5 Of The Best Glass Blowing Schools In The USA


When you think about it, glass really is incredible. Those elegant wine glasses that your mother pulls out only during the holidays, or that delicate vase sitting in the lobby of a hotel- these were sand at some point. Certain sand types contain high silica levels, and when heated, this silica sand melts, and eventually becomes the substance that will cool, harden, and finally become glass.

So how does this hot liquid turn into that elegant wine glass? Well, a glass blower melts the sand and then picks up the hot liquid using a long tube. By blowing through this tube, the glass begins to expand like bubblegum or a balloon. As it does so, the glass blower can manipulate this gooey liquid into shapes by forming it with molds or by using metal rods. This work is usually hard, hot, and must be done very quickly, preferably within a few minutes, as the glass hardens almost immediately. It is for this reason that glassblowers ought to have a careful plan beforehand once the liquid glass is at hand. They must be creative at problem solving and be ready for any sort of challenge.

Glass blowing is a traditional and cherished art form that has been gaining popularity for the past few decades. This is because glassblowers are rare, special artists who create stunningly beautiful objects for the rest of us to admire and use in shops, our homes, and in galleries all around the globe. Below, therefore, we take a look at 5 of the best glass blowing schools in the USA as follows:

  1. 1. The Tulsa Glassblowing School

Located in the Brady Arts District in downtown Tulsa, the Tulsa Glassblowing School is definitely a fun place to go whether you just want to observe a piece of artwork in progress or are looking to learn a new skill. The studio provides a safe and dynamic environment for anyone over the age of 13 years to create glass art. In fact, its studio is the only open-access facility throughout Tulsa where the public is welcome to watch artists work any time its doors are open. It also offers recreational and educational opportunities for both the young and young at heart.

  1. 2. The Diablo Glass School

Located in mission Hill, close to Brookline in Boston MA, the Diablo Glass School provides beginner to advanced level (including online courses) glassblowing art courses for kids, teens, and adults at their tailor-made studios in Boston. It is a place where experienced and beginning glass artists are welcome to share a conducive and nurturing environment in order to help develop and grow their creative skills.

  1. 3. The Redmond School of Glass

The Redmond School of Glass studios offer both artists as well as admirers of blown glass a unique and collaborative experience. It is conveniently located off of Redmond Way, near the end of route 520 and is a short drive from almost anywhere in the city. So, whether you are looking for a one-of-a-kind art piece for your office, need a creative way for a team to build cohesion, or are interested in trying a new class, this school should be of immense help. Enroll and get to see what fire can create.

  1. 4. Shasta College

This glassblowing school offers an introductory education in the history, materials, and techniques of glass as an art medium. Its curriculum places emphasis on contemporary fine-art practices through interdisciplinary approaches and incorporating diverse subject matter. The program’s resources include cold working equipment, fusing, casting facilities, and a two-bench hot shop that has two glass furnaces.

The glass program at the college was established by Clif Sowder in 1969 when he developed the program’s facilities in an attempt to address the new interest of glassblowing that was taking root in art schools across the country. Many students that were taught by Clif during his thirty six year tenure at the institution went on to make careers of this craft.

Now over four decades later and under the leadership of David Gentry, the glass offerings at the college continue to be an art medium for student exploration, emphasizing beginning and intermediate level study in cold working, blowing, and casting processes which better prepare students for transfer into glass programs at art schools and universities elsewhere.

  1. 5. The Cleveland Institute of Art

Students in the BFA degree program at the Cleveland Institute of Art train in 3 main methodologies:

  • Working hot glass which entails off-hand molten glass processes and glassblowing
  • Working glass cold which involves grinding, cutting, fabricating, polishing, and sandblasting.
  • Fusion processes e.g. bending, slumping, and casting.

Having surveyed all the basic methods during the introductory classes, you will then explore various concepts and techniques before carrying out your own independent research and study tailored to developing your own style. This will be carried out under the guidance of qualified glass professors whose commitment to this art form has earned them global recognition as the leading contributors to this craft.

