Pyromaniac or Artist, New Glassblowing Club Is For You

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Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The new glassblowing club started this year at Swarthmore will give students the chance to experiment with the art of glassblowing.

A week ago, Charlie Kazer ’17 and Haley Gerardi ’17 hosted an interest meeting for anyone who wanted to participate in glass-making events. To their surprise, over 40 Swatties came to learn about the art and listen to what the club had in mind for the year.

For their next meeting, Kazer and Gerardi have planned a simulation activity. The club will melt sugar into a syrupy, taffy-like state and then manipulate it into different shapes. This method, called “sugar-pulling,” is a big part of the candy-making industry. It’s very similar to glass-making because both glass and sugar, when heated and liquefied, are pliable enough to be stretched and molded. Once the mold of sugar or glass cools, it retains its shape. In this next meeting, Kazer and Gerardi will also be going over basic glassblowing tools and terminology in preparation for working with real glass.

Glassblowing involves rotating a hollow steel rod in a hot furnace—gathering molten glass at the tip of the pipe. To make an air bubble opening in the glass, the craftsman blows into the cool end of the rod. They then keep spinning the rod in the furnace to gather more glass before shaping it into its final form, such as a vase or cup or art piece. The most important rule of glassblowing is to keep the glass spinning at all times.

Kazer thought that glassblowing would be a fresh addition to Swarthmore’s selection of activities. “The club was just kind of an idea that I had over the summer—I know that the school doesn’t have any facilities or tools to do glassblowing on-site, and I thought it would be something fun and interesting to learn how to do,” Kazer wrote in an email.

Currently, Kazer and Gerardi are working on getting the club chartered by the Student Government Organization (SGO). They are looking to receive funding so that the club can take glass-blowing lessons outside of Swarthmore. They hope that people who are interested won’t have to pay out of pocket, or  will be at least partially subsidized by the school. If everything works out with SGO and the Student Budget Committee, the club will be able to start attending official lessons and begin crafting within the next month.

“I’m crossing my fingers that this will take off, though we need cooperation from SBC, and also patience as we try to get the group on its feet,” Kazer wrote.

The next glassblowing meeting is this Sunday, September 25th, in Kohlberg 228 at 7:00PM.

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