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Glass Blower


Description

Glass is incredible, when you think about it. That delicate vase sitting in the lobby of a hotel, or those elegant wine glasses your mother pulls out only for holidays, those used to be sand. Certain types of sand have high levels of silica in them, and when it is heated, the silica sand melts, and becomes the liquid substance that will cool, harden, and become glass.

So how does the hot liquid glass turn into that delicate vase? A glass blower melts the sand, and picks up the hot gooey liquid with a long tube. By blowing through the tube, the glass begins to expand, like a balloon or bubblegum. As the glass expands the glass blower can manipulate it into shapes using metal rods or by forming it with molds. The work is hot, hard, and must be done quickly, within a few minutes, as the glass hardens almost immediately. Glass blowers therefore must have thought up a careful plan beforehand, and be ready to start work once the liquid glass is ready to go. They must be creative problem solvers, who are ready for any sort of challenge.

Once the shape has been formed, the hardened glass is polished, and is ready for sale or display.This technique has remained essentially the same for hundreds of years.

Glass blowing is not an easy skill to master, nor is it easy to work at it full-time. While some glass blowers work on their own projects in a studio alone or with other artists, many have to work for large production studios, blowing glass designed by others. If they are lucky, they may advance to design positions, or be asked to create a few handcrafted, original pieces to be sold as collectibles and keepsakes.

Glass blowing is hot, hard work. But it is a truly traditional, cherished art form that has been gaining popularity over the past few years. Glass blowers are special, rare artists, who create amazingly beautiful objects for the rest of us to use and admire in our homes, in shops, and in galleries, all around the world.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a glass blower? Glass blowers are creative, and driven to create art. They should be willing to put in long, hard hours. They need good manual dexterity, steady hands, and they should be patient, careful, and not afraid of taking risks and trying out new and unknown things. Drawing, design, and the ability to visualize ideas three dimensionally are important. They should have some business sense, as well as good people skills, especially if they would like to make this their career.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Come up with original designs and pieces
  • Consult with supervisor, head designer, or client about piece
  • Research current trends, historical and cultural traditions
  • Sketch ideas and plans for each creation
  • Prepare the sand for use in the fire
  • Shape glass items using molds and metal rods
  • Manage a shop or online business
  • They typical day for a glass blower involves meeting with clients and drawing up plans for the item they have commissioned, or plans for original pieces. When glass blowers actually get down to it, and begin making the objects, the hours can be long, and quick, accurate work is crucial. Glass blowers may travel around the world to exhibitions, festivals, and schools to sell their work, conduct seminars, and for research, to learn about new techniques and ancient traditions.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Generally, glass blowers work part-time, however, the longer they work and the more popular their creations, the more likely it is their talents can be put to work full-time. They work in hot, noisy studios and workshops. Glass blowers usually work alone, or in collaboration with a few artists. They can set their own hours, and may work nights and weekends if working on a special project or design.
  • They may sell their original work in galleries, jewelry stores, or artisans' shops, or they may create special pieces made-to-order for specific clients.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Glass blowers can become full-time artisans, and open a shop to sell their wares. They can become instructors, and write books and articles on the history and technique of their art. They can branch out into other areas of art, and become potters, silversmiths, jewelry or clothing designers, or open a store or gallery for artisans to sell and display their creations.
 

  Educational Paths  
There is not a required path to take to become a glass blower. Glass blowers need some training though, as there is a lot to learn when it comes to this craft. Many glass blowers attend a college course in order to gain the techniques, while other look for an apprenticeship position, so they can study one-on-one in a glass blowing studio.

Before deciding to commit years to the training in order to become a glass blower, it may be a good idea to attend a weekend workshop or class. This will give prospective glass blowers a basic understanding of what it takes to be a glass blower, and if they are still interested when they are done the workshop, they may decide to sign up for a college progam.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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