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Dale Chihuly – Glass Blower and Sculptor Extraordinaire

Dale Chihuly is an American visual artist, entrepreneur and designer and co-founder of Pilchuck – one of the best glass schools in the world. He is world renowned for creating amazing and unique glass works. His glass sculptures, often showcasing dynamic and complex projects in the public arena,have helped rekindle immense interest in glass art. These glass masterpieces have made him a living legend.

Losing his father and brother while still a child, Dale’s mother motivated his early life, and this would enable him develop glassblowing skills which later enchanted the world of arts.

In spite of personal misfortunes like losing vision in one eye and dislocating his shoulder, he has constantly striven to create unparalleled and inspiring designs. Dale’s structures feature complex designs, producing some scintillating glass marvels. His glass creations are mainly chandeliers and ceilings as well other objects.

Dale continually exposes himself to significant risk when dealing with glass but the results are exceptional and unique glass-works. His determination has made him an exceptional artist and paved the way for future glass artists. His everlasting creations in glass work have immortalized his existence in the art world.

Early life

Dale Patrick Chihuly was born on 20th September 1941 in Tacoma, Washington state. His parents were George Chihuly, a union organizer and meat packer and Viola Chihuly.

His brother died in a US navy flight training accident while his father died of heart attack a year later, aged 51.These twin tragedies left Dale sad and in great despair, but his mother encouraged and motivated him. After graduating from Woodrow Wilson High, in 1959 Dale joined College of Puget Sound. He would later transfer to University of Washington(which had just started the first glassblowing university degree course in the country) where he graduated with a degree in interior design in 1965.

While learning in weaving class, Dale was greatly intrigued by the prospect of adding bits of glass onto tapestry. His weaving instructor encouraged him to experiment with shaping molten glass. Two years later, under the guidance of Harvey Littleton, a leading educator and glass artist, Dale received his master of science in sculpture. A year later in 1968 he was awarded a Master of Fine Arts from RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) in Venice while on a Fulbright fellowship..


In 1969, Dale was hired at RISD and tasked with establishing a glass department at the school. He was able to mold glass artistically and also perform numerous glassblowing experiments. He would also encourage his students to use molten glass to design new glass objects.

In 1971, Dale in collaboration with John and Ann Hauberg, established the Pilchuck Glass School located at Stanwood, Washington. He started to experiment using glass in unorthodox and different ways.

Five years later, he had a career-changing incident which blinded his left eye. Instead of dampening his creative drive, Dale’s deep conviction of creating artistic glass designs only intensified.

Dale would later, in 1979, suffer another physical blow just as his work was gaining wide recognition. A shoulder dislocation left him unable to hold and work with the glassblowing pipe, a technique he had spent most of his life perfecting.

As a result, he had to employ a skilled and experienced team of blowers. He was then able to concentrate solely on supervising the designing of new artistic glass objects.

Since that time Dale has been working on diverse forms of glass items including orbs, baskets, chandeliers and so on. His outstanding glassblowing craftsmanship has inspired a whole generation of artists to follow in the intricate art of glass making.

In 2006 Dale sued Bryan Rubino (his ex-employee) and Robert Kaindl (a businessman) for trademark and copyright infringement. The lawsuit would later be settled separately with the two parties.

Major projects

In 1995, Dale traveled, with a 30-man glassblowing crew-to some of the great cities in the world and designed assemblages of massive chandeliers to put in the canals in Venice. This glass masterpiece produced a stunning demonstration of light rays bouncing from the canal waters to the glass and then back again.

Another awe-inspiring project was the glass ceiling at Bellagio casino, Las Vegas. In 2000, Dale also did a spectacular exhibition at the Tower of David in Israel dubbed in the light of Jerusalem.

In 2011, he designed the “Chihuly Garden and Glass” in Seattle’s center park to exhibit his glass works. It was opened to the public the following year.

