Flaming Ovens and Popping Glass

16 Nov

I finally got to do it – work with molten glass straight out of the kiln, to create a beautiful piece of art.

With Kevin McGehee and one of his pieces

In my 30 Days of Learning, one of the things I knew right off the bat I wanted to do was learn something about hot glass art. Today I got my first chance, at SiNaCa Studios School of Glass & Gallery in Fort Worth.

Kevin McGehee, one of the founders of SiNaCa, showed me the studio and led me through the basic process for creating glass art. Kevin and several other local glass artists started the nonprofit in Fort Worth’s Near Southside district, as a community center in the glass arts for everyone from beginners to professionals. “This place is owned by the community,” Kevin says. “It belongs to everyone.” The facility, which used to be a gas station, consists of a glass specific gallery, a glassblowing studio, a kiln-forming studio and a cold working studio.

Kevin explains the process

Kevin was going to help me make a paperweight, with four different colors fused and swirled into the clear glass. Several steps were involved, beginning with melting the original piece of glass in the furnace and then adding the colors one at a time. Once the colors are added, you then pull and manipulate the soft, melted glass with a pair of tong-like pliers to swirl the colors together and create air bubbles and pockets.

“The potter’s thumb and finger deftly pressing the soft mass whirling on his wheel as it yielded to his touch, the bulbous glass at the end of the slender pipe as the breath of the glass blower and his deft turning decided its shape- its fate fascinated me. Something was being born.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

As the glass bulb cools it begins to harden, of course, and when that happens Kevin quickly sticks it back into the heating kiln – or “Glory Hole” as he calls it. Once the piece gets to the place where you want it to be, you then smooth and shape it using a block of wet cherrywood. The last bit was the most exciting – Kevin decked out with a face mask and Kevlar gloves while I pressed wet tongs into the neck of the paperweight, then banged the tool against the pole until the piece broke right off with a crack, into his waiting hands.

All in all, it was very interesting and great fun – and no one got hurt.

Kevin has been doing this for 12 years; he discovered the art as a nine-year-old boy, visiting Juarez with his family and seeing a souvenir shop filled with glass art. He later took glass blowing at UTA and was pretty much hooked. It’s easy to see how it can become addictive.

SiNaCa Studios offers working space for glass artists, and many different classes for beginners or those wanting to learn more. A six-week glass blowing class will teach you the basics, or you can drop in anytime for a quick one-hour intro class like I did – you get to actually work with the glass immediately, and make your own piece. SiNaCa also has bead making and a great Open Studios night on the second Friday of each month, a fun BYOB event with music, artists and glass blowing demos.

The gallery is small but beautiful, with many items for sale all done by the artists involved with SiNaCa. I was impressed with the prices, which are quite reasonable and affordable.

And here is the finished masterpiece:

Check out SiNaCa Studios School of Glass & Gallery for yourself – they also have a Facebook page.

3 Responses to “Flaming Ovens and Popping Glass”

  1. Will - Gap Daemon November 17, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    Wow Shelley this looks really cool. Always wanted to try it. How were the end results? Sitting at home pride of the mantelpiece?

  2. Leila Kalmbach November 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    This is so cool! I’ve always been curious to try glass art too. Love the idea for your blog. Will you keep it up now that 2011 is ending?

    • Shelley Seale November 28, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

      I don’t think I’ll keep doing the 30 day projects in 2012, but I will do something else! By the way, I’m doing another hot glass class tomorrow night, here in Austin. Look for that post soon!

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