Blowing glass is a dirty job. While the finished product is bright and sparklingly clean, I typically finish a blowing session looking like a diesel mechanic. The cherry wood paddles and blocks we use often catch fire leaving us decorated with charcoal and smelling like a campfire. Our blowpipes get dirty with the burnt beeswax that we use where a lubricant for the hot tools. During the summer our shop is hotter than a sauna, everywhere you turn equipment and tools are hot enough to leave a very nasty burn.
I started blowing glass 5 years ago up in the pine trees at Robi Creek, Idaho, and have lucked upon a string of excellent mentors. The heavy equipment involved is too large and too expensive for a normal person to just have out in their garage. So to blow glass requires a glass hot shop within driving distance. While blowing a piece the glass has to be kept at a perfect working temperature. Too hot and it melts right off the pipe, too cool the glass shocks and cracks, game over. Bigger pieces require a lot of muscle and physicality. Blowing glass is often a team effort with two helpers needed to comfortably make larger sized pieces. Big or small you get one chance to do it right, it’s not a honing process, there is no going back for an edit or redo. Each piece is a disaster waiting to happen, sometimes the first little bubble is wrong and requires a redo, sometimes a beautiful completed piece cracks overnight in the cooling annealer because it turns out your colors were not compatible. There is a pitfall waiting to ruin a piece in every step of the blowing process. But the things that make blown glass challenging are the things that keep me interested, each successfully completed piece a real accomplishment.