Achievements and Awards

Dale was awarded the Fritz Redlich Alumni prize at the 2011 Institute of international Education Gala. He also has 12 honorary doctorates and 2 National Endowments of the Art fellowships.

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Glass Blowing Safety


Glass blowers transform glass into useful scientific glassware and art pieces using a very high-temperature furnace. For this reason, glass blowers expose themselves to burns or even server cuts that may result in severe injuries. Glass Blowing Safety can however be enhanced by not only keeping the work area clean but also keeping the workplace free of excess materials. If several people are working in the same workshop, each and every member can reduce accidents a great deal by staying centered at their glassblowing bench and constantly keep in mind all activities in their immediate area. Inspection of the work area should also be done frequently, especially the gas supply system, to ensure that they are in safe working conditions.

Hazards associated with Glass Blowing and ways of reducing

Respiratory hazards

This hazard emanate from the materials used to fabricate the glass. This could be the inhaled irritating particulates or fumes. When dirty glass is heated, harmful fumes are generated. When such fumes are accidently inhaled, they present respiratory track problems. An asbestos tape is equally harmful when inhaled, just like some chemical used to give glass its beautiful color. A glass blower’s canopy hood may trap heat and some gasses, but it does not eliminate all harmful fumes.

The best way a glass blower can minimize such risks is to use a ventilation system designed in such a way that it blows air through glass blowing area and straight out of the room. Additionally, a glass blower should ventilate the work place sufficiently with at least a window at each end in addition to fitting exhaust fans to suck out air loaded with harmful fumes. Wearing a respirator further increase Glass Blowing Safety as it offers protection against toxic particulates that are stirred up every time the working area is being cleaned.


Hard glass, also known as borosilicate glass, is designed to withstand intense heat, and it is for this reason that they are used for cooking. Its melting point is approximately 1000 degree Celsius, and hence for such temperatures to be attained under normal circumstances, heavy duty equipment is necessary. Even with the best equipment possible, operating at such very high temperatures is a hazard that can occasion horrific burns and serious injuries, unless proper safety procedures are adhered to at all times. The glass blower should exercise extreme caution and use the right protective gear at all times to protect themselves against equipment surface temperatures, which will obviously be several hundred degrees.


Glass cuts represent a serious occupational risk for glass blowers. Before heating so that they can be shaped, lass exhibit sharp edges which if not handled with care can easily cut a body part. A glass blower should, therefore, protect himself or herself at all times by wearing strong leather gloves, or better still, long embroidered welder’s gloves. The gloves should also be replaced from time to time as they gradually harden when exposed to heat. Gloves made with dense materials such as Kevlar greatly reduce the risk of a glass cut penetrating through right to the hands. Gloves having rubber dots are even more effective since they enable the glass blower to clasp glass more securely.

Dirt and tiny broken pieces

Glass blowing area should be cleaned and tidied as often as possible. Brocken glass and dirt, often in the form of left over pieces must not be disposed of carelessly in the normal trash since sharp tiny glass pieces have the potential of causing serious injury to the waste handler. There are policies on dealing with such “sharp”, and all glass blowers must adhere to these policies-special sharps containers should only be used. The policies further cautions against disposing off regular trash into sharp containers.

Ergonomic Hazards

Glass blowing needs high degree of precision, implying that a glass blower is likely to experience physical stress when working in an uncomfortable position for a long period of time. An incorrectly positioned chair or work table can cause repetitive injuries, while standing for extended periods of time can occasion circulatory problems. Adjusting the height of the working table or chair can reduce these problems. A glass blower is also advised to replace poor lighting as this may cause eye strain thereby distorting the glass color.

In conclusion, a glass blower can benefit immensely by having a glass insurance program, which was specifically built from start to finish with glass blower in mind, in place. By observing the above safety measures, however, Glass Blowing Safety can be increased a great deal.

