Friday, January 31, 2014

Vetro Glass Blowing Studio Tour

We had a field trip today with our homeschool friends.  We went to one of my favorite places - Vetro Glass Blowing Studio in Grapevine!


We've been here a few times.  Stuart surprised me with a wonderful "hot date night" for our 15th anniversary and Nicholas made a Christmas ornament here.

The first part of the studio is the gallery where you can "ooo" and "ahh" over all of the amazing pieces or even purchase something to take home.


Look at these amazing glass wall sconces!  The bright colors are just beautiful.


We didn't get to look around much because it was time for our group to go into the actual studio to learn about the art of glass blowing.  Today we watched two glass blowers work together to make a glass bowl similar to this one.


He first loaded the blow pipe with molten clear glass.  It is bright orange because it just came out of the extremely hot furnace.  He used some folded newspaper that he wet with water to start shaping the glass.  


He loaded some colored glass onto the piece and put it in the "glory hole" furnace to heat it up.


Next he used a special tool to shape the glass some more.  I believe they are called "jacks".  It looked like a giant pair of metal tongs.


He showed us the oval piece.  You can see the white in it but the dark color is actually a light blue.  It just looks dark because it is incredibly hot right now.


Now it was time for some actual glass blowing.  The first guy knelt down at the end of the rod and blew into it while another guy helped to shape the glass.  Can you see how the glass has blown up like a big bubble?


Fire keeps the piece malleable for shaping.  


The kids loved the sight and sound of the fire shooting out of the torch!


Pieces of glass were added to the bottom of the glass and curled to be "feet" for the bowl to rest on.


The next step is to transfer the glass from the hollow rod to a solid rod in order to complete the shaping of the bowl-to-be.  One guy used the jacks to score and cut the bowl from the hollow rod while the other guy put molten clear glass on the solid rod and then attached the rod to the bottom of the piece.


Rachel brought her camera along and I was so proud to see her taking pictures during the demonstration!


They heated up the bowl in the glory hole to make it malleable again.


Then one guy rotated the solid rod while the two of them worked together to open up the glass and soon it actually started looking like a bowl!


The next step was probably the coolest to me.  The guy put the piece in the glory hole and after the glass was heated up, he just kept spinning the rod.  


Centripetal force then worked to open up the bowl like magic!


They removed the bowl from the rod and then smoothed out the spot where the glass had attached to the rod.


Once it was completed, it was still very hot, maybe 1400 degrees or maybe a little less.  If it was left out at room temperature, it would cool down too quickly and cause the glass to crack, much like throwing a piece of ice into a bowl of warm water.  So they quickly put the bowl into a special oven called an annealer which is 900 degrees.  They let it slowly cool down over the next day and then it is ready to take home and enjoy.

What a cool process!  The guys at Vetro are so knowledgeable about their craft and they did a fabulous job of explaining each step to us in a way that was easy for the kids to understand.

Nicholas enjoys watching a series of videos on You Tube called Smarter Every Day.  There is a particular video that he watched recently which explained a Prince Rupert's Drop.  (Click HERE if you want to learn about it too.  It's pretty cool!)  Anyway, he asked the guy at Vetro about it after the demonstration. 


After the demonstration, we had a chance to look around the gallery some more.  I love the colors in this bowl.  So beautiful!


This piece just looks so striking.  It is amazing what they can go with glass, fire, and a minimal number of tools!


Rachel took more pictures in the gallery :)


And more pictures...she got several pictures of the display window from multiple angles.  I think she might have an interest in photography like her mommy.


The window was a beautiful place to display some of their glass ornaments.  We have one of these that Nicholas made here and it looks so pretty on our Christmas tree with the white lights reflecting in it.


Oh, I like these pieces too, especially because of that turquoise color!  So pretty!


As I mentioned earlier in this post, Stuart and I had a date night at Vetro a few years ago and we got to work together with a Vetro guy to make a glass heart for our anniversary.  That experience was amazing and it cost only $50 total for our participation and the heart we kept.  I noticed that they have a very cool event coming up for Valentine's Day this year called the "Flaming Cocktail Hot Date Night".  It's a bit more expensive than what we did but it sounds like so much fun!

Vetro Glass Blowing Studio is located at 701 South Main Street, #103 Grapevine, TX 76051.  The public is welcomed to watch the artists at work in the studio for free anytime but you probably need to call before you go to be sure there will be someone working in the studio at the time you will be there.  For the special educational demonstration that we had, you will need to schedule that in advance and it cost only $3.00 per person.  For more information, please call them at 817-251-1668 or visit the Vetro website.

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