Editorial Notebook

Glass blowing checked off bucket list, studio added

I like glass. I started glass science research during my freshman year at Rensselaer, eager to learn something new and foreign. I walked into this field blind, as naive as a freshman can be, but with open hands. Since then, I’ve learned how to make glass and how to explain its behavior. Most importantly, I’ve learned how finical it is—and in some sense that’s a trait we share. Outside this technical window of perspective, I’ve always found the art of glass special. A “bucket list” item of mine, you could say, has been glass blowing.

Last year, I visited the Corning Museum of Glass and felt like I had found a home I was never looking for. The museum is huge. It’s a melting pot (or crucible) of science and art—a perfect equilibrium. Throughout the day, professional glass blowers show off their craft in demonstrations. Surrounded by furnaces at 1500 degrees Celsius, the artists hold long blowpipes with molten glass on the end, constantly spinning them to keep a smooth, spherical shape. I didn’t have a chance to make my own art piece—although the opportunity was there for me to try—but I walked out itching to experience it myself.

Last semester, I crossed glass blowing off my bucket list. I found a small art studio in Canaan, New York and made no excuses. The goal was to make a paperweight, and I could choose up to four colors to use. Let me add, when someone asks you to pick four colors, you suddenly have no idea where to start, and the decision process may take roughly 30 minutes to an hour (but that could just be me). Anyway, the instructor was very skilled in the art, having worked in glass blowing for 20 years, and he explained the science behind how colored glasses interact. It was interesting to learn about glass from an artist’s perspective. When it came to the lesson, and after I (finally) picked my colors, I was handed a pipe with molten glass at the end and told to roll it inside the furnace. The pipe wasn’t heavy. Instead, the challenge lay in rotating the pipe at a constant rate and maintaining a balance. A lot of glass blowing has to do with gravity. There is actually a surprising amount of physics involved, even if it’s just based on intuition and experience.

I loved it. I have my paperweight on my table as a reminder of my achievement—however wonky it came out. I’m incredibly happy that I tried glass blowing after having wanted to do it for so long. It’s important to remember that even as busy college students, we can set out to complete our non-academic goals. Our college careers are so short, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the most of them. For all we know, the excuses will never end.

Although I’ve crossed “glass blowing” from my bucket list, I’ve added “glass blowing studio” to the top. Is it unreasonable to want a glass blowing studio? Yes. Do I care? No.