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Glass Blowing Techniques


Glass blowing refers to glass forming technique that involves inflating molten glass into a bubble, also known as parison with the aid of a blowpipe. A person who blows glass is referred to as a glass blower, gaffer or glass smith.

History of the Art

The art of glassblowing can be dated back to 300 BC in the Middle East, in contemporary Israel, Lebanon and in the neighboring province of Cyprus. Since then, products obtained from glassblowing have become part and parcel of daily life. Though it was once looked at from a scientific point of view due to the fact it is a scientific invention, glassblowing has over the years emerged as an art form

The Techniques

There are two major glass blowing techniques namely; lampworking and off-hand. The off-hand technique basically works the glass on the end of a hollow tube, while the lampworking technique is achieved by use of an oxy-fuel torch. The lampworking technique is majorly used for smaller glass objects and involves manipulation of molten glass over a small torch. This article shall dig deep into each of these techniques with an aim of providing an in depth analysis into how each of them is achieved.

Glass Blowing Steps Using The Off-hand Technique

  1. Gather molten glass- Molten glass can be gathered from the furnace with the aid of a hollow steel-tube or blow pipe. The average temperature of this molten glass while in the furnace should stand at 2025-2125 degrees Fahrenheit. To ensure that the glass is gathered evenly and steadily, it requires that the steel rod be rotated continuously in the furnace.
  2. Marver the glass- A marver is a steel table on which the glass is shaped once it is stable. Glass shaping starts by rolling the hot glass on the marver in order to obtain a symmetrical cylinder. Once this cylinder is achieved, further rotation of the blow pipe is required in order to prevent the glass from dripping off.
  3. Cap- Capping involves blowing into the pipe and covering the hole using one’s thumb in order to create a positive pressure that causes the trapped air to expand inside the pipe, thereby creating a bubble. Once the bubble is created, more glass can be gathered around it depending on the desired size.
  4. Shape the piece into a bullet – By use of a soaked newspaper, shape the parison into a bullet, then re-heat it in the glory-hole, keeping the rod rotating at all times.
  5. Define your shape-Define your desired shape by rolling the piece on the marver while your assistant blows air into the glass through the pipe.
  6. Cut in a jack line-Once a shape is defined, create score lines in the piece’s neck using jacks [large tongs], by keeping the neck length less than or equal to the diameter of the blow pipe.
  7. Open the glass and finish the piece-This involves transferring the piece to a different rod called punty.
  8. Cool and trim-While placing your thumb over the hole through which you were blowing,carefully dip the pipe into a bucket of water. Re-heat the glass inside the glory-hole and then trim the lip using shears.
  9. Crack your piece off the pipe-Use a wooden block to forcefully knock the pipe so that the piece drops off its end.
  10. Anneal- Carefully carry the piece over to the annealer where it should cool off overnight.

Glass Blowing Steps Using The Lampworking Technique

  1. Turn on the torch-The recommended torches here are the oxygen or the propane fed ones.
  2. Heat the mandrel-Slowly heat up the mandrel in the blow-torch. A ceramic-coated stainless steel mandrel is preferable owing to the ability of this coating to keep the molten glass from sticking to the mandrel.
  3. Flash the glass through the flame tip- In order to prime the glass, it should be flashed through the flame tip for about 30 seconds. This is especially necessary in order to prevent the glass from going into shock and shattering, instead of molting up.
  4. Bring the glass closer to the heart of the flame-The glass should be held in the flame until it develops a nice orange ball, and it should be rotated as well to maintain its round shape.
  5. Attach the molten tip to the mandrel- Place the glass onto the mandrel and wrap the mandrel away from your body until you have full coverage of it, then sever the glass rod from the mandrel using the torch flame.
  6. Introduce the mandrel with the bead back into the flame- While rotating to prevent the slipping down of the glass, bring back the mandrel with the glass bead back into the flame, and add another color to the existing beard if desired.
  7. Shape the mandrel- Take the mandrel from the flame and shape as desired using a graphite paddle. The paddle can also be used to create square shapes, better edges and even out the contours of a curve.
  8. Cool and anneal the mandrel- Allow the mandrel to cool for a bit and then carefully transfer it to the annealer. Remember to keep rotating to maintain the shape.


