To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Glass Pavilion, artist and Assistant Glass Studio Manager Alan Iwamura designed a series of works known as the Glass Pavilion Architecture Series for sale in the Museum Store. Here, Iwamura takes us through the creation of one of these vessels, inspired by the building’s sleek curves.
To purchase or view more, visit TMAstore.org.
Steel blowpipes are to glass what brushes are to paint—they are the vehicle for the material in its molten form. Glassblowers clean pipes (residual carbon creates bubbles), heat them until they’re cherry red, then dip them into a 2,000-degree furnace to gather glass.
To get the translucent shade of the Ten-Year Objects just right, Iwamura and assistant Ryan Thompson must layer colored glass over clear glass, keeping both at the same temperature. “It’s a combination of learned skill, intuition, and muscle memory,” Iwamura says.
Once Iwamura has layered glass for color and blown air into the object to help it expand, he fine tunes the shape with tools like fire, wooden paddles, air, and even gravity. “This stage is critical,” he says. The object is reheated often to keep it malleable.
The duo use a “punty” to allow them to shape the neck of the Glass Pavilