GLASS ART – AN AWESOME EXPERIENCE
The heat is breathtaking; the fire simply blinding. The hair on your arms feels totally singed, but inside the kiln your work is slowly taking shape and the magic of a blown piece of glass art is only moments away from reality.
Seven members who attended the first Probus Robert Held Art Glass Workshop early in April had the opportunity to not only meet the renowned glass master but to learn about the intricacy of designing and making a piece of art that is colourful, complex and in some cases – very delicate.
The group was able to make a free-style fused piece and to also produce a larger piece that was selected from an assortment: a heart, sea star, paper-weight, Easter egg or float. Individuals were given between 20 and 25 minutes of one-on-one time with the experienced teacher (Mike Kuhlmey) who worked closely with the rookie artists, selecting an appropriate piece, suggesting options for colours, designs and sizes and then putting the guests to work.
Everyone had the hands-on experience of holding the working rods, adding different colours, starting bubbles or blowing interior forms, turning the molten glass, shaping the glass in water-soaked newspapers, using jacks (giant-like tweezers) to shape and then cut the glass.
“Learning how to ‘read the glass’ and to appreciate when and how to turn the rods is something that comes with time and practice,” explained Kuhlmey. His 40 years of working with glass and Robert Held, creating literally thousands of pieces was invaluable for the group who watched and worried as their ‘masterpieces’ drooped, stretched, cooled, needed more but slower hand rolling or more pressure on the calipers.
The group watched and cheered each other on and in many cases decided that this kind of art could become quite addictive; in fact a number of the group has decided to come back and take another workshop with the anticipation of making larger and more intricate items.
“It was simply amazing and sometimes a little stressful to watch what was happening,” explained Marnie Swanson, “but it was the intense heat at some points and being able to hold a piece of molten glass (about 1800 degree hot) in your hand with only some wet papers between glass and skin that really was fantastic.”
The second workshop was held on April 25 and if the interest continues, it looks as though more will be put on the schedule.