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How I Created a Masterpiece at the Industrial Arts Center!

Owen Pach actually handed me the blow pipe at the Industrial Arts Center!

The Industrial Arts Center opened it's doors in September 2008 and has been igniting inspiration for people of all ages ever since. Throughout the years, people have been able to come and learn how to blow their own glass paperweights, vessels, vases and even ornaments during the holidays. The non-profit center also offers courses in sculptural welding, glass fusing and metalsmithing.

Currently, the center is offering a promotion through the first week of January. Stop by any Tuesday through Thursday between 6 and 9 p.m. and you can blow your very own one-of-a-kind glass ornament for just $20. No appointments are needed!

To show just how easy it is to create a masterpiece, I put my skills to the test. Yes, Owen Pach allowed me to roll hot liquid glass, spin it in the glory hole - which is 2,300 degrees - and then blow and shape it into an ornament for my tree.

Although Pach assured me that a 2-year-old could do it, I still felt nervous about creating an ornament out of something so delicate.

On Tuesday, I met with Owen Pach, newly elected IAC Board President and volunteer Eric Holdsworth. Pach walked me through the entire process before getting in "the hot seat." No, really - it's a red stool that is called "the hot seat."

The process is broken down into a handful of simple, yet very important, steps.

  1. Heat the blow pipe in the glory hole - which is kept at 2,300 degrees!
  2. Take the blow pipe and gather a single layer of clear liquid glass out of the furnace - which is kept at 2,100 degrees!
  3. Roll the liquid glass on your color pieces - which are small bits of broken color glass.
  4. Put the glass on the pipe in the glory hole to reheat. (This happens several times.)
  5. Add another layer of color.
  6. Reheat in the glory hole.
  7. Shape the glass with a round wooden block dipped in water. (Well, Owen Pach and/or another glass blower will do this for you.)
  8. Reheat in the glory hole - don't forget, this is 2,300 degrees, which means you will be sweating by now!
  9. NOW - for the most important part! Place the pipe on the rack and blow through the pipe to form the ornament.
  10. Reheat for a couple of seconds in the glory hole.
  11. Place the ornament down, cut the liquid glass and form the hook!
  12. Place in the annealer overnight to cool. Owen Pach says the annealer will begin at 920 degrees and will be lowered to 500 degrees overnight to allow the glass to cool without breaking.

Now, I wrote these steps down BEFORE getting in the hot seat. Once Owen Pach asked if I was ready - time sped up - and somehow I kept up with Owen.

If I had to guess, I think it took less than 10 minutes to make my purple, green and blue colored ornament.

During one of the reheat sessions, Owen told me to take the pipe and just keep it moving at a slow pace, I did, but was nervous.

Then, Owen quickly had me sit down and hold one of the many tools for forming glass. Seconds later, well, I thought it was seconds later, Owen brought over the pipe with hot glass, color and all, on the end and had me "chop" grooves into the glass. He guided my hand and together we created about six grooves in the glass. It wasn't until the next morning, when I picked up the finished product, did I see how the grooves formed the glass.

Then, he reheated the glass and had me get in "the hot seat." Once I was ready, (which was really only 20 to 30 seconds after sitting down), Owen came over, set the pipe on the rack and guided me through the blowing process. The goal is to blow at a steady pace and listen to your instructor. I tried really hard to give an even blow and only increase when Owen said to. Although I felt like I was running out of breath, I watched as the ornament formed just feet from my face! Now that's cool!

Owen created a little hook on the ornament and then placed in inside the annealer to cool overnight. I picked up the ornament the very next day and placed it on my Christmas tree as soon as I got home.

The entire experience was a blast! I highly recommend stopping by the Industrial Arts Center, 2902 Beach Blvd., and taking advantage of the opportunity to create art right here in Gulfport.

Learn more:

jonathan schork December 20, 2012 at 04:24 PM
in addition to the blow-your-own special, we also have a blow & cast glass bowl by owen on display at the IAC; raffle tickets for this bowl are $10 each or 11for $100. the drawing will be on christmas eve. come by and take your chance to win this unique sculpture for the price of a raffle ticket!

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