“We specialize in letting people blow 2 pieces of glass, have a great time doing it, and have no commitment to future classes. Life’s short. Do something unusual!”
~Eric Kvarnes (Owner/ Master Glassblower/ Teacher)
Take one class… or several… it depends on your interest level. Maybe you want to be a glassblower. Maybe you just want to try glassblowing just one time for fun. We are happy to help you experience this unique and unusual occupation!
Cost includes all tools and materials except colored glass (optional), which is available for a reasonable fee.
Most classes will be four hours long with two students sharing a bench (approximately two hours for each student).
Cost is $150 per student for blowing up two pieces of glass. (approximately 2 hours per student). Adding color to your pieces is optional. Classes are limited to two students in most cases. First-time students will start by blowing a small glass which is the best way to learn the workflow of glass studio and tools. The second piece of glass is the students choice. Glassblowing is complicated and keeping things simple will increase your chances of successfully completing your pieces.
Glassblowing is physically taxing and you will be exhausted at the end of each piece. Even experienced glassblowers can only stand so much time at the furnace. The other student will take a turn and this will give you a chance to drink a good amount of water, recover a little, and get focused for the next attempt. Another advantage to sharing a bench is that during the other student’s time, you can watch closely and gain insights into mistakes you may have made or may make and observe ways to correct them.
Classes will start with a short instruction and safety rule period and demonstration of glassblowing. Then student glassblowing will begin. We will group first timers together as much as possible so that returning students who have receive the initial instruction can start work right away.
Most students will be able to complete one or two pieces during class time, although there is no guarantee. In the beginning, success depends a lot on luck and a little on your abilities.
Other experiences that you have had will also help. If you have thrown clay pots or done woodworking, or even something as different as dancing, these skills can help improve your chances of success. Even those with no related experiences can do quite well. Much depends on your power of observation and your ability to transfer that knowledge to the tools.
PLEASE NOTE: Finished pieces must cool overnight. You will need to pick them up later, or if desired, we can ship them for a reasonable packing and shipping fee. We cannot hold your pieces indefinitely. Please pick them up or arrange for shipping.
- 18 or older.
- Approved clothing and the supplied safety glasses (info below).
- You must be able to conduct yourself safely around students and instructors.
- Good health and ability to withstand the heat and physical demands of glassblowing. Please check with your doctor if you have any questions. The ambient heat can be too much for those sensitive to high temperatures.
- You must sign a liability release.
You will be locked into your time slot when your 50% deposit arrives ($75.00). We accept cash, check, and credit cards for payment. Credit cards can be taken over the phone and checks should be made to Oldway Art Center. The remaining 50% is due at class time.
We base the classes on a certain number of students attending to cover costs. If you must cancel, we will try to schedule another student into your time slot, but if we are unable to due to short notice, the deposit is not refundable. Please give as much notice as possible for rescheduling. If we can schedule another student, then your deposit will be refunded- minus a $10 rescheduling fee.
*If we cancel a class for unforeseen problems, i.e. a big snowstorm, hurricane, or studio equipment problems, your deposit will apply towards a rescheduled time.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED TO BRING:
- You MUST wear a long sleeve cotton shirt for protection. Synthetics are NOT acceptable because they can melt onto your skin. Cotton blue jeans or khaki are the preferred pants.
- To insure foot protection in case of dropped hot glass: Comfortable leather or canvas shoes, boots or athletic shoes with leather or canvas tops.
- Large water bottle. Standing in front of a glass furnace is VERY dehydrating.
- Hair tie (for those with long hair).
- A snack to keep that energy up (optional).
The number one concern. Period.
You must be aware of other people in the studio and blowing area. Getting hit with hot glass is no fun, so be safe. Move with awareness of your surroundings as you work the hot glass, and be aware of what tools and equipment are hot and may burn you.
*Safety glasses are required and are supplied by us. The student blowing and the student observing will both need to wear special glassblowing glasses. If the glass being worked cools below 1000°, it can shatter with force. Also, blowpipes cooling in the pipe can will pop glass off until they are fully cooled. If a piece gets too cold on one end while working it can also throw chips. You are responsible for keeping your safety glasses on at all times.
If you can’t work safely in the shop, or you are disruptive during class, Oldway management reserves the right to ask you to leave, with no refund.
