On January 8, 2013, the students at Washington Intermediate School had a special guest artist visit them. Her name was Amanda Hall and she is the niece to Mrs. Sims. Amanda is a graduate student at Iowa State University.
The Red Oak elementary students have been studying famous glass blowing artist, Dale Chihuly in art class under the direction of Teresa Euken. Since Ms. Hall works with glass blowing herself, Mrs. Sims was able to line up a special presentation for us.
We learned that Iowa State is one of the few universities which has a glass blowing facility in the country. Glassblowers are also called “gaffers” and Iowa State has an Iowa Gaffer’s Guild.
One important part of glass blowing is the protective clothing that must be worn. It includes protective eyewear, very large special mittens, long sleeves and long pants, and close toed shoes, NO flip flops or sandals!
To melt glass, Ms. Hall told us it must be put in a large oven that gets to 1100 degrees Celsius. First, the glass goes into this oven or furnace and then you remove the melty glass with a blow pipe. As it cools, you can reheat it in another type of furnace called a “Glory Hole”. We learned that the special stick that you put the glass into the “Glory Hole” is called a “punty rod”. One of the students commented that it looked as if they were roasting marshmallows instead of glass. That’s when Ms. Hall told us they actually get to roast hotdogs in it sometimes. We thought that sounded like fun!
We found out that the inside of the Glory Hole is made out of refractory clay, which comes from Mexico Missouri. It is the same clay that is used on the space shuttle tiles and on the inside of fireplaces.
Once the glass comes out of the Glory Hole, it goes on a blow pipe and then you blow through it. It’s kind of like blowing bubble gum. If you want to give your project special features, you can use large tools that look like giant tweezers and giant scissors or even a tool called a “marble maker”. We also found out that when it is time to add the color, they add a special type of glass called “frit” or a bar glass called “cullet”.
Ms. Hall did a great job teaching us about glass blowing and she even showed us some samples of her own work. They were pretty cool. We also got a better understanding of what Dale Chihuly, the artist that we are studying in art class must go through to make his beautiful creations.