On entering Anthony Stern’s glassblowing workshop, established some 30 years ago, we were warmly welcomed by Phil & Hayley and the BLASTING heat from the roaring furnaces’. As Hayley talked us through the process, we saw the buckets of recycled Dartington lead crystal glass chips, lined up to keep the furnace stocked up 365 days of the year.
The process starts by putting the chosen colour for the piece on the end of the blowing iron. These are chosen from long “sweet rock-like” sticks. Molten glass is then taken from the furnace onto the iron.
This is then molded, and shaped slowly in stages using various instruments and rolling methods to smooth and manipulate into the desired shape. Metal calipers, wooden paddles, charred pads – all reaching the point of igniting at times; not surprising when you learn that they are working with glass at 1000º! This is interspersed with the use of the glory hole furnace to keep the glass at the necessary temperature.
We watched in awe, as a vase was produced before our very eyes, with a bubble design inside it. This was achieved using a pineapple mould that emboss the triangular spikes into the outside of the glass. Once re-heated into the glory hole, the holes spread and become sealed inside the body of the vase. Fascinating to watch unfold. Then the addition of a bit of “magic fairy dust” (all things benefit from a sprinkle of that!) highlights the bubbles some more.
The rolling and constant moving of the iron avoids the glass from drooping – the occasional piece that does in some way or another is lovingly referred to as an organic shape…
Crucially, the blowing of the glass down the iron encourages the shape some more. Although, the hotter the glass the easier it is to blow, the heat only travels so far up the iron – so no burnt lips!
Another “blob” for the base and a strip of extra glass for the neck and the vase really starts to come together. The finishing touch comes with the addition of another smaller “blob” of glass on the bottom. This ensures a clean, known break for the base. As some water is sprinkled onto the join of the 2 “blobs”, the weak spot, a simple tap causes a vibration straight into it and off it comes!
From the raw ingredients of the glass – soda, lime silica and sand – comes this stunning artistic creation. It’s so visually enticing to watch. As the sweetie-like molten glass moves in a fluid way, so too do Phil & Hayley, swinging round and side-stepping from one work station to another, in an almost dance like fashion.
Looking around the workshop at all the beautiful pieces, I am struck by the various colourful light shades…one things for sure, we cannot wait until their sample sale on the 29th & 30th November.
Anthony Stern Glass