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A Glass Blower’s Companion with Jason Michael -Helping Today's Glass Artist Think Like an Artistic Entrepreneur

Apr 7, 2017

Episode 154-So You Wanna Be a GlassBlower?? Just don't Jump in Head First 

So you want to be a glass blower?

This is something I've heard over and over for years from many folks. The biggest question is how does one get started?

With the ever growing popularity of this genre of art many schools have begun to pick up and teach classes in the area of glassblowing. Whether it's in the furnace or a torch or both there are several schools that specifically cater to the glass artist and have programs for the glass artist such as Penland, Salem, and Pilchuck to name a few. With that being said 99% of those that want to be a glassblower don't necessarily want to go to school so here's what I recommend.

For starters do some research. Google terms like glass art, glass blowing, or flame work and you'll find many videos and websites pertaining to this topic. The only problem is the majority of the sites only really talk about or show you videos of techniques. My goal with this episode is to talk to you about how to get started by sharing why you need to make sure you have a good foundation regarding technique as well as the proper equipment set up and whether or not you should seek an apprenticeship or keep it simple and just make it a hobby . But first here's a Public Service announcement from our favorite humble Pirate The Goblin King aka Chris Dickey..

"Here is a solid piece of advise,free,from me to you:
Blowing's not for everyone. Sure anyone can sit an try to blow glass but ask your self a few questions before you decide this for your life......
. How well do you handle rejection?
. Do you like doing the same thing over an over and over again?
. How much do you like money?
.can you afford to make little to no money for years at a time to learn?
. Are you persistent or are you easily discouraged?
.do you have friends/family to support you those nights without heat Or food?
. How strong is your constitution?
. Is this just to be flamous?

Cause I can tell you for a fact:
. Even when you make solid'll have a hard time selling it
. To learn this takes YEARS of repetition
. Say goodbye to LOOT until you learn to communicate fluently with your medium( could take 8-10 years)
. If you don't have a nest egg or a rich mom an dad,acquiring all the tools and required materials.....a extensive job on its own.....
. You will not do it your first time or first day or first try so persistence is KEY
. I can say if it weren't for my friends and family I wouldn't be this far
. You need to say " I'm gonna do this" and fucking mean it whole heartedly with every fiber of your being (if your constitution is weak you will quit and would have wasted everything listed above)
. The leaders of the community aren't here cause they were all over some other guys nuts in hopes a tv camera would be in their face..........

So if your cool being poor for a while and doin nothing but melting glass and eating Mac and cheese and eggs everyday ( with no guarante of success) then maybe this is the life is for you
To be fair there are percs to the job..... im my boss, my job is to create a piece people cherish,no applications, no drug test,no alarm clocks and your free be who you be ect....
Next time you feel like someone's price or value of their work "is too high", do me a favor lay on your side and shove that opinion up your ass......
P.S. If you choose to ride the fire with us,I hope we melt together one day.:)"

Determining whether this medium is something that you will want to pursue as a hobby or a potential full time career won't be possible until you get your hands dirty first. There are many studios that can help you with this experience whether it's a group activity or individual lesson. Look in your area for open studio nights where a lamp working studio or hotshop offers an "Experience". This is the ideal way to see if working with hot molten glass is for you. Now if your listening to this I can presume that you have either already tried this medium or maybe been at it for years but with that being said this information is viable for anyone who has wanted to test the waters or has already jumped in feet first...Hopefully you didn't jump in head first(metaphorically speaking ) as this can lead to many issues immediately or even down the road.

Once you get the opportunity to melt glass for he first time you will feel a sense of excitement and maybe even catch the "glass bug". This medium is easy to fall in love with just don't get too excited. The first few times will feel intimidating but as your understanding for the power of 3000 plus degrees and how the equipment works increases, the feeling of intimidation will begin to turn into excitement and confidence. Just don't let the ego step in quite yet. It takes hours of practice and repetition learning the simplest techniques and processes. Just finetune these stages and slowly progress from one step to the next. Remember this is a marathon....not a sprint.

Once you feel you are at a point where making a simple round marvel is second nature it'll be time to begin trying to manipulate the glass into common shapes like a fish or small bird. Once again do some research and find simple shapes in nature that you gravitate towards and pick 3 for starters. This will give you a good starting point just make sure you pick three items that have similarieites but also differences. Making a seahorse can be similar to making a swan. But making a butterfly and then trying to make an elephant can be daunting as they are completely different shapes. Think of progressive steps and how they relate to the different regencies you are trying to allly to your glass. The Swan in my opinion is a great place to start.


Next we will discuss the concepts of what heatbase is, how to tell when the glass is evenly heated, pulling stringers and points...... until next time Happy Melting, Stay Hydrated, and don't forget to take breaks periodically Your body will thank you!!!!!

Five ways to get yourself set up on a budget under $1000

In my opinion this is the smartest way to start


 Starter Kit #100. $549.00

National 6B Oxy/Gas bench torch with stand and barbed fittings

* National OX-5 Single Hole Tip
* Oxygen Regulator
* Fuel Gas Regulator
* 1/4 " x 25' T-Grade Oxy/Fuel Hose
* Oxygen and Fuel Gas Flashback Arrestors
* Tungsten Carbide Scoring Blade
* Wheeled Glass Nippers
* 2" x 3" Graphite Paddle
* 1/4" Graphite Rod
* 1/2" Graphite Rod
* Set of 6", 8", & 12" Tweezers
* Wire Grabbers - These large holding fingers (6 wires) open to approximately 4" and close down to grasp objects as small as 4mm. Lightweight, easy to handle, 1 foot long with locking setscrew.
* Phillips ACE202 Glasses
* Shade 3 Plastic Clip-Ons (reduces bright sodium flare and invisible infrared rays)
* This kit price includes a 5% discount over list prices