of the oven, before moving on to trying to work the material into shape. Starting small and simple with icycles, we quickly move on to slightly heavier multicoloured paperweights, ending with our very own glass-blown drinking glass. Or in my case: a tealight holder, because the bottom cracked after I made it too thin.. Bit hard to drink from that without using your hand as a plug, and even then hot drinks are a challenge.

Time really flew as we incessantly tried to improve our skill and experiment with different methods. In the process we learnt about the effect of our actions (and mistakes) and tools. For example we saw the effect of using pigments and exposing those pigments to high temperatures for different amounts of time and we found out how air bubbles get trapped in the glass and how we can use that in our design.

We have to wait one day to retrieve our creations, as they still have to cool down in a different oven – yes you read that correctly: they have to cool down in an oven. Glass really is an amazing material to work with; especially when you see an experienced glass blower at work you realise (and recognise) the artisan craftmanship involved in crafting these unique pieces.


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