History of Glassblowing

Where did glassblowing start?

Glassblowing history accounts differ on the origin of the ancient art, which remained a highly guarded secret for many years. What is known? Pre-Roman civilizations spanning the Middle East, Greece, China and more were producing glass, but though glassmakers were making vessels, blowing had not yet been discovered. Venice became the dominate epicenter of the craft from 1200-1400 AD, where glass workers were held virtual prisoners on the island of Murano to maintain a glass blowing monopoly, after which the much-coveted crafters either escaped or were kidnapped, and the knowledge quickly spread. Even the facilitation of Thomas Edison’s light bulb involved the help of a glassblower!

Glassblowing has been around since ancient times, but recent, modern advancements have made things increasingly available to the general public. The studio glass movement of the 1960s has blossomed into today’s artisanal glass market, with technology leaving the massive industrial furnaces of yesteryear by the wayside for much smaller furnaces, and enabling the proliferation of studios nationwide, including those alongside neighborhood retail and restaurant venues accommodating the “crafty” consumer.

What is glassblowing?

Though equipment and glassblowing supplies have been modernized, the glassblowing process is similar today as it was at its inception. Molten glass, a superheated mixture of silica (sand), soda or pot ash, and limestone is inflated into a bubble via using a blowpipe. As air is inserted, the glass expands and becomes hollow. With the manipulation of movement (gravity) and hand tools, different shapes may be created. Reheating of the object enables its manipulation as many time as is needed. How hot is molten glass? Temperatures of over 2,400-2,900 degrees Fahrenheit are necessary for molding. Once complete, glass designs are placed in an annealing oven to slowly cool for several hours to relieve stress and prevent breaking.