Hand Blown Glass Art

Growing up in West Virginia, glass blowing was one of those special crafts by local artisans that most children saw at craft fairs.  When we traveled the West Virginia Turnpike between Charleston and Bluefield, one stop off point was the Blenko glass works where you could see a live demonstration of glass blowing. It’s a fascinating process watching the artisan turn a hot piece of glass into an object of art.

Glassblowing involves placing a molten chunk of glass at the end of a long pipe.  The glassblower blows through the pipe and creates a bubble in the glass and then forms it into whatever he/she wants by manipulating the glass with various tongs, snips, and other shaped tools.

  how to make hand blown  glass roses

Skilled craftsmen are able to create the various shapes by rotating the blow pipe or swinging it around to cool it off while they form the glass into the shape they want by blowing into the pipe at the appropriate time. In this way the craftsmen can create a variety of glass objects such a drinking glasses, vases, and even window glass.

The glassblowing process involves the use of three furnaces or one furnace with three different temperature zones which is what one will find at most craft fairs.  The first is called the “the furnace” which holds a crucible (a large cup) of molten glass.  The second is the “glory hole” where the artisan puts in the glass on the pipe to reheat the glass for further shaping.  The third is the annealing furnace which is used to slowly cool the glass over time so that the glass does not crack.

If you think that this process seems simple enough, think again.  To become a master glassblower a person may work as a glass blowing apprentice for ten years or more.  Some European countries have a difficult and formal program that a person must pass before earning the title of master glassblower.  The United States, on the other hand, does not have a formal program. 

The Venetian island of Murano is probably the most well-known source of hand blown glass art in the world today.  Beginning in the 13th century, the glassmakers of Venice where sent to the island because the Venetian rulers of that time were fearful of fire destroying the mostly wooden structures of the city.  Over time the glassblowers became the most revered citizens of Murano as they held a virtual monopoly on quality glassmaking for centuries.

Alvar Aalto, a finish designer worked with Iitala glass works to create the famous Aalto vase that is shaped like one of the Finish lakes for the World’s Fair in Paris 1937 and has become one of the world’s most recognizable pieces of hand blown glass.

In 1962, Harvey Littleton and Dominick Labino held a couple of workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art where they experimented with a small furnace to create hand blown glass art.  This studio glass movement helped to open up a vast new approach to glassblowing which is now worldwide in nature.

The rest of this website is dedicated to those master artisans who are very skilled in the craft of creating hand blown glass art.

The Art of Glass

One of the latest trends that can be seen is hand blown glass art. Many fine art galleries are beginning to feature this type of art in their studios. Also, many nice, public places are beginning to feature blown art glass.

Hand Blown Glass as Art

There is something to be said about hand-blown glass and its artform. I fell in love with blown glass years ago, I think when I saw my first Chihuly piece. Since then I have been in awe of the colors, form, and fluidity of the shapes.

Art Vase

Randi Solin is the artist behind the Borsetta vase, a hand-shaped blown glass vase in an amazing mix of “organic” colors and decorative, sparkling elements within the glass.