AskDefine | Define glassblower

Dictionary Definition

glassblower n : someone skilled in blowing bottles from molten glass

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

  1. A person skilled in the art of glassblowing

Translations

person skilled in the art of glassblowing

Extensive Definition

Glassblowing is a glassforming technique that involves inflating the molten glass into a glass blob with the aid of the blowpipe, or blow tube. A person who blows glass is called a glassblower, glassmith, or gaffer.

Technology

Principles

As a novel glass forming technique created in the middle of the last century B.C., glassblowing exploited a working property of glass which was previously unknown to the glassworkers – inflation. Inflation refers to the expansion of a molten blob of glass by introducing a small amount of air to it. This property is based on the liquid structure of glass where the atoms are held together by strong chemical bonds in a disordered and random network, therefore molten glass is viscous enough to be blown and gradually hardens as it loses heat. In order to increase the stiffness of the molten glass, which in turn facilitates the process of blowing, there is a subtle change in the composition of glass. With reference to their studies of the ancient glass assemblages from Sepphoris of Israel, Fischer and McCray postulated that the concentration of natron, which acts as flux in glass, is slightly lower in blown vessels than those manufactured by casting. Lower concentration of natron would have allowed the glass to be stiffer for blowing. A full range of glassblowing techniques was developed within decades of its invention and the two major methods of glassblowing are as follows:

Free-blowing

This method held a pre-eminent position in glassforming ever since its introduction in the middle of the first century B.C. until the late nineteenth century and is still widely used nowadays as a glassforming technique. The process of free-blowing involves the blowing of short puffs of air into a molten portion of glass which is gathered at one end of the blowpipe. This has the effect of forming an elastic skin on the interior of the glass blob that matches the exterior caused by the removal of heat from the furnace. The glassworker can then quickly inflate the molten glass to a coherent blob and work it into a desired shape. The Toledo Museum of Art attempted to reconstruct the ancient free-blowing technique by using clay blowpipes. The result proved that short clay blowpipes of about 30-60 cm facilitate free-blowing because they are simple to handle, easy to manipulate and can be re-used several times. Skilled workers are capable of shaping almost any vessel forms by rotating the pipe, swinging it and controlling the temperature of the piece while they blow. A great variety of glass objects, ranging from drinking cups to window glass, are produced by
An outstanding example of the free-blowing technique is the Portland Vase which is a cameo manufactured during the Roman period. An experiment was carried out by Gudenrath and Whitehouse with the aim of re-creating the Portland Vase. A full amount of blue glass required for the body of the vase was gathered on the end of the blowpipe and was subsequently dipped into a pot of hot white glass. Inflation occurred when the glassworker blew the molten glass into a sphere which was then stretched or elongated into a vase with a layer of white glass overlying the blue body.

Mold-blowing

Mold-blowing was an alternate glassblowing method that came after the invention of free-blowing during the first part of the second quarter of the first century A.D. A gather of molten glass is placed on the end of the blowpipe which is then inflated into a wooden or metal carved mold. In this way, the shape and the texture of the bubble of glass is determined by the design on the interior of the mold rather than the skill of the glassworker. Whereas the latter is made in multi-paneled mold that join together, thus permitting the development of more sophisticated surface modeling, texture and design. The Roman leaf beaker which is now on display in the J. Paul Getty Museum was blown in a three-part mold decorated with the foliage relief frieze of four vertical plants. Meanwhile, Taylor and Hill tried to reproduce mold-blown vessels by using three-part molds made of different materials. The result suggested that metal, in particular bronze, molds are more effective in producing high-relief design on glass than plaster molds and wooden molds. In view of this, the development of the mold-blowing technique has enabled the speedy production of glass objects in large quantity, thus encouraging the mass production and widespread distribution of glass objects.), which was traditionally a flat slab of marble, but today is more commonly a fairly thick flat sheet of steel. This forms a cool skin on the exterior of the molten glass and shapes it. Then air is blown into the pipe, creating a bubble. Then, one can gather over that bubble to create a larger piece. Blocks are ladle-like tools made from water-soaked fruit wood and are used similarly to the marver to shape and cool a piece in the early steps of creation. The bench is a glassblower's workstation, and has a place for the glassblower to sit, a place for the handheld tools, and two rails that the pipe or punty rides on while the blower works with the piece. Jacks are a tool shaped somewhat like large tweezers with two blades. Jacks are used for forming shape later in the creation of a piece. Paddles are flat pieces of wood or graphite used for creating flat spots like a bottom. Tweezers are used to pick out details or to pull on the glass. There are two important types of shears, straight shears and diamond shears. Straight shears are essentially bulky scissors, used for making linear cuts. Diamond shears have blades that form a diamond shape when partially open. These are used for cutting off masses of glass. Once a piece has been blown to its approximate final size, the bottom is finalized. Then, the piece is transferred to a punty, and the top is finalized. There are many ways to apply patterns and color to blown glass, including rolling molten glass in powdered color or larger pieces of colored glass called frit. Complex patterns with great detail can be created through the use of cane (rods of colored glass) and murrine (rods cut in cross-sections to reveal patterns). These pieces of color can be arranged in a pattern and 'picked up' by rolling a bubble of molten glass over them. One of the most exacting and complicated caneworking techniques is 'reticello', which involves creating two bubbles from cane, each twisted in a different direction and then combining them and blowing out the final form.
A lampworker, usually operating on a much smaller scale, historically used alcohol lamps and breath or bellows-driven air to create a hot flame at a workbench to manipulate preformed glass rods and tubes. These stock materials took form as laboratory glass, beads, and durable scientific "specimens"—miniature glass sculpture. The craft, which was raised to an art form in the late 1960s by Hans Godo Frabel (later followed by lampwork artists such as Milon Townsend and Robert Mickelson), is still practised today. The modern lampworker uses a flame of oxygen and propane or natural gas. The modern torch permits working both the soft glass from the furnace worker and the borosilicate glass (low-expansion) of the scientific glassblower who may have multiple headed torches and special lathes to help form the glass or fused quartz used for special projects. The molten glass is attached to a stainless steel or iron rod called a punty (or a punty rod, a pontil, or a mandrel) for shaping and transferring a hollow piece from the blowpipe for an opening to create from.

