Creating Your Piece
So the design process went well, and we've both agreed that we're ready to move on to the actual creation of your award. So what happens now?
As a glassblower my work primarily takes place within a "hotshop" - a workshop dominated by a primary furnace filled with molten glass, a secondary furnace for reheating the piece during creation to keep it within the necessary temperature range for blowing/sculpting, some benches and tables, and a few annealers - a type of glassblowing kiln. There are obviously a few other things within the shop, but glassblowing is actually a quite low tech endevour: much of the sculpting is done by hand, with only a thin piece of material between me and the near liquid glass, and glassblowing actually does involve me blowing through a metal rod into the midst of hot glass to blow it out like a bubble. Like most things in life work in the hotshop comes down to experience: you learn over the years what amount of colour is going to get what result, how fast of a spin on a piece will keep it from drooping and how fast will send it flying everywhere, or how long a piece needs to be left in the secondary furnace to bring it back up to the temperature you want. There's no timers, no warning lights to tell you if something is going wrong - all you have is your own skills and experience to rely on. I love every second of it.
Everything I make is entirely handmade, involving no molds or other such aids. Molten glass is pulled from the main furnace, which is kept at 1150 degrees Celsius - roughly 1/5th the surface temperature of the Sun - to be blown, sculpted and shaped into the design we agreed on. Sometimes it's necessary to do more than one pull, usually colour is added during this stage. Basically by the time that piece leaves my hands the glass portion of your award is nearly complete: it still has to be slowly cooled in the annealer for roughly 24 hours to ensure the glass is incredibly strong and will last pretty much forever, and some "coldworking" needs to be done, but the hot part is finished.
Award Pictured: McMaster University Internal Medicine Sponsor Award