Wednesday, August 25, 2010

nature is the glass

The weekend road trips continue. There's nothing like planning a drive through the scenic Finger Lakes region, only to have it rain the whole weekend. (doesn't it always rain when I go away somewhere??)
For those not familiar,
they are called the Finger Lakes because they look like this

So it was a good thing the Corning Museum of Glass was such an amazingly wonderful distraction. I was almost glad of the rain so I didn't feel torn between getting outside and hiking acres of hills and staying inside and looking at acres of glass.

Okay, actually, the museum was the main focus of this trip with a little hiking at Seneca Lake to be the bonus. The museum turned out to be the bonus. It has to be the best themed museum in the world. The website says to plan about 2-3 hours for your tour. That is very misleading - you will need 2-3 days. Seriously. You would need 2-3 hours just to peruse the gift shop (even if you don't plan to buy anything).

The Museum

I think my jaw dropped as soon as I saw the building and getting inside, it dropped a little more.

The Studio

Usually, with any visit to a gallery or museum, after a couple of hours, I feel too overstimulated to take any more in. So, you might think a museum with just glass in it might get a little ... boring, or "look, more glass". Not at all. I started at around 2pm and stayed until 7:30 with an hour or so to check into the hotel. Then I went back the next day (your ticket is good for two days and teens and kids are free) and stayed from 9am until it closed at 8pm. Then, I went back for more on Monday (afterall, you don't have to pay to get into the giftshops or the cafes). If you do get a little tired of the glass, or just need a change, there is a free shuttle bus to the historic Market St in the town of Corning. It is an architourist's dream.

There are interactive displays, tours, demos, special collections, discussions, history, science and art. There are hands on classes you can take and make your own glass. The glassblowing demonstrations are full of wow factor and heat and interesting facts and a rather large bowl or vase or plate at the end of 15 minutes (and a raffle after the last one of the day. I didn't win either time). Every demonstration was different enough that I learned something new at each of the five or six demos I went to.

I didn't even bother trying to get pictures of the glass (okay, maybe I did try a couple of times) but it is notoriously difficult to photograph glass, espcially glass that sits on glass shelves inside glass cases with lots of bright lights shining on it. So I bought a book.

the works of one man, Frederick Carder

a table with a huge ship on it. for what purpose, I know not.

this mosaic has thousands of tiny pieces of glass
(this is only 1/3 of it)

I was thinking of this blog post, so took some photos during the glassblowing demonstration.

a small amount of this molten glass goes on this blowing rod. it is easier to blow the glass than a balloon (so they say)

you must always keep turning the rod, or gravity will deform the glass

into the fire, many times, in order to keep the temperature of the glass high so it can be shaped. the oven is about 2100 degrees. you could feel the heat from 15 rows away

an assistant gets another rod with molten glass and together they attach it to make a base. later another hot rod will be attached to this base and the glass will be cut awayfrom the first rod, then quickly back into the fire to reheat. it is spun around so that it expands and the top of the bowl can be shaped.
in this case, he is making a bowl that resembles a handkerchief (not the same bowl as above)
et voilĂ ! it is snipped off and will now go into a cooling oven for several hours

I could go again next week and probably still be as impressed as the first time.


  1. I used to go to Scarborough Faire near here all the time - a Renaissance fair, and one of my favorite things to do was watch the glass blower at work. It truly is mesmerizing. I would stand there until the heat became too much to bear, all the while wondering how they could take it.

  2. This looks a wonderful museum. No wonder you went back again - and again. I would too. I love to see glass-blowing.

  3. Yes, it always rains when you go somewhere. I can confirm that!

    I need to go to that museum!

  4. i love glass so i would be so into this. so glad you had a great time.

  5. Sorry about all the rain but the glass museum does look amazing. One thing i have been told about glass blowing is to never "suck". :)

  6. Geewits: and wear sweatshirts! and it is so mesmerizing - that's exactly the word.

    Jabblog: it is an incredible skill. the number of years it takes to master is mindbloggling in this day of mass production.

    Jazz: yes, you must. I'll meet you there.
    (so what if it rains, another excuse to sit in a winebar...)

    Char: makes me want to get rid of my IKEA glasses

    LGS: oh my, that would be a disaster! maybe they take yoga breathing exercises?

  7. Oh, envy. What a terrific experience. When I saw the photo of the display of all of that glass, I literally said "WOW" out loud. I did, truly. I've seen glass blown, went to Murano one year, and it is amazing to see glass in liquid form and have it transformed into something. Magical.

  8. Oh, I love to see glass things being made.

  9. This post was the highlight of my day. Art glass is my passion. The connection between raw materials, man (person), and nature results in breathtaking artifacts. I could look at glass all day. The Museum of American glass in Weston, WV is another great place.

    Thank you thank you Violet Sky for your comments on Greensboro Daily Photo. To know someone else out there appreciates the subtlety of fonts is encouraging!

  10. What a wonderful way to spend a weekend. I would have been fascinated too. That sounds like a really great museum and I do like glass objects and watching them being made. Lucky you for having gone there. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Mim: I believe you! So did I. It was even fun to see others' reactions as they came into the room!

    SAW: this could be another little trip for you. lots of wine in the area, too.

    GDP: I still find it unimaginable that sand can become glass! I have a small collection of some very nice art glass.

    Nora: thanks to my brother for telling me about this. I have been wanting to see it for myself for two years.

  12. Oh, that looks so fascinating! A whole museum dedicated to glass! I would be able to spend hours and hours there!

    I think glassblowers are so clever - its quite a physical thing, and yet so delicate.

    I love glass!

  13. Thanks for taking us along, I found this post very interesting, what a wonderful place to visit! :)

  14. I've been wanting to go to the Finger Lakes region for years. We've been all around it, but never actually made it there. The glass museum looks MIL would really like it...her house is like a glass museum itself.

  15. Gilly: having broken quite a few glasses myself, I can attest to its delicateness! glassblowers must have pretty strong arms to balance the glass while constantly turning those rods

    FFF: I cannot recommend a visit enough

    Susan: I have to go back. want to come?

  16. I just love the architecture of the museum building. Great post!

  17. JM: thanks. I was quite taken with the architecture of the building, too! It is meant to be reminiscent of glass in the furnace and after it has crystallized. You almost need an aerial view to see that properly.


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