Art History Students Get Hands-On Learning Experience with Glass Blowing

Holy Family Upper Academy History of Art students recently had a hands-on opportunity to learn about the ancient art of glassblowing. 

The history of glass blowing began in the 1st century BC when Syrian craftsmen developed the technique of blowing into molten glass.  The establishment of the Roman Empire provided motivation and dominance of glass production by this method and led to blown glass being used in everyday tasks.  The craft then boomed in Italy before  well-kept secrets of Venetian glass working methods spread across the world. 

Blown glass was introduced to America through the glasshouse in Jamestown.  The glass blowing techniques and tools used by Jamestown artisans and glass manufacturers in the 18th century are nearly identical to those utilized today. 

Mr. Latham’s HFA students had a chance to try their hand at this ancient art when they visited the Phoenix Glass Center. Led by an instructor, and wearing gloves, glasses, and jeans for their safety, they first learned about the various techniques and science behind the process of working with glass.

Each of the students had an opportunity to work with the molten glass, and make something of their own that they could keep – paperweights, cups, ornaments, vases, and more. They were all “blown away” by the extraordinary heat of the 2,500 degree furnace, the difficulty of working with the quickly-hardening glass, and the fascinating science behind the colors as they cooled.

They will begin to study Medieval & Gothic art and architecture at the beginning of the Spring Semester. With this experience in mind, the concepts to be learned in the classroom will be much more meaningful and memorable.