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Blowing Glass

Blowing Glass
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle
Blowing Glass
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle

My husband, Gene, celebrated his 61st birthday this past Saturday — 61 trips around the sun on this big blue planet we call earth. I took him on a birthday adventure — something the two of us have been doing for a few years. In lieu of gifts, we plan something we’ve never done before to commemorate our birthdays.

On Saturday, we drove north to Chattanooga, just a couple of blocks from the Chattanooga Choo Choo and walked down a busy sidewalk to Ignis Glass Studio. There, our instructor, Chris Mosey, was waiting for us in his shop amid heat, furnaces and lots of beefy metal tools and fixtures.

He showed us four pieces we could make that day — a round ornament, a paperweight, a vase, and a bowl. Gene chose to make a bowl. Next, he chose his color preference — a bright scheme of yellows, oranges and reds.

And then he stepped into the hot zone with the instructor and shielded his eyes with safety glasses before embarking on a hands-on journey through the fiery art of glassblowing. Chris directed our eyes to a pipe he had warming in a furnace. “This furnace is 2000 degrees F,” he said as he removed the pipe from the door. At the end, we saw a blob of glowing glass about the size of a large egg. He walked over to a table with bowls of colorful pieces he referred to as “frit.” The frit looked like the sprinkles bakers use to decorate cakes and cookies. We watched as Chris carefully rolled the gob of hot, molten glass into the colorful glass pieces, and then he handed the rod to Gene.

He instructed Gene to stick the rod into another furnace and spin it around gently, melting the colorful frit uniformly around the perimeter of the glowing wad of goo. A minute later, Gene removed the glass bulb from the heat.

Next, Chris handed Gene a tube and told him to blow into the tube as the craftsman twirled the bulb around on a fixture. Suddenly, Gene’s breath began expanding the bulb like a balloon until there was a pop, as the AMBER

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end blew off. Still spinning and heating the vessel, I suddenly realized how the bowl was taking shape. As the teacher spun the pipe, the sides became fluid and wavy. Chris poured a little molten glass into a circular form (about the size of a biscuit cutter) to create a base for the bowl, and then he transferred the bowl to the molten glass.

Voila! A beautiful glass bowl emerged before us on a stainless steel table, but it was more a piece of art than a bowl. I could visualize it sitting in the middle of our dining room table.

“What will we put in my bowl?” Gene asked.

“I don’t know, but that bowl is gorgeous,” I said, and I meant it.

Then it was my turn. I made a lovely turquoise vase. It wasn’t as pretty as Gene’s wavy bowl with swirling colors that reminded me of a sunrise, but still, I am proud of my creation.

And that’s how we marked Gene’s 61st year — together, in front of fire and flame, with our own hands and breath, coaxing glass into life. We shared a journey of discovery that afternoon and have mementoes from the day. We will admire our colorful, one-of-a-kind creations for years to come and talk about the day we visited the glass studio and, through stunning transformations, turned gobs of molten glass into showpieces that will catch the sunlight and cast beauty throughout our home for years to come.

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