The making of glass is a process that I have always enjoyed watching. It is a perfect marriage of process, engineering, manufacturing and art. I love moving parts, I love seeing machines that make things and love thinking about the engineering, logic, software and hardware that makes these factories go. So when the long weekend named after the Queen who was not amused in the plural came along, we headed down to Corning, NY to (a) make our own glass (b) see the artifacts in the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) (c) hike the trails around the state parks in the Finger Lakes region and (d) turn off and drop out for a couple of days.
We left at 10am Saturday, carrying one small bag containing 2 shirts and my baby pink shorts and just the sneakers on my feet. And clean underwear, of course! As we got closer to the border crossing wait times at our preferred Queenston-Lewiston Bridge was showing a 90 minute or more delay. Luckily, I used to live in Niagara Falls, Ontario, so took the right fork off the St Catherines flyover and headed down the 420 to the Rainbow Bridge. As we moved slowly over the bridge My Beloved Bangalan took this picture of the famous cataract. We were across the border in less than 15 minutes.
Then we threaded our way through the construction detours off to the 290 East bound. I stopped for a pee and a box of 10 Timbits and handed over driving duties. In about 2+ hours we arrived in Corning NY. The CMOG is just off the highway. We drove past the museum and stopped at Wegmans for a meatball sandwich pour moi and grilled chicken pour madame. When we got to the glassmaking studio, though, we found all the glassblowing / glass forming slots for the day were booked. So we booked 2 slots for 10:40am next day and walked around the free exhibits next to the glass making studio where amongst the samples of glassware I found this intriguing piece.
Then we continued on to the hotel in Horseheads, NY, about 15 minutes away. We checked in freshened up and then decided to head over to Watkins Glen to see the gorges and waterfalls along the highway. We saw about 4 or 5 little waterfalls as we headed right into a dense fog near the harbour in Watkins Glen. The fog was intense and twilight was fading fast, so we turned around and drove back. Across the hotel was Arnott Mall, so we went to have a look. With a late lunch inside us we went to Friendly’s for dinner.
Big mistake! The food was bland, tasteless. The sliders were a tad larger than normal, had limp cheddary cheeses as the only flavour, the chicken fingers also came encased in slider buns. The quesadillas were ok, as were the fries. The tomato basil soup looked like a can had been lumped into a bowl and desultory microwave let loose on it. It lumpy with bits of condensed soup. It was sent back with instructions to take half of the mess out, add water and heat it. It came back barely edible.
The next day, we had a quick breakfast, courtesy of Hampton Inn and went for our glass making experience. I chose glass forming and she chose to blow glass. I was not confident that my COPD lungs would hold power enough to blow even a small glass curio. I went in first to make a glass flower. I’d chosen to make an orange flower with yellow highlights and a curly green stem.
I was provided with an apron, safety glasses, leather gloves and pull on sleeves to cover my bare arms. First we were given general instructions and shown the tools we would use and also the safety precautions we should take. The rod/pipes which held the glass at the end would be hot ( hence the gloves ), we must never touch the rod anywhere except behind the assistant’s hands and only on the shiny stainless steel part. We must sit over to the edge of the bench, not allow our arm to touch the hot top of the partition etc etc.
Then I sat at the bench while the assistant went off to get the draw of glass for my flower. She stuck the rod in to the furnace where it was 2500C, gathered the glass, dipped it in the correct colour glass pieces. She laid the rod over the bench uprights and then asked me to roll the rod gently to get a feel for the glass. The molten glass was like taffy, if I stopped rolling it would gravitate towards the floor, so a constant easy rolling motion was necessary to keep the shape. Once I got that it was time to heat up again, so she took it away brought it back.
Then I used tweezers to pull around the edges to make the flower petals. I went around twice, messing up twice.. Then it was time to use the tweezers to pull at 45 degrees angle away from my body to make the stem. As I pulled gently the stem got longer and longer. Then she helped me to roll the rod to give the stem a curl, then she held it up for the picture. I was done. Time to quickly store it into the annealing oven to cool gently overnight. Pick up the next day!
Here are the finished products. The flower is what I made, the blown glass curio is her work.