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What is Blown Glass?

By L. Hepfer
Updated May 16, 2024
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Blown glass has been around for a few thousand years, however, its popularity resurfaced in the 1960s. It has since become a fast-growing hobby. Over the years the results of making blown glass have generally been the same, however, the various methods that have been used have changed.

The most recent methods used in making blown glass were developed in the 1960s by Dominick Labino, an engineer and chemist, and Harvey Littleton, a ceramics professor. The two men began workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio. Known for the "studio glass movement" in the 1960s, Harvey Littleton and Dominick Labino made molten glass and glassblowing available in private studios for artists.

This experience sparked an incredible interest worldwide and blown glass quickly became widely known across the globe. Artists are famous now all over the world for their exquisite and unique creations. The process of preparing the glass for blowing is very tedious and requires a lot of delicate detail. Raw materials such as limestone, sand, and other compounds are gathered and placed in a furnace. A furnace must be burning hotter than 2000 degrees Fahrenheit (1093 degrees Celsius) to transform the raw materials inside to molten glass.

A blowpipe is then used to shape the glass once it's melted. Blowpipes are hollow tubes about five feet (1.524 meters) long. The molten glass is placed on one end of the blowpipe, and the air is then blown into the glass to mold and shape it to the artist's desire. Molds may also be used to make patterns in the glass.

There are two specific methods of glassblowing. One method of glassblowing is called offhand. In using the offhand method, an artist places a blob of fused glass on the end of the blowpipe. Blown glass is then formed by using different techniques of blowing and shaping the glass with the artist's hands, tools and molds.

Lamp working is the second method used in glassblowing. When using the lamp working method, the artist uses a flame from a torch to soften the glass. After the glass has been softened, the glass is then molded and shaped with the artist's hands, tools and molds. The method used in blowing glass is based on the artist's personal preference.

Blown glass is an extraordinary piece of art created exquisitely by the artist. Each piece that is made is unique. Sculptures, figurines, Christmas ornaments, vases, paperweights and beads are various examples of blown glass and can be found worldwide.

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Discussion Comments
By umbra21 — On May 21, 2011

Glass is such a versatile medium. Some of the hand blown glass art I've seen is truly bizarre but also very beautiful. It seems to be in vogue at the moment to make seaweed like abstract sculptures using a combination of blown glass and lampwork techniques. I've also seen a lot of sea creature sculptures, so I'm not sure if it is a trend or if people naturally think of the water when they are working with such beautiful, flowing material.

I particularly like it when blown art glass is designed to work with the light, so that it can make beautiful colored patterns on the space around it.

By indigomoth — On May 19, 2011

Christmas ornaments made from blown glass are absolutely beautiful. Particularly the very thin and light ones, made with a mixture of colors. You can get boxes of generic ornaments, which also look good and can help to balance out a color scheme on a tree, but a hand blown glass Christmas ornament is a real heirloom. My sisters and I had some given to us when we were children and they are part of the family tradition now. It doesn't feel like Christmas without them.

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