Glass blowing offers a creative outlet for all students


Doug Mullaly working on a vase during the intermediate glass blowing Photo credit: Alex Coba

Art classes are in abundance at Chico State, from painting to sculpture and ceramics. But there’s one medium that requires you to have patience and a high tolerance towards heat. Glass blowing is a class that anyone can take for a major or just for fun.

“I’m a civil engineering major, I’m actually not an art major,” Dominic Zmuda said, a student taking intermediate glass blowing.

“So this is my fun class. I take a lot of engineering based class. So it’s nice to take a relaxation class were I can just come here, get to work and not really have to have a lot of things on my mind. I really get to express myself here.”

Students work with a furnace in the classroom that has about 400 gallons of glass. The furnace is where students get all of their clear glass.

“So you see us go in there and dipping,” Zumda said. “We have two different blowpipes. a blowpipe and a punting pipe. A blowpipe has a hole through it so you can blow air onto the glass to expand it. And then the punta is a solid pipe.”

The punta pipe, Zumda explained, doesn’t have a hole through it, so a student can work on the other side of the object. For instance, when making something like a cup, you would gather glass out of the furnace using a tool called a marver, which is a sheet of steel. You can also use a wood block that’s used to temper with heat, so when used against the glass it creates a layer of steam that can help shape the glass.

“So you put an air bubble in it, flatten one side using a punta,” Zumda said.

“There is this tool called a jack that one uses to manipulate the glass so that you don’t have to use one’s own hands. Next, you would make a restriction to break the glass off the blowpipe.”

“Then we put the item in a kiln that is set at 910 degrees Fahrenheit, what we’ll do is put our pieces in there and have them slowly cool down because, if they cool down too quickly, there is… expansion,” Zumda said.

Glass will cool at different rates based on the thickness. So if it cools down too quickly the glass will shatter. So the glass has to cool down at a certain rate, slow enough so everything cools at the same rate.

“So even when we put something in the kiln, it still has a chance of cracking the next day,” Zumda said.

Of the community around glass blowing, Zumda said, “The community is great here too.”

“Everyone is very supportive and helpful.”

Zumda made a pitch for why anyone should take glass blowing.

“Just try it out, give it a chance,” he said.

“It’s a really fun course because it’s very hands on. It opens you up to other forms of art, not just glass blowing.”

“I think this is a good introduction to all art forms on campus,” Zumda said.

Alex Coba can be reached at [email protected] or @ThatOneGuyCoba on Twitter.