One day my tutor mentioned to me there is an opportunity to go and see a local College that offered a degree in Glass Design. I was yet to realize that this one sentence would influence and help create the support structure for the rest of my life.
I arranged an informal introduction at Stourbridge College of Art and Design (now amalgamated into Wolverhampton University). Glassmaking was not readily available in pre- degree education, so I was looking forwards to my introduction to this new material.
While waiting to be shown around, I peered through a little square window for 15 minutes into the hot glass workshop and stood mesmerized by what I can only describe as a scene of controlled chaos with lots of fire. I was watching a student trying to blow glass, unaware that they were igniting a lifelong spark in their unobserved observer.
This was my very first introduction to this amazing material, one I had not encountered before or even really thought about – hot glass.
There was a large rectangular box (the furnace) made from white firebrick that had a square opening or hearth which belched flame. I watched, fascinated, as this student took a long steel pipe, plunged it into the square hole in the flames, twiddled a bit and yanked out this white-hot viscous material. He then sat on a bench, set fire to a cloth while shaping the blob, creating geysers of steam and choking on the proceeds. All the time they turned the blowing iron, keeping the glass on centre. They blew hard down the iron and miraculously I could see a bubble of air grow within the glass. They repeated this process until the object was larger, longer and more uncontrollable, reheating it every so often back in the furnace, moving back to the bench, onto the next stage of making of a yet to be defined masterpiece.
Then disaster struck; they inadvertently stuck it to the wall of the hearth. As you may know glass gets more fluid the hotter it gets; their creation was beginning to uncontrollably distort and melt, obeying the law of gravity and thermodynamics and drooping onto the hearth. So, they put their foot up against the furnace, and pulled this ‘sort of vase’, stretching it to about 2 meters long before it snapped. As it broke free, they swung it aside and it set light to a broom that was standing nearby. They were still figuring it all out, saving their work and stamping out the broom which was still on fire, and I thought to myself … “You know what? This is the life for me!”, and the rest, as they say, is history.
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