As a commissioned photographer (mainly weddings, but some portraits), I haven't spent much time on anything but my clients. However, I've been itching to do personal projects for awhile; but never allotted the time for them. But this year, is different!! This is my "Why Not?" year - it's my time to be fearless and bold - and to create, just to create.
I have a lot of ideas swirling around in my head, one of which is a series of photographs depicting, "Artists at Work". I wanted to feature fine artists who practice their craft religiously - especially the type of art forms that I know very little about. I had a list of people in mind - all friends - that I wanted to ask, but kept putting it off for one reason or another... until one day after my boxing class.
I met Ray sometime in late January, he is a regular in my 6am workout sessions. But I wasn't aware that he was another artist... until about a month after first meeting him. I overheard a conversation about "giving classes in his studio". Artists don't tend to give classes, unless they are somewhat proficient in art making. So, I summoned my courage, and reasoned that the worst thing is that he could say is "no". But he didn't. He welcomed the opportunity, and the results from that session, are below. I hope you enjoy them!!
To learn more about Ray - visit his website: RayMac Glass
To start, Ray gathers clear glass out of the furnace onto the blowpipe
(Above) Using a large metal table, called a marver, he shapes a chunk of colored glass, (This will become the interior of the plate). (Below) Starting a bubble by rolling it. In the black and white picture, we see that he places his thumb over the end, covering the end of the mouthpiece after blowing air into the pipe. The air expands due to the heat of the glass and creates the bubble.
The metallic look is part of the scientific process... Ray informed me that, unfortunately, it wouldn't stay to the end. The metallic effect is actually called "reduction". The metals in the glass oxidize and create the colors you see. His hand is close to the glass because it gives him a good idea how hot it really is. Since all colors look different at temperature this is a rough gauge to know when its the right time to get more glass out of the furnace.
After heating it up again, he sat down to a process called blocking. Its a carved hardwood block that is always kept submerged in water. Blocking gets the glass shaped properly after coming out of the furnace.
Applying color on the outside of the glass. This is crushed up colored glass (in this case white) that is going on the outside layer of the plate.
(Left) Reheating again. The glass cools very quickly and becomes too stiff to work with. The reheating chamber allows the glass blower to bring the glass back up to a working temperature. (Right) Dunking the hot glass in a bucket of water cools the outside later of glass very quickly and causes it to crack (the desired final look).
After the glass is cracked, it needs to be blown out quickly. The inside is still hot and soft, the outside is too cold to move fluidly with the inside layers. Blowing this out causes the outside layer to crack and tear away creating the crackle effect.
At one point, I decided to stop and take a picture of his tools, because it was amazing to realize that he was creating all of this with just simple tools... proving (once again) that it's not the tools but rather the skills of the artist that creates the masterpiece.
(Left) creating the neck line with a tool called jacks, this will become the top of the piece and give us a breaking off point when we transfer it later. (Right) Folded wet newspaper provides a way to shape the glass and not absorb as much heat as metal tools.
The doors on the reheating chambers can be opened depending on the size of the piece.
A steel rod, called a punty, with a small amount of glass is brought over and attached to the bottom of the piece. Water is applied at the neck line and creates a weak spot to separate the glass from the blow pipe.
After the break off, the top is checked and the whole piece can be re-centered since the punty is still very soft. You can see the white outside layer here crackled with the dark green showing through from the inside.
The top is heated up so it can be worked and the piece can be opened.
I love how you can see the smoke coming off of the glass! The wet newspaper is used to shape the outside of the glass. The wavy edges of the glass are because the glass is hot and thin so it gets out of shape very easily. At this point the top edge is about the consistency of modeling clay.
The jacks have a variety of uses throughout the process, here they are being used to open the edge of the glass into a flat lip. The color red, is partly because the temperature reflects light differently when it's hot versus when it's cool.
With both doors open, the glass piece can be turned in the reheating chamber at a fast rate which will allow centripetal force to spin out the edge of the glass into a plate.
After the plate is spun out, leaving it in the yoke by the reheating chamber allows the edge of the glass enough time to cool and not go out of a nice round shape.
Almost finished... Ray is making final adjustments with the jacks after the plate has been spun out.
The color of the glass changes significantly throughout the process depending on the temperature. In this final shot you can see much more green in the glass, but after this cools to room temperature the color will be more of a bluish-green.
Next time you see a glass bowl, vase, or pumpkin, I hope you think back to this blog and remember how delicate this process is... and that glass blowing artists, like Ray, make this kind of art their passion; I hope you see the product, and have a greater appreciation for their process.
Glass Axis is the studio in which Ray, and other glass artists, work out of - you can buy locally made art as well as take classes. Please consider buying local.
Unapologetically creative, I have been a business owner since 2012. I believe impossible things are possible with Grace & Hustle. And I love sharing knowledge with the creatives who are killing it - one day at a time. If you are interested in my photography or business workshops, go follow: Confidently Creative.