Crafty Berlin: A Glass Making Workshop

I have the utmost respect for people who are skilled in traditional crafts. I think such a large part of our work is done by computers these days and in a way that’s great, but we also loose a lot of motor skills because of this. I remember times when I was so tired of only working on the computer that I started side projects that required my hands and my brain in different ways and it felt so good to finally create something physical with my own hands.

I think a lot of people share this desire to use their skills in different ways these days because I see that traditional and even new crafts are trending right now. The rise of maker spaces, DIY projects and workshops are proof of this.

With our guide for creatives, workshop list and review of up-cycling design we already shared a few opportunities in Berlin with you were you can get your hands dirty. Today we introduce you to another one: glass molding and blowing. We were invited by Berlin Glas e.V. to try out one of their glass blowing workshops to learn more about this highly sophisticated traditional craft and even create our own simple glass objects.

When we first stepped into their spacious workshop in Berlin-Schönholz we were a bit intimidated by the heat that radiated from their glass ovens. They have two of them there: One that is filled with liquid glass, the furnice, and one that is basically a reheater where you stick your rod or pipe in to reheat the glass you are currently working on. They call the second one the “glory hole” but I thought the term “hell hole” would be more suitable because one centimeter to close and you burn.

The workshop that we participated in is an introduction that teaches you the basics of working with glass. It familiarizes you with the equipment, the ovens and the materials and at the end you will have created your own simple glass objects: A paper weight (basically a glass ball with some colors inside) and a glass.

Our workshop instructor was Rudy Faulkner, a young glass artist and jewelry designer from California. His calm, relaxed and fun attitude helped us a lot to overcome our own barrier to even come close to these hot ovens. After a short introduction of the two types of metal rods that you need to pick up the liquid glass, how to hold them, cool them off and constantly rotate them in your hands so the glass won’t form a drop, we already found ourselves dipping into the liquid transparent lava for the first time.

When the glass is fresh out of the oven it has an orange glow like a light bulb. You have now approximately 30 seconds to blow and mold the glass. This is not a lot of time as you can imagine, you have to be able to work with precision in a high speed. If the time is not enough you can hold the rod into the second oven to reheat it, but when you do this it will liquify again and go back into its original shape of a bubble. The most difficult part for beginners is actually holding the rod in the right angle and constantly rotating it with the fingers in a consistent speed. It required muscles in your hands that you normally don’t use so you will feel pain there quite quickly.

For our first object we dipped the glowing glass bubble on the end of our rod into a variety of glass colors that are either a powder, sand or grains. We then reheated the bubble so the colors melt and then we used metal tweezers plug and pull some shapes out of the bubble. This would later create a kind of colorful twirl inside the paper weight. To create the final shape we had to dip the tip of our rod one more time into the liquid glass, shape the bubble into a nice ball with a wooden mold and than break off the final glass ball off the rod once it cooled off a bit and became hard. The final object will be stored in a special box that let’s it cool off gradually until it fully solidified.

While the description of the process makes it sound so easy it was actually quite the challenge to keep that glass bubble under control and not mess it up by letting it drop down or morph into a useless shape that can’t be saved. But to lighten up our spirit Rudy ensured us that the slightly messed up paper weights are actually the most interesting ones because they are more individualistic than the perfect ones the professionals would do.

The second task was already much harder to accomplish, but I personally liked it much more. Here we finally got to do some blowing, even though it kind of feels like you are blowing without any effect because your cheeks will already be hurting until you will see a small air bubble forming at the end of the hollow rod inside the glass. It takes a whole new level of precision and care, always rotating the rod evenly. What comes now is a series of reheating and more blowing to create a hollow bubble big enough to become a glass. You will then shape the bottom part of the glass before you pass over the object onto another rod by dipping into the bottom of it and cutting off the top. Now that the top part is open you will use big metal tweezers to widen the opening even more and bring the whole object into the shape of a glass. In my case it became more of an uneven jar, but to be honest I was still quite proud of it because it has a lot of character. Of course Rudy was able to create perfectly even one in a fraction of the time, but it was fascinating to see how he was so in control of the really difficult to handle material and how his whole process was so smooth.

Having mostly worked with wood in my life, a material that is quite easy to handle because it doesn’t constantly change its shape and is not glowing hot, I am used to taking all the time in the world that I need to finalize something. Being under such time pressure and having to work in such accurately planned routines was a whole different ballgame. But I felt a great deal of satisfaction to handle a whole new material. So many things in our lives are made of glass and even though the majority of them might be manufactured by machines I still feel like I have an understanding now how this impressive craft actually works (at least in its basics).

I can only recommend you try it out yourselves and book a workshop at Berlin Glas e.V. Once you reached a more professional level you can also use their space for your own glass projects. It’s a wonderful community project combing education, community work, art and design with many talented and enthusiastic people involved.

On December 9th 2016 they also celebrate their 5th anniversary with a glass blowing demonstration and the 3rd edition of the Berlin Becher Triennale, an exhibition of 20 international artists showing their interpretation of a cup.

Diesen Artikel auf deutsch lesen.

<a href="" target="_self">Frank</a>



Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of iHeartBerlin. He takes photos, makes videos, and writes texts mostly about what's going on in Berlin. His vision and interests have shaped iHeartBerlin since its conception back in 2007 - and he hopes to continue bringing you the best of Berlin for many years to come.