Glassblowing is intense and requires full attention. Therefore, it is imperative that you conduct yourself in a manner that isn’t disruptive to other students. During breaks from blowing, it’s best to stay focused on watching and planning your next piece. You’ll find the studio atmosphere to be a relaxed one generally, but background conversation and movement can be distracting to the student working at the furnace. We want to have the best experience for each student, so conduct that is distracting or disruptive isn’t acceptable. If you get jumpy, you can go outside and admire the mountains.
*Alcohol, drugs or any medication that may impair your ability to conduct yourself safely are forbidden and you will be asked to leave if you are impaired in any way. Alcohol is not allowed in the studio period.
As you may have already guessed, there is a chance of a minor burn. The tools are hot, as is the business end of the blowpipe. Sometimes when shaping with the wooden “Blocks” (the main forming tools) a little hot water can splash on you. The “Marvers” (metal tables you roll glass on) can be hot too.
A few people blowing glass burn themselves a little in the first few tries. These are usually minor and help one get a healthy respect for the intensity of the process. The main way burns happen are by sliding your hand too far up the blowpipe. Most of these burns are a reminder more than anything, although sometimes students will get a blister-level burn. (That’s rare.)
So far no student has ever required medical attention, and we’d like to keep it that way. Your best defense against burns is full attention.
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT GLASSBLOWING:
The two I hear the most are:
- “You must have to have extremely powerful lungs to blow glass.”
Not true. Most of the blowing can be done with air trapped in your mouth while you continue to breath through your nose. On very large pieces you do blow using lung power, but if it’s hard to blow, you need to get your piece hotter. The first bubble is the hardest to blow. The trick is making sure the glass is still very hot. Then it’s easy.
- “What if I inhale? Won’t 2000° air come back up the blowpipe and scorch my lungs?”
No. Most of the length of the blowpipe is cool and as air comes back up the pipe, it cools as it travels through the blowpipe. This is a technique that is used to make a pocket in a piece, as in old French wine bottles that had a pocket in shoulder of the bottle to put crushed ice in.
Your mom may say: “It’s very dangerous!”
Once you get out of your car you have completed the most dangerous part of the day. Dangers in the studio are about equal to working in a commercial restaurant kitchen. Students are given good instruction on glass studio hazards. Keeping safety glasses on is the most important safety rule.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
We are a small operation with just myself and one part-time employee running things. Running glassblowing equipment is very expensive and we can only run classes when we also need to build glass inventory for our gallery which is located at the edge of Shenandoah National Park, and largely dependent on tourist traffic for sales.
Running glass furnaces is a 24/7 proposition and classes never cover the full cost of operating the equipment. My name is Eric Kvarnes and I’ve been blowing glass for 42 years. My business has been in this beautiful and rural location for 32 years. I’m 64 years old and dearly love both blowing and teaching glass blowing. I run the business because it’s what I love to do.
I concentrate on quality more than quantity in both my mostly one-of-a-kind work and our classes. Classes are limited to two people for the best possible learning experience. If I were doing this for the money we would have six students and you’d spend a lot of time standing around waiting for your turn. Most other glass shops want to sign you up for a series of classes, but until you try it, how can you know if you want a whole series of classes? We do one afternoon class and you sign up again if you desire another.
We run classes as much as we possibly can, but again I am more interested in the quality of the classes and the students being happy with their experience, then anything else. My major in college was education, and I love to teach. I don’t do this for the money, although it does help our bottom line. Glassblowing is a unique experience, and after taking a class, you’ll always look at glass differently.
Most students are trying glass for the first time, and with glassblowing being a multi-tasking skill, I suggest starting with a more simple piece like a double size shot glass to get the basic hang of the tools, timing, and workflow of blowing glass. Your second piece will be your choice and I can suggest items you’ll have a good chance of success at. Paperweights are a fun option too. Providing a good learning experience is my main priority when teaching classes.
This isn’t what I call “tourist glassblowing” where the glassblower does all the shaping and you simply puff on the blowpipe to supply the breath. You’ll be using the tools as I guide you through the difficult parts of the process, and help with whatever part of the process you’re having difficulty with. Usually this is help getting the correct angles for the shaping block, and rolling the blowpipe when you’re shaping with one hand and the other hand (which rolls the blowpipe) forgets what it’s doing.
If you have further questions, feel free to contact us at 540-987-8474. Our office help is quite knowledgeable, but you can talk directly to an instructor if you’d like.