Hot Glass

Blog Post
Lonestar Parson posted comments (here) on his blog that dealt with a portion of Texas that is falling into a type of ghost town abyss that we’ve seen elsewhere in America. Sometimes in the old West, they were mining towns. In the modern era, Detroit is an example. 
And it made me think of a situation that I encountered. Back (mumbles) years ago, I took up working in hot glass/blowing glass with my daughter, Heather, who also had an interest in learning. Heather is very industrious but she is also an artist at heart and a good one. So we worked together in a studio with a good teacher and became competent. It takes time, a lot of practice and a lot of interest. It also builds muscles because a “4 gather piece” can mean that you have 70 lbs of molten glass spinning at the end of your pipe. I took it up as a stress reducer because my life at the time was exceptionally stressful. (snapping necks and cashing checks required an outlet)
The sort of craftsmanship that ends up with beautiful glass pieces made by that supremely successful glass artist, Dale Chihuly, is something that you have to work at. I am good enough to show you how Chihuly (and his staff) made any of his masterpieces but I can in no way make them. However, between Heather and I, we were thinking of one point of opening a glass art studio and making art.
No, I’m not going to show you my stuff, but suffice to say it was good enough to sell but wasn’t anywhere close to the work that Chihuly does. Chihuly gets $15,000 for a small glass bowl. And I do not argue that it’s not worth the price. If you have the money, it is. It’s high art.
Here’s an example of how it’s done in the developed world.
Enter India. 
There are the Chihulys of this world who command very high prices and then there is everyone else who works in hot glass. The pieces that most of you who buy such things buy these days are made in India or China. The reason for that is it costs me more to actually buy raw glass in the US than it does to buy the glass, fabricate it, ship it to the US and retail it. There is a lot of overhead (in the US) to creating hot glass because you spend a fortune on gas to heat the oven, which must remain hot ALL of the time, even when you’re not using it. If the hot glass in the oven cools, it breaks the clay containment vessel and it’s an expensive clean up.
This is how it’s done in India. You can’t do this in the US because you can’t use child labor and OSHA would shut you down for unsafe practices. Keep in mind that these people in the (sadly, long) video may look like a lot of dirty natives, but they are artists in their own right and know their craft.
In the same way as the cotton industry moved to India (and China), leaving a wasteland in its wake, the glass art business with the exception of the very high quality studios – and there aren’t many – in the US, have gone out of business because they can’t compete.
Working in hot glass as a hobby is a good thing, but furnace time is expensive. It’s very difficult to turn your hobby into a business that pays for itself in this regard. Which is why I make flying saucers these days instead of hot glass masterpieces. (

11 thoughts on “Hot Glass

  1. We don't have to "make" flying saucers. The come in about dusk, stay for a few drinks and then go on their way.

  2. That's because you live in the "country"…and it's only after a few mint juleps that they show up.

  3. Thanks for the link; it's a rare night that I'm not up for several Julips and a UFO hunt. They favor the country, interestingly, unlike the blown glass and cotton industries.

  4. There are different sorts of UFO's. Some disgorge Vampire Zombies from Venus, others leave crop circles and experiment on livestock. Still others just whirr harmlessly while you drink the Julip.

  5. IMHO… If one drinks scotch instead of those Julip things, one sees the most interesting things…

  6. Yes, though once they've annealed (cooled down slowly in an annealer) they are not as fragile as you'd think.

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