The process of glass blowing is very mysterious to most people. Can you please talk us through the steps involved in creating a piece from start to finish?
It's quite an intensive process from start to finish, but really there are two main parts – the hot and the cold process. The hot process involves the blowing of the glass and the cold refers to the finishing of the piece – any cutting, grinding or polishing of the works. The hot is definitely my favourite. Cold working I can do, but it's not my passion lets just say!
A piece is created using glass blowing techniques in the hot shop. This involves accessing molten glass from a furnace. We use blow pipes and specialty tools to work the glass. Paper is also another really valuable tool in the hot shop, which almost sounds ridiculous when you are talking about hot, molten glass, but a paper pad made out of newspaper and soaked in glass is one of my most used ‘tools’! The paper pad allows for me to shape and manipulate the hot glass, it almost acts as my hand and is the closest I can get to feeling the glass.
Another tool I use on almost every piece is a soaked, wooden block to shape the glass. Water is definitely your friend here – it helps to chill and shape the glass once in the block.
I always work with at least one other assistant, if not two. Glass blowing really is a team sport. I rely heavily on my skilled assistant to create my work. One of my favourite aspects of glass blowing is the camaraderie. We all work so hard – it’s always hot and usually fast paced. Production blowing is where my training stems from and has served me well. The team in full flight is the most beautiful thing to see. A good assistant will anticipate the next move seamlessly and sometimes without any verbal communication – it just becomes second nature.
So, a very basic run down of a piece would be as follows. Pick up colour from a pre-heated kiln on a blow pipe then heat in the heating chamber which is known as a glory hole and puff a little bubble in. The next step is to gather glass from the furnace, use your block or paper to shape and cool the glass. From here you work with your assistant to blow the glass, reheating regularly in the glory hole to attain the right temperature (if it gets too cold it WILL crack!). Once you have the desired shape and size, we will transfer the piece to a ‘punty’. This is done by cutting in a ‘jack line’ (seam) in the glass then attaching to the punty which is essentially another metal rod so you can then work on the top half of the piece, i.e., the opening. Once this is finished the entire piece gets knocked off and put away into an annealing oven at a temperature of around 500 degrees to cool down gradually and will be ready the following day.
Which part of the making process excites you the most?
I love the fluidity of glass. Glass blowing is a very tricky medium to master and I honestly believe it takes years to feel confident in the language. Lots of it is about muscle memory. We learn through repetition and there are certain steps that must be done each time. I have been working in the medium for over 10 years now and I think I am really just starting to truly understand it. I know how to anticipate what’s going on, I know how to correct when I need to, I think I can read the material now and that is where the enjoyment can come from. Having confidence in your medium is a beautiful thing and gives incredible results. I get excited when I can transform my designs on paper to exactly the same thing in glass.
And which part do you find the most challenging?
Blowing glass in summer – it is HOT! When even your tools are hot it is hard going! I am a fan of very early morning starts in the summer months. Something I look forward to enforcing in my own studio.
The glass pieces for our Honey lights are opaque white and pink – can you explain how you work with colour in glass and what’s involved?
Glass colour comes in two forms – rod or powder. The rod is concentrated colour, so you just use small pieces of it and then dip in the clear furnace glass. I use the rod for the Honeys as it produces a beautiful even hue, whereas powder can be textured or grainy looking.
I cut the rod into the pieces I need then these get heated up and are picked up hot, onto a blow pipe. From here I heat the colour evenly through and then puff a bubble into the colour. Each colour behaves differently. Blues and greens are ‘soft’ colours and heat quickly, whereas reds and yellows are ‘hard’ colours and take longer to get the heat in. White is notoriously a ‘hard’ or stiff colour so takes a little extra heat to make sure that heat is even throughout the piece.
Last year you took the huge leap of starting your own glass studio! What have been the best parts about setting up HotHaus and what are your plans for it in the future?
The best part is creating a workspace where I am excited to come to work. I’ve worked in a lot of studios in my time and I know what I want and don’t want in a studio. I think both Laurel (my business partner) and I are really creating our dream studio. We are hoping to create a space that is both beautiful and functional. When we are up and running as a hot glass studio it is going to be phenomenal!
We have big plans for the studio. We want to run as an access studio for other glass artists as well as run classes for the public. We very much want to welcome visiting artists and offer residencies to practicing artists. We have flame working torches that we are yet to set up also. We already have a fully functional cold shop. A gallery space and show room is also high on the list, as is a BIG party for all our family and friends as soon as we are able to! How do the kids say? It’s gonna be lit!
Amanda Dziedzic and her team produce the glass components for our Honey lighting collection.
Learn more about HotHaus here
Images by Jill Haapaniemi