1. What is glass?
In the technical sense, glass is an inorganic product of fusion which has been cooled through the glass transition to a rigid condition without crystallizing.
Glass transition or vitrification refers to the transformation of a glass-forming liquid into a glass, which usually occurs upon rapid cooling. It is a dynamic phenomenon occurring between two distinct states of matter (liquid and glass), each with different physical properties. Upon cooling through the temperature range of glass transition (a “glass transformation range”), without forming any long-range order or significant symmetry of atomic arrangement, the liquid contracts more continuously at about the same rate as above the melting point until there is a decrease in the expansion coefficient. The glass transition temperature Tg is lower than melting temperature, Tm, due to supercooling. It depends on the time scale of observation which must be defined by convention. One approach is to agree on a standard cooling rate of 10 K/min. Another approach is by requiring a viscosity of 1013 poise.
In other words, glass is a very sweet material, unlike anything else in the world.
2. What is glass made of?
Glass is sand with other ingredients added to make it melt easier. The fewer ingredients added, the higher the temperature it melts at and the less it expands and contracts. Almost pure sand would result in quartz, next down is borosilicate glass (Pyrex), lower down from there are soda/lime glasses, lower than that are Sodium Silicate which is a liquid at room temperature. Handling glass batch requires safety practices including cleanup, keeping chemicals safely, and using a respirator.
3. What type of glass do you use in your studio?
In our studio we use Spruce Pine Batch, which is a soda lime glass. It is made from soda ash, limestone, feldspar, lithium carbonate, sodium nitrate, zinc oxide, barium carbonate, fluorspar, antimony oxide. Batch is the raw materials that are melted into glass. The process of melting batch is called charging and is quite time-consuming. Our furnace requires about 24 hours to charge and cook the batch until it is relatively bubble-free.
4. How hot is the glass?
Glass is melted at temperatures up to 2400F and is let cool slightly to release air bubbles. To mold the glass, it is placed in the second furnace, known as the ìGlory Hole,î where its temperature is sustained at about 2400F.
The final step Annealing, or cooling the glass. Once the piece is finished it is placed into the Annealer, Which gradually will lower the temperature of the glass over night.
5. How do you keep the glass from breaking?
We are able to keep the glass from breaking by keeping the glass we are working on at an even temperature. In between steps we will reheat or “flash” the glass in the reheating chamber know as the “glory hole”, which is kept at 2400F. We also use a number of different torches that help sustain heat, or boost the heat in a desired area of the piece. After all the steps are completed for the particular glass piece we are working on, it is then put away in the Annealer, over night it will gradually lower the temperature, and keep it from breaking or cracking.
6. How do you add color to the glass?
The colors that can be added to the basic clear glass come in three forms: color rods which are made of concentrated colored glass and must be pre heated in the color warmer before applied, frits which are coarsely ground bits of color, and powder which enables the glassblower to layer color or produce fine gradations of color. The artist must carefully choose colors because no all colors are compatible due to the differing temperatures at which they retain or release heat.
7. Can you add as many colors as you want?
Yes and no. This is a tricky question some colors are compatible together and some are not. But if you know which can be used together than yes you can add as many as you want.
8. How do you get the glass color to be metallic color, like gold
We do this by reducing the oxygen in the reheating chamber, by stepping on a peddle that allows us to control the amount of oxygen in the chamber.
9. What are some of the names of the tools? What are they used for?
There are many tools used in glassblowing, overall it depends on which type of style or technique we are trying to achieve.† The major tools involved are the blowpipe (or blow tube), the punti (pontil or punt), bench, marver, seers, blocks, jacks, paddles, tweezers, and a variety of shears. The tip of the blowpipe is first preheated; then dipped in the molten glass in the furnace. The molten glass is ‘gathered’ on to the blowpipe in much the same way that honey is picked up on a dipper. The piece later on is then transferred onto the punti.
10. How long does it take for each piece to be made?
It really depends on the size of the piece, and how many different techniques are applied to the piece. The more techniques we apply the longer it usually takes. But usually a less complicated piece can take anywhere from 15- 25 mins. And a more complicated piece will take anywhere from 40 mins up to hours, depending on the size.