History

Origins

Glassblowing is a glass forming technique which was invented by the Phoenicians at approximately 50 B.C. somewhere along the Syro-Palestinian coast. The earliest evidence of glassblowing comes from a collection of waste from a glass workshop, including fragments of glass tubes, glass rods and tiny blown bottles, which was dumped in a mikvah, a ritual bath in the Jewish Quarter of Old City of Jerusalem dated from 37 to 4 B.C. Such invention swiftly eclipsed all other traditional methods, such as casting and core-forming, in working glass.

In the Roman Empire

The invention of glassblowing coincided with the establishment of the Roman Empire in the first century B.C. which served to provide impetus to its spread and dominance. Glassblowing was greatly encouraged under the Roman rule, in particular under the reign of Augustus, therefore glass was being blown in many areas of the Roman world.

Middle Ages

The glassblowing tradition was carried on in Europe from the medieval period through the Middle Ages to the Renaissance in the demise of the Roman Empire in the fifth century A.D. During the early medieval period, the Franks manipulated the technique of glassblowing by creating the simple corrugated moulds and developing the claws decoration techniques. Blown glass objects, such as the drinking vessels that imitated the shape of the animal horn were produced in the Rhine and Meuse valleys, as well as in Belgium. On the other hand, the Renaissance Europe witnessed the revitalization of glass industry in Italy. Glassblowing, in particular the mould-blowing technique, was employed by the Venetian glassworkers from Murano to produce the fine glassware which is also devin known as cristallo. The technique of glassblowing, coupled with the cylinder and crown methods, was used to manufacture sheet or flat glass for window panes in the late seventeenth century. The applicability of glassblowing was so widespread that glass was being blown in many parts of the world, for example, in China, Japan and the Islamic Lands. The Byzantine glassworkers made mould-blown glass decorated with Jewish and Christian symbols in Jerusalem between late sixth century and the middle of the seventh century A.D. Mould-blown vessels with facets, relief and linear-cut decoration were discovered at Samarra in the Islamic Lands.

Recent developments

The "studio glass movement" began in 1962 when Harvey Littleton, a ceramics professor, and Dominick Labino, a chemist and engineer, held two workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art, during which they started experimenting with melting glass in a small furnace and creating blown glass art. Thus Littleton and Labino are credited with being the first to make molten glass available to artists working in private studios. This approach to glassblowing blossomed into a worldwide movement, producing such flamboyant and prolific artists as Dale Chihuly, Dante Marioni, Fritz Driesbach and Marvin Lipofsky. Lino Tagliapietra was among the first Murano-trained artists to leave and spread their knowledge in the United States. In 1971, Dale Chihuly began the Pilchuck Glass School near Stanwood, Washington. The Pilchuck School of Glass became the source of a great deal of the current American Studio Glass movement, and continues as such today.
Glassblowing is a form of art that requires lengthy training and intense concentration. In addition to glassblowing as an art, many individuals pursue glassblowing as a hobby. In fact, it is one of the fastest growing hobbies in North America.

Color

See main article: Glass Colors

Notes

References

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glassblower in Czech: Sklářství
glassblower in German: Glasbläser
glassblower in Spanish: Vidrio soplado
glassblower in French: Soufflage du verre
glassblower in Dutch: Glasblazen
glassblower in Norwegian: Glassblåsing
glassblower in Swedish: Glasblåsning
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