Forms of Life

While shaping molten glass its soft state seems to be at times slithering to the point of no return where glass, stressed out, can no longer be encouraged on the path of shaped solidity one wishes to craft. Words, so much more sluggish than our thoughts, at that amorphous moment hinder the work by imposing limitations on the shaping and then — the glass hardens and one cannot coax it until it is reheated again.

Spontaneously, in an attempt to allow the maestro to work with the molten glass a little longer without going through the process again of preparing to place it back again so soon in the furnace, I laid my hand on top of his and guided it and the wooden paddle that was shaping the molten glass. Nicola understood I had wished to be able to influence more the process where one must make quick decisions and quick shapings while the glass is in constant motion and still malleable.

He began by encouraging me to approach, with some fear on my part, the dangerous heat of the molten glass. I began to work with a small rod for shaping – tricky because when the glass is molten hot it slides too easily and when the glass starts to harden much more force is needed to move it and it skips bringing ones fingers too close to the molten glass. The heat from the glass was too much on my bare hand, he used his to shield mine from the heat long enough for me to continue. I then asked for gloves.

The glass blowing tool known as a jack is similar to long and large tweezers and is used to form glass while it is rotating. I use it for something I call scarring the glass – by digging into it but not making a hole but rather a shallow perforation – a wounding. The wooden paddles soaked in water to withstand the heat can be used in many ways to push molten glass from one side to another, angle some of it downwards or upwards and flatten it. If you are not quick enough the wood paddle starts to smoke and once it caught on fire. I can work small sections at a time for about a second and then Nicola must turn the glass before it sags, more work for a second, more turning and then it eventually hardens and goes back into the furnace, and out again. The furnace is 1300 C. And we begin the process again.

Another type of wooden paddle can be applied to the end of a perfectly shaped vase and then I can compress it into a perfect imperfect functional vase – questioning why perfect straightness or roundness are deemed necessary. Nicola reminds me that glass likes symmetry, I try to convince him that perhaps glass would like to be freed from this prison.

Once in a perfect dance the glass, I and the rod for shaping were swept into creating a new form of life – Nicola and I paused and both realized it had happened. After the piece was placed in the annealing oven, he said, that is why he works with glass; because sometimes it can be magic.