International Class Blown Glass

Glass Blowing by John Phillips

Glass Blowing The process of each piece begins with the fascinating metamorphosis of sand, soda ash, and lime heated in a furnace to 2300 degrees (F). The molten glass is gathered on a blowpipe where the master craftsman manipulates the fluid mass with dexterity and skill into the desired shape. The unique skills necessary to form this mysterious substance involve a steady rhythm of movement, combined with control, balance, timing and sensitivity, the addition of colour in the form of metal oxides (copper = red & brown; cobalt = royal blue; chrome = yellow; iron = green; etc.) become the craftsman's palette and complete the piece to be placed in the annealer for cooling down overnight. The final stage involves grinding and a signature to make this piece a transcended moment in time. John Phillips creates interesting and sometimes spontaneous combinations to decorate the glass birds, jugs, apples, oil lamps, perfume bottles, bowls and Objet d'Art forming exquisite gifts for many occasions. Subtle variations, small bubbles or marks are an indication of the hand made characteristics of studio blown glass. This distinguishes the unique nature of one of a kind pieces.

In his workshop, where roaring kilns belch waves of heat, he softens a ball of glass which he has impregnated with `frits' (coloured glass particles) and pressed onto the end of a hollow pipe, blows carefully into the other end of the pipe while twirling it with his fingers, presses the ball between two water-soaked pads and thrusts it back into the 2,200 degree Fahrenheit fire until it assumes the desired shape.

Next, an assistant rolls a small dollop of molten glass on top of more frits and hands it to John, who plants it on the flattened ball, snips off the end, and quickly shapes the remainder. Ten minutes later, after planting, snipping, shaping and reshaping six more dollops, transferring the sculpture with the tap of a hammer onto another rod and reheating it, John has created a delicate, multi-hued fish. The fish is placed in a 950 degree annealing kiln to temper the glass and make it ready for handling the following morning. Multiply this modest effort by 50, and you have an idea of what John and his two assistants do all day long. "I was attracted by the immediacy of this craft," he explains. "What you want to make has to happen very quickly. Even a complex sculpture only takes a half hour."

John is currently filling orders for retail boutiques in Edmonton, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. There are upcoming shows, which he is expected to attend, and he is excited about building an extra large furnace next year that will allow him to make giant castings for museums and other edifices that require ornamentation. John states, with pride creeping into his voice, that he will "keep blowing glass into my dotage. That's one of the many great pluses about my job". His ultimate goal, however, is to have the daily production duties of his studio assumed by his assistants or local talent. "I want this studio to carry on with new blood", he says. "That way, I will be free to pursue some esoteric artistic ideas. I have quite a few of them, and my capacity for experimentation and play hasn't diminished since I made that drinking stein so long ago".

Article written by Robin Brunet