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Behind the scenes of glassblowing

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From ornaments to stained-glass windows, glassblowing is a mesmerising ancient trade that requires a lot of skill and technique.

We reached out to TikToker Madeleine to find out what it really takes to be a glassblower in 2022.

THE TECHNIQUE

‘Glassblowing’ refers to the glass forming technique of inflating molten glass into a bubble with a blow tube and shaping it with a torch. Since glass is chemically structured like a liquid, molten glass is viscous enough to be manipulated and then able to harden as it cools.

Madeleine tells us that ‘flameworking’ refers to a stationary torch on a bench being used to shape borosilicate glass: a technique she uses to make an octopus from scratch, here.

In the video, you can see the blow tube resting on her neck, which she uses to shape the glass.

The flame is usually around 3600 degrees Fahrenheit, although a more gentle ‘annealing flame’ can be used to remove stress from the glass.

THE HISTORY

Today’s glassblowing techniques have remained virtually undisturbed for centuries. The first users were Roman glassblowers in the Syro-Judean coast from the 1st Century BC, who discovered that they could inflate a molten blob of glass by introducing a small amount of air to it.

Although, it could be argued that the first-ever glassworkers could be found in Stone Age societies where naturally occurring glass, like obsidian, was cut and traded. The earliest man-made glass dates back to 3500 BC and was found in Egypt.

THE IMPORTANCE

While some may consider glassblowing to be a merely decorative art form, the practical applications are endless; early TV sets and light bulbs could not have been developed without glassblowing.

Glassblowers are also vital players in the conservation and restoration of glass artefacts, helping us to learn more about our cultural heritage.

 

Which unusual trade would you like to see behind the scenes of next? Get in touch and let us know.
Watch more of Madeleine’s glassblowing videos here.
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