Glassblowing at Home
It seems like every brewery today has a trademark beer glass shape, so why don’t you? Homebrewers take note: Making your own bottle or pint glass could be the next step in customizing your beer experience. It’s not hard to get the basics down, and it’s as social as brewing, or drinking, a good beer.
As it’s hardly feasible for everyone to set up his or her own home glass-blowing operation, there are studios, like UrbanGlass in Brooklyn and the Asheville Glass Center in Asheville, North Carolina, that provide space, training and materials. The specialty equipment needed includes a furnace for melting and holding the molten glass; glory holes, where you heat the glass while working it; and the annealer, a machine that tempers and toughens the glass as it cools. These are just some of the big-ticket items (along with the electricity bill for running them).
The above studios have classes that range from half-hour trials to weekend intensives and multi-week courses. A short class could leave you with a cup or glass, but it’ll take a while before you can fly solo. “You can work on your own after an eight-week class,” says Alexandra Lozier, a glass artist who teaches at UrbanGlass. “How well and how quickly depends on how frequently you practice.” Lozier favors the multi-week approach because it gives you the chance to practice and “develop the muscle memory you need, and learn how the material moves.” If you want real consistency, be prepared to invest some time. “Six months or so,” says Robert Gardner of Asheville Glass. “Goblets or stemware take even longer.”
While skilled glassblowers can create many smaller pieces by themselves, most work calls for at least one partner. One—the gaffer—who turns and shapes the glass, and another to blow and help with transferring the glass from the pipe to the iron rod called the punty, among other things. That’s part of the appeal, according to Lozier. “Most glassblowers like the teamwork, as well as the intensity [once you start a piece, there’s no pause until it’s finished], and the level of physicality.”
It’s a difficult craft to master, says Gardner, “but there are infinite ways to shape the glass” and explore: Even once the glass has cooled, it can still be worked on. Painting on your homebrewery’s logo, for example.