Glass blowing is a glassmaking technique which involves gently inflating hot glass to a bubble with the help of a blow pipe. A person who blows glass using the blow pipe is known as a glass blower, glass maker, or gaffer. Discovered in the 13th century in Venice, Italy, glassblowing has come a long way since then and today it’s one of the most popular forms of art the world over.
Glass blowing is all about creating both decorative and functional shapes like figurines, ornaments, testing tubes, dishes, and more. The invention of glass blowing can be traced back to the Roman Empire, but back then this craft was being done exclusively by using molds. Molds developed in the first century AD.
Blowing glass with a (special type of) furnace, also known as kiln, is similar to furnace baking, the difference being that kilns can heat the glass at one end of the furnace to a specific temperature before blowing the material out the other end of the furnace.
It is important to realize that glass blowing and mold-blowing techniques are not the same. Mold-blowing involves blowing molds of various shapes, sizes, and depths into the mold, while glass blowing usually only involves blowing clear glass or semi-opaque glass. Mold-blowing techniques are often used by artisans who design stained glass windows.
An important distinction between the two techniques is that glass blowing utilizes a blow pipe, while mold blowing uses a mold pipe. The difference between the two types of glassblowers is that glassblowers do not need to quench their work with oxygen. Once molten glass has been allowed to cool, most glassblowers can finish the job by merely blowing on it. A mold blower on the other hand needs to quench his glassblowing work with oxygen in order to ensure that the final product is clean, smooth, and free of bubbles and lines.
The earliest glassworkers practiced their trade by creating small glass items such as test tubes and figurines. Although glassblowing was considered unusual, the artisans found that their skills could be developed and enhanced when they started making larger glass items such as bowls and vases. Glass bowls and vases are perhaps the earliest example of modern glassmaking, and the first glass-making furnaces appeared in the 1st century AD.
The Roman Empire, which ruled over much of the Middle East and much of Asia for over a thousand years, is well known for the things it left behind. Among these items are many magnificent glass objects, including Roman glass decorative furniture, mosaic tiles, and even some authentic glass jewelry. Most of these objects have survived to this day, and new glassworkers continue to produce new items, ranging from gorgeous glass figurines to intricately designed glasswork. The next time you have the opportunity to partake in the history of blowing glass, you should make the most of it.
Alyosha Lonoff loves making glass art. To learn more about glass blowing check out her site today.