The history of glass blowing dates back to around 3000 B.C. In Ancient Egypt glass was molded from molten,n sand mixed with a variety of other ingredients to produce the desired results. This ancient technique involved placing molten glass into a mold and then blowing on shaped molting glass. People who master these techniques are known as glassblowers or glassmiths.
Ancient Glass Blowing Techniques
In the 1st century glassblowers started using ,smaller amounts of pressurized air to create larger bubbles. Gaffers realized that at certain temperatures the molecules of the glass were being held together by a chemical bond that enabled the blower to create larger bubbles than in previous centuries. This new technique allowed glass blowing to be takin to the next level. As the glass cools down as it hardens. To speed this process up gaffers blow on the glass to create a subtle changes in the molecular compensation of the glass.
At around same the time Middle Eastern blowers had begun to start experiment with adding other ingredients to the glass to produce stronger and more flexible glass. This was accomplished by a variety of different chemicals. Natron was used in a concentrated form to accomplish this task. This acts as a flux when introduced to the glass.
As this mixed glass is heated, the thinner layers become more active than the thicker layers. This gives the blower the ability to create even blown glass that without the pressurized air pushing through thin spots in the glass. This new technique sparked the development of many new styles of glass blowing such as mold-blowing and free-blowing.
This technique came into fruition during the 1st century and is still being used today. Free-blowing involves using short strong puffs of air blown into the heated portion of the glass that has been spooled around the end of the blow pipe. This creates an elastic type glass that can be molded with greater accuracy than previous techniques. The glass blower will quickly inflate the glass into a bubble and then rapidly shape it to their desired results.
Archeologist have found a large number of short clay blowpipes in ruins around the Mediterranean regions. These were so popular during these times because of there ability to be reused. An expert blower could continually inflate and shape the glass as they please by rotating the glassblower. This lead to the creation of many priceless artifacts including the Portland Vase. This Roman artifact was studied in depth by Gudenrath and Whitehouse. After there research was complete they attempted to recreate this artifact by taking blue glass and dipping it into hot white glass then blowing into it.
At around the same time mold-blowing techniques began to become very popular. This technique required the blower to heat the glass into a molten ball and then place it inside of a pre-shaped mold. Blowers would then inflate the glass blob so it would fill the mold and take its form. These molds were created out of metal and wood and could be reused multiple times.
Single sided glass molds were used to create easier shapes on a large scale. If the glass was to be blown into a more complex shape a double sided mold could be employed. This would give the blower the max amount options when creating sophisticated glass piece. Single-piece molds were much easier to operate4 as they allowed for the easy removal of the glass once dry.
The bronze age ushered in anew age of molds that eventually led to highly detailed glass sculptures and vases. Many of these timeless artifacts are on display in museums around the world. This style of mold help facilitate an age of mass production of glass products around the globe.
Modern glass blowers have mastered their craft. The assistance of modern technology has allowed for glass to be produced on a scale that would have been unthinkable in the past. Modern glassblowing involves the use of multiple furnaces. Lets take a moment to see the job of each of these furnaces and how they are used to create the desired effect.
This is step one in the modern glass blowing technique. A crucible of molten glass is placed into this oven and heated until the desired viscosity is reached. Here you will see your mixture of ingredients become one easy to shape piece of elastic glass.
The Glory Hole
This oven is used to shape your glass. Pieces can be reheated and then shaped until the desired glass piece is produced. In this oven the detail and shaping occurs. Most glass pieces spend the most time in this oven as shaping can take a significant amount of time depending on the shape.
Once your piece has been shaped it will be ready to cool down in the Lehr. This oven prevents thermal stress from cracking your glass piece. This process can take days to complete and cannot be skipped.
The Art of Blowing Glass
Today we are blessed with a plethora of glass in our lives and it seems almost impossible to imagine a world without glass. Artistic glass blowing regained popularity in 1962 when the “Studio Glass Movement” began in America and quickly spread to Europe. Sculptures around the globe have taken to their imaginations to create newer and more complex pieces of art.