Just Put Your Lips Together and Blow

Humphrey Bogart made it sound so easy.

I have never been able to whistle, and I had only slightly more luck blowing glass. My motivation for visiting the Diablo Glass School was simple: I needed a great Christmas gift!  I really like to give thoughtful, preferably, homemade gifts. I have already knitted gifts for everyone I possibly can, and I needed to take it up a notch.  So when a friend suggested we try glass blowing I jumped at the idea!

We arrived at the glass school — which resembled a large unfinished basement with large old furnaces –and the warmth from the ovens chased away my winter chill.  But I was suddenly overwhelmed with the long list of rules I was told I needed to abide by so that I would not get burned. The glass can get as hot as 2,000 degrees, which would not only chase away any chill, but would most likely melt away my skin as well.
Our teacher said he would be with me every step of the way, but I wanted to make sure he would literally be next to me, in case I forgot and handled the metal blow pipe too far down where it is still still conducting heat.
Rolling my uber-hot glass blob in color

To blow glass you need the aforementioned long metal pipe called a blow pipe.  It is hollow so that when you have a dollop of melting glass on its end, you can blow into the pipe and inflate your glassy blob.  I grabbed my pipe and stuck it into a furnace and collected an Anjou pear-size serving of glass.  This is when the tough part starts.  The glass is so hot and malleable that you must continuously spin the pipe to keep the glass centered on the end of the wand, and prevent it from dripping off the end of the pipe like molasses.  Then you add color to your blob by rolling it in piles of what resembles colored kitty litter.  The chromatic morsels are in fact glass, and once they are heated along with my blob ‘o glass their color bleeds to create a beautiful speckled affect.

Once you have colored your blob the really difficult – and I felt totally embarrassing—part of the process begins: blowing the glass.  The name really does say it all, you blow into the opposite end of the blow pipe as your glass blob and the air you exhale inflates the glass.  The problem was not that I didn’t know what to do, our teacher gave very clear instructions, but it was those instructions and my inability to follow them that made for a few ridiculous moments.
Attempting to blow

“Blow harder.”  “Blow softer.”  “Blow as if you were whispering.”
Those were the directions I was given as the teacher rolled the blow pipe over his knees to keep the glass centered on the pipe.  First off, his directions were making me laugh making it difficult to sustain a long exhale into the pipe.  Secondly, the rolling of the pipe mean I had to move my mouth side-to-side with the pipe, while blowing and simultaneously attempting to stifle laughter.  Lastly, no matter if I was blowing hard or soft I saw no effect on my glass.  I imagined it would be like blowing up a balloon, but no, nothing.  My glass did no inflate. I felt ridiculous. In my defense the two friends I was with were also laughing.  One even had to put her head inside her turtleneck collar to prevent a full-blown belly laugh at my expense.
An even more flattering angle

Thankfully Diablo makes this process fool-proof (emphasis on the “fool”).  Once I did as much as I could (I was blowing really hard with no noticeable effect on my glass) my teacher made some adjustments to my work so that it did eventually resemble an ornament.  He took my glass ball off the blow pipe, used some hot glass to create a hook for hanging the popped it in an over to slowly bring down the ornaments temperature.  (If you let it sit out at room temperature the glass would crack).

I am certainly not Chihuly I don’t think blowing glass is my next passion, but I have a beautiful blue and green ornament that will look amazing on a tree and will always make me giggle and dream of a day that I can talk about blowing and not lose it!
My beautiful ornament.

4 thoughts on “Just Put Your Lips Together and Blow

  1. Ha! I can picture it as if I were there. I am giggling with you! You need to get back in there, the ornament is gorgeous! I want one! (I am ashamed that I didn't tell you I know a glassmaker… he is also a martial arts teacher if you are interested in your next adventure. Other people I know who have interesting careers you might want to adventure: a scientist specializing in eel habitats; a hairdresser; a cleaning lady; a conductor; a pediatric nurse; a historic house museum manager (know a few of those); and a stay at home mom!) ps – anything farm related you could try with The Trustees, they would probably love their article for their publication as well!

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