DIY: Glassblowing

Looking for something different and unique to do for a date, birthday or just a get out of the house activity? Look no further than McFadden’s Art Glass in Baltimore.

My mom has taken her Girl Scout troop to this hidden gem many times over the last few years. They have created pumpkins, flower and bowls. I went with them for their last trip together as a troop when they made bowls.

A few weeks ago was my mom’s birthday and when asked what she wanted for her birthday, she told me she wanted to go back to McFadden’s to re-create her pumpkin (which had met a cruel fate when gravity won).

Perfect! Mom’s birthday was a Saturday so I quickly formed a plan with my sister. I contacted McFadden’s to set up an appointment for a create your own session. Create your own sessions are available on weekends and some Fridays (for date night!).

Mom’s birthday finally got here. We got to the studio early and after checking in, we explored the gallery. Lots of very beautiful and creative pieces are available for purchase if you are looking for something different to gift the person who has everything. If my place was bigger, I would love to add one of the wall pieces to my house!

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Once it was time for our appointment, we were taken back to the workroom and were given a refresher in the safety rules (do not push your sister into the furnace…yes Mom…). Most rules are common sense however, since this is not something you do on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to listen and follow the rules!

Mom went first and I watched (I must admit I was a little nervous since I hadn’t done this in a few years and it’s a different experience…and extreme heat makes me anxious (fire and everything).

Then it was my turn! I decided to make a drinking glass. I have really small glasses at my apartment and wanted to make something a little bigger — and colorful! I chose 3 glass colors: fine green (the finer colors give a deeper color all over) with a chunky blue and yellow.

My glass guide put a blob of glass (really that’s what it looks like) on the glass blowing rod and then let me start working with the glass. Just like lacrosse, you always keep the rod rolling. In the pic below, water is cooling more of the rod so it is safe – never ever touch the dirty part of the rod!

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Next step was to add my colors to my blob. This is done by introducing the hot blob to the glass colors on a table. You just kind of dab the blob into each color until you have color all around.

After introducing the color to the blob, it’s time to reheat the glass. This also allows the colored glass to start mixing with the rest of the hot blob of glass. Once the glass has been reheated, you can start working with it.

From here, I took the glass out so I could roll it on a cool surface to start forming the shape I wanted. Since it was a glass, long and thin was the shape I wanted to work with – and not a massive molten blob 🙂

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Once we got the glass in the shape we wanted to work with, it was time to reheat. My glass guide then traded positions with the owner of McFadden’s, Tim. Tim has worked with us before and is absolutely awesome.

Tim had me sit down (all the while we were rolling). It was time to expand the glass by blowing into the rod. After that, we began to shape the glass into a more recognizable drinking glass form (we shaped the glass to my specifications – I wanted a slightly taller and thinner drinking glass than the one that was on display).

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Back into the furnace the glass went. After we took the glass out again, it was time to shape the molten glass and smooth it. To do this, I held a wet pad and we rolled the hot glass over it until it was again the shape I wanted.

From here, it was time to remove my project from the glass blowing rod and move it to another rod. To do this, we applied slight pressure from cool tongs to the glass attaching it to my rod and then applied molten glass to the other side to attach it to the new rod (picture on the right).

Once on the new rod, it was time to shape the top of my drinking glass. This time I used a smaller pair of tongs to open and stretch the mouth of my glass. Tim helped me make sure the mouth was actually circular and not some where oblong that I am sure I would have crafted if left to my own devices.

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Last step was to separate the glass from the rod. I repeated the process of cooled tongs to where the rod and glass met. My mom caught my piece as it separated from the rod and then my piece was promptly taken away to cool (right next to Mom’s pumpkin).

Our finished pieces would be available in two days (in this case Tuesday since they are closed Mondays).

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My finished drinking glass

This is an expensive activity but it is worth every penny! You get personalized and hands on help and guidance and a beautiful piece you can take home with you to either use or display. For both projects, it came to $90 – $40 for the pumpkin and $50 for the drinking glass.I highly recommend doing this at least once and I am already looking forward to my next trip so I can make a second drinking glass!

If you go in the cooler months, do not go in a thick sweater or sweatshirt. The studio is very warm because of the furnace. I would recommend sleeves – I did get a little warm (it wasn’t a burn (like a sunburn) since it cleared up by the next day) since I had on short sleeves. The heat from the molten glass, tools and furnace is no joke. Dress accordingly.

Definitely make an appointment for a create your own session. This will ensure you get the time and attention you need when working with molten glass – especially if it’s something you have never done or don’t have a lot of experience with!

Seriously, Tim and his team (it used to be just him!!! Congratulations on all your success!) are wonderful. They make the whole process easy and they provide a guiding hand all throughout.

For more information about this hidden gem in Baltimore, check out their website.

*There is actual glass blowing in this activity, however, those pictures are not very flattering so I did not post them!*

 

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