Instead of going up the pub or binge watching stuff on Netflix I decided to do something completely different last weekend; I went glassblowing.
I was lucky enough to be invited along to Creative Vibe Studio, tucked away in Ampthill and taught a new skill by artist and glassblowing master Ricky Keech.
Me and a few friends headed over on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon to learn his trade.
I’ll start off by saying I was not a natural. I was scared of the crucible (aka a pit of burning fire and molten glass) as well as being terrified of tripping over something and burning someone else or myself! But Ricky is very safety conscious and ensured we were wearing all of the correct safety gear and went through health and safety practice before we even touched any of the equipment. This put my mind at ease and I quickly let go of my fears.
Ricky regularly runs glassblowing courses for no more than two people so that you can develop your skills at your own pace with Ricky’s full supervision. This is how my day went.
A beginner’s experience of glassblowing 101
Before we made anything that we could keep, Ricky wanted us to get to grips with picking up liquid glass using the rod, cooling it and then finally releasing it from the rod. So, to begin, you need to hold the glass blowing rod at an angle and carefully place it into the crucible.
You must be turning your stick slowly at all times to keep the glass from dripping and going out of shape. Once you pick up a blob of glass, you then take it through to a steal surface and gently roll it along the top to cool it down.
Once there is enough glass on the end, we then had to sit on the bench, roll the rod back and forth whilst using pinchers to make a circular line around the glass to help to ease it off the end of the rod.
At this point, we hadn’t actually used any puff. This came next. Along with adding colour. It had already been a complex process but I’d managed to master picking up and shaping molten glass in less than an hour so you could too!
Adding colour to blown glass
Just as we collected glass from the crucible, we gathered a blob of glass; turning and rolling as we sat on the bench. But this time we blew down the rod. Quickly and sharp. This caused a bubble of air to be trapped in the glass and expand the molten.
You need to keep collecting more liquid glass as you continue to blow down the rod and expand the glass. As the glass grows you can then begin to add colour in the form of powered material – I think it was powdered glass!
Here’s what the glass looks like with colour whilst it’s cooling:
I can’t believe we managed to get to this stage in under two hours but we did it!
And we even managed to make these paperweights by following the same process
Image courtesy my mate Gina Hutchings
In less than three hours we had managed to make something useful and attractive. And that credits Ricky’s skill as a tutor. I definitely impressed myself that day and really enjoyed being back in the workshop – it felt like I was back at art school.
If you would rather do something different with your weekend and pick up a new skill, I highly recommend glassblowing. Ricky’s glassblowing classes comprise beginner level, paperweight making classes and full day glassblowing experiences – all of which are affordable for either a present or as a treat to yourself.