11. I’ve heard Glass blowing is bad for your health…is this true?
No, BUT only if you have a proper ventilation system set up in your studio you will not run the risk of health related problems. For the chemicals we use in the glass, and color powders are very toxic if not properly ventilated.
12. How do you protect yourself from not getting burned?
Practice of course! Knowing where you should be at all times, and having knowledge of all the tools and torches. In glass blowing there are steps to every piece in order for it to be completed in an orderly way. If you follow these steps and know what to expect the chances of getting burned are reduced. We also have protective gear we wear provided by Kevlar. Kevlar provides protective gear for NASA and also for us glass blowers.
13 How big of a piece can you make at your studio?
We have one of the largest reheating chambers also know as a “glory hole” in our studio. It measures 52″ x 41″.
14. Is your studio open all year long?
We work all year round. Our Furnaces are running 24/7. We are very hard workers, and put our heart and soul into this studio. Because we are intensively working blowing glass all the time we are not open to the public, unless an appointment is made prior. We have 2 open studios throughout the year, the first weekend in May and the first weekend in December. If you are on our mailing list we will send you an invite to these events, so you can really experience the true meaning of our craft. If you are not on our mailing lists please make sure to sign up so youíre not left out. We also hold private events for special occasions, dinner parties, and fundraisers etc.
15. How many people do you need helping out and assisting in the hot shop?
Once again it depends on the size of the object we are working on and how many different techniques will be applied. The more complicated the piece, the more help we made need. We sometimes have only 1 assistant, but can have as many as 2-3 extra assistants.
16. Where is your work shown?
Today epiphany’s customers include over 300 galleries worldwide, individuals and corporate clients, including Pfizer Inc. in Ann Arbor, Ross Controls Co. in Troy, The Detroit Regional Chamber, Strategic Staffing Solutions Inc. In Detroit,†General Motors Corp., and Russian President Vladimir Puttin. Many more projects are also in the works.
17. I have never blown glass but I am very interested in learning more about it. Where can I learn to blow glass?
There are lots of facilities that offer classes, such as the Toledo†Museum of Art. If you call there you can request further information on classes, and or renting glass time there. Also the College for Creative Studies located in Detroit MI (from which April graduated) offers a full department dedicated to Glass blowing, and Continuing education classes.
18. Where did glass blowing originally start?
Glassblowing is a glass forming technique which was invented by the Phoenicians at approximately 50 B.C. somewhere along the Syro-Palestinian coast. The earliest evidence of glassblowing comes from a collection of waste from a glass workshop, including fragments of glass tubes, glass rods and tiny blown bottles, which was dumped in a mikvah, a ritual bath in the Jewish Quarter of Old City of Jerusalem dated from 37 to 4 B.C. Some of the glass tubes recovered are fire-closed at one end and are partially inflated by blowing through the open end while still hot to form small bottle, thus they are considered as a rudimentary form of blowpipe. Hence, tube blowing not only represents the initial attempts of experimentation by glassworkers at blowing glass, it is also a revolutionary step the induced a change in conception and a deep understanding of glass. Such invention swiftly eclipsed all other traditional methods, such as casting and core-forming, in working glass. In modern context.
The modern Hand Blown Glass movement began in the early 1960s, when engineer and chemist Dominick Labino began holding workshops with Harvey Littleton, a ceramics professor. Working with a small furnace to melt and blow glass in a small private studio, they ushered in a new era of studio glass work, inspiring the work of many modern glass blowers and taking glass work outside a factory setting. A movement inspired more by the medium than the art produced; Hand Blown Glass remains an increasingly popular art form.
The “studio glass movement” began in 1962 when Harvey Littleton, a ceramics professor, and Dominick Labino, a chemist and engineer, held two workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art, during which they started experimenting with melting glass in a small furnace and creating blown glass art. Thus Littleton and Labino are credited with being the first to make molten glass available to artists working in private studios. This approach to glassblowing blossomed into a worldwide movement, producing such flamboyant and prolific artists as Dale Chihuly, Dante Marioni, Fritz Driesbach and Marvin Lipofsky as well as scores of other modern glass artists. Today there are many different institutions around the world that offer glassmaking resources.