Glass blowing is indeed a form of art that requires skill and diligence. Becoming a skilled gaffer therefore requires sacrifice, but should not be hard at all, given the useful and practical glass blowing techniques described above.

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History of Glass Blowing

Pre History

Volcanic eruptions resulted in the formation of obsidian a natural glass that was prized by early man and used in making tools, ornaments and weapons. This was followed by the Egyptians and Mesopotamians who discovered the basic formula for making glass around 1500 BC. A combination of sand, plant ash and lime was used in furnaces ultimately resulting in hot glass that was shed around cores of earth and dung. Afterwards the dung was discarded and the glass cleaned. Some of the uses of glass included making vessels, glass tiles and decorating walls with colored glass slices. There have also been claims that the Phoenicians discovered a glassy substance under their campfires although subsequent attempts to duplicate this theory have been unsuccessful. It is also no secret that glass was more easily available to the rich and noble. It wasn’t until the 3rd century that glass vessels for storage of water become available for the lower classes.


The Romans

The Syrians had already invented he blow pipe around 300 BC before the Romans had their turn. The Romans embraced the ancient technique and refined it enabling them to make newer shapes and patterns on the glass. They also devised ways to color the glass and introduced gold and silver inlays in order to decorate the glass.


The Greeks 

The Greeks also produced their glass using the blow pipe technique. They developed complex decoration techniques that still defy modern technology and inspired a new generation of glass makers. They also refined the process enabling glass to be affordable enough to make vessels, cups, vases and bottles.



Despite the widespread knowledge of glass making Venice soon came to dominate the craft. The city hosted so many glass houses that the government of the day set aside the island of Murano for the industry. The glass produced was of such high value that it could be exchanged for gold thereby enriching Venice and turning it into a major trade center. Venice began holding glass workers as prisoners in order to avoid their secret knowledge from spreading to the competition. Their tactics worked for a while and they did have massive monopolies before craftsmen in France and Germany caught up. The French in particular came up with a method whereby a closed cylinder of glass was blown and the ends subsequently sagged flat. It was a method that yielded flat glass that could be used to make windows.


The Renaissance

The art of glass blowing and other related techniques grew in leaps and bounds following the publication of L’Arte Vetraria by Antonio Neri. Finally the secret art of glass making had been compiled and revealed to the masses. Glass making spread to through out Europe and Asia.


The Scientific Revolution 

During the post Renaissance years Astronomy, Medicine, Chemistry and Physics all relied on glass for their growth. This was mainly through the telescope which enabled astronomers to study the heavens, the lens which enabled advancements in medicine and chemistry and glass apparatus which created a neutral medium for chemicals to react. Glass also aided in making major breakthrough in diseases such as polio which had plagued mankind for ages thereby increasing the overall quality of man’ life.


American Glass

Glass blowing was introduced in America around 1607 by the Virginia Company of London. The venture although at first deemed profitable turned out to be unsuccessful and the company closed shop. In 1622 the glass industry was revived and it played a major part in the construction of homes throughout the new continent.


Light Up the World

Before bulbs the world relied on bees wax, whale fat and fires for their light. Thomas Edison finally solved this problem when he used a hand blown glass bulb, a filament wire and a current to harness electricity into producing light. This is probably one the greatest inventions of humanity as it literary lit up the world.


1960’s to Present

Glass has played a huge part in the digital age. It first provided the monitors for the personal computer before becoming a mainstay in the even more revolutionary cell phone. Glass still play a huge role in smart phones and is expected to continue leading the charge. It is also widely used in the automotive and airplane industry. Glass being unreactive with most elements will also play a huge role in space exploration.


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