Flameworking Glass Class 9/2021

In September 2021 [aka almost 2 years ago!!!] I took an “Introduction to Flameworking” glass class with Abbie.  It was held at the North Shore Glass School in Salem, MA:

We attended two 2-hour classes.  From their website:  “Flameworking uses a torch to manipulate glass. At temperatures around 3,000 degrees the glass becomes fluid allowing the user to create beautiful objects.  In this class, students will be taught the ancient art of flameworking using borosilicate glass.  Students will learn how to manipulate molten glass by using heat, gravity and traditional tools.  The goal of this class is for students, with no prior experience, to learn some basic flameworking skills and create some beautiful objects.”

The torch is propane and oxygen.  You first light the propane, and then slowly add oxygen using a dial, which focuses the torch into a tight flame:



The premise of flameworking is heating up glass rods [which are about 12″ long – you can see them in the above photos].  You hold one end in your hand and place the other end in the flame, which melts the glass and makes it pliable and moldable.  Only the part of the glass actively in the flame is hot [although once you remove the hot part, and it cools from orange to clear, it is still REMARKABLY HOT, for hours afterwards – learned that the hard way!].  My point being, the heat never travels down the rod to your hand.  We worked with 2 sizes of glass rod.  One was about ¼” thick, the other about ½”.

While flameworking you wear super dark, special glasses to protect your eyes and vision [photos courtesy of North Shore Glass School]:


Our first project was heating the end of a thin glass rod until it was hot/orange [circled in red], then slowly turning it in the flame, using gravity to roll the molten ball down the rod until it reached the desired size.  Then heating up the end of a 2nd glass rod and touching it to the ball, adding bumps.  The instructor said people were calling them “COVID balls” 🤣.  Once the ball was covered in bumps, we heated the rod right below the ball, then tapped it with a metal tool to separate the ball from the rod [also called a “punty”].  We made 2-3 of these to get used to working with molten glass:


It was nearly impossible to flamework and take photos, so most of the photos I took are when the instructor was demonstrating stuff for us.

Next we made stick-men out of glass rods [I added cat ears to mine 😃].  This allowed us to practice heating up glass rods, “cutting” the rods into pieces [by heating the rod up where we wanted it to break, then twisting fast], making small balls [for the head/hands/feet], flattening glass with tools [hands/feet], sticking multiple pieces of glass to each other with heat [body parts], and tapping pieces off the rods.  Lots of techniques for one little stick cat!:


Then we got started on swirled glass pendants.  We used the thicker rods this time, heating the end and using gravity to make a ball:


The instructor demonstrated how to squish our molten balls flat using paddles [circled in red]:  get the ball really hot, lay the molten ball on one paddle and press it flat with the other paddle:

After it’s flat, you quickly put it back into the flame to keep it hot, while also heating up a colored glass rod.  You then “draw” a stripe of color onto the disc of glass.  It’s hard to see, because it’s hot/orange, but there’s a cream-colored stripe down the center of the glass disc [which turned white once cool]:

We added a 2nd color to the other side [I chose black, shocker].  Then we heated up a 2nd thick glass rod and “stuck” it to the disc, giving us 2 glass rods with our disc in the middle [pic of the instructor, demonstrating]:

Then we twisted the disc [twist the right rod one way, twist the left rod opposite] mixing the colors into a swirl – so cool!  Then tapped the pendant off one rod, heating the top to remove the mark left behind:

THIS IS WHERE I TOLD THE INSTRUCTOR “I DON’T FEEL SO GOOD… I’M REALLY NAUSEOUS…” and he said “move away from the heat, go stand over by that fan and cool off – you’re overheating!!!”  Something that tends to happen to me…  and apparently is pretty common in the glass school, but usually when they’re blowing glass.  I didn’t recognize what was going on at first – normally when I overheat I’m outside, in the sun.  In the glass shop I guess it built up slowly over time and then BAM!  I was super sick.  The instructor had to finish my pendant.

Here’s Abbie using gravity to turn her pendant into a tear drop shape [she’s as camera shy as I am so I edited us both out of the photos]:

The instructor added a pre-made glass ring to the tops of our pendants:

They went into the kiln overnight and we got them at our 2nd class – so pretty!:


For our 2nd class I wore the amazing neck fan [#affiliate] Jim got me last year, so I stayed relatively cool.  We started class by making a couple more “COVID balls” to practice, then got started on disc-shape pendants.  The pendants are so gaudy I can’t imagine wearing them, but they allowed us to practice a few different techniques.  It was pretty much the same process as the teardrop pendant:  heat, make ball, squish, add color, add 2nd rod, twist, remove 2nd rod]:


After twisting we squished them again into lollipops:

Then added dots and “drew” on swirly lines with molten clear glass rods, which you can see in the below finished pic.  Once again the instructor added the glass loops at the top and kilned them for us.  Abbie had to go pick them up the following week [thanks again, Ab!, and thanks for driving us to/from class!].  Gaudy, but cool looking:

After that we made a fish, which I have zero photos of except the finished product.  Like I said, it was nearly impossible to work and take photos at the same time [not to mention dangerous!].  We used various tools to flatten the fins and add texture to them:

It was a very interesting class and a lot of fun!  Here’s the teardrop, my black & white pendant, Abbie’s red & white pendant, the fish, & the stick-man cat:

I’ve got them displayed with my other treasures in the girl cave:

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5 thoughts on “Flameworking Glass Class 9/2021”

  1. Fascinating and fun, but also a bit scary! I love what you and Abbie created; it’s fun to have mementos from your glass blowing experience. Did I spot two very young boys in your group? I don’t know how the mothers dared; but think how thrilled those kids were. All that fire and molten glass – doesn’t get much better than that!

    • That picture and the one next to it were just photos I grabbed off the Glass School’s website. Only Abbie & me were in our class. The school hosts classes for girl and boy scout troops, birthday parties, etc. The flameworking itself is fairly safe! And it appears the little kids in the picture have much longer glass rods they’re working with than ours, to keep them even further from the torches 🙂


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