Narrative - Learning Furnace Glassblowing

Beg. 1999-12-12  Rev. 2002-03-03, 2003-04-21

Back to sitemap

So you want to learn glassblowing and you have looked at lampworking and want to do furnace glassblowing. Lets explore some choices.

Bad choice: buy a lot of books, buy tools, build equipment, try to blow glass. Why a bad choice? Those middle steps - buy and build - cost a small fortune. At least three factors require, in my mind, that a class be taken. Those three are adeptness (or clumsiness), heat tolerance, and fear.

You may be sure you are adept enough to handle the long rods with several pounds of glass on the end, but some people aren't and taking a class will expose that. Years ago, when I tried working with clay on a potters wheel, I had a terrible time centering the soft clay. I worried about that aspect of glass working. Some people will find that they have a lot of problems with the heat of furnace glass working, which can be very draining. There are people who have damaged their electrolyte balance working a hot glass floor without watching their fluid intake so they are very restricted as to what they can do on the floor. And finally, there is fear (simple or complex). At the time I signed up for my first class, I had never seen a furnace glass session live although I had seen video tape on TV. The first one I saw did little to encourage me, as the worker had some very odd habits (working barefoot and using wet newspaper to form the glass.)  I don't handle summer heat in Texas very well. I went into the class concerned that when the glass got out of control or just when I got near it, I would panic. As it happened, that was not the case, but I was worried.

In a class, you will learn the basic skills, see how the glass handles, work close to the heat, encounter the tools and equipment, and get a chance to ask questions that would occur only to you. There are several levels of classes

Where to Start

Well the most obvious place is here. It's free. Follow the links and explore the web. Many of the sites will show you glass. Some will show you working glass. I will try to provide more info.

Read the books, especially Ed Schmid's.
Take a class as recommended above.
Now make a critical decision.
Is this a career choice or an avocation? - Are you young enough and dedicated enough to commit to this art full-time?

Then the choice further becomes to whether take a college curriculum that includes glass working, normally as part of 3-D art work (sculpture.) You should follow links to schools (above) and learn as much as you can from the people in place from the recent history of glass working.

Or whether to pursue learning as a nomad, getting your body to places where glass is being worked and dedicating your time and growing knowledge to working at a low level until you have skills that you can sell and then traveling more to gain skills and sell those skills. There are a whole pack of people who do this, perhaps more in the past decades than now. Some of the best artists working today did this once.

I am not the person to advise on either one of these. I believe strongly in college, but I have never done an arts program (I hold an MFA in Theater, but it is built on technical work and playwriting and I felt set apart from the performance people even though I have done some serious acting.)  I have lived poor and traveled cheap, but I have always anchored at a site and have never eased comfortably in with strangers in places as I travel.  You will have to talk to people who have done it and decide if you can do it.

Which brings the focus back to the choices made by people who have no intention of taking a college degree, who have no will to trade time for money or adventure for organization, and who still wish to learn glassblowing. People like me, who went off to learn furnace glassblowing not long before my 50th birthday.

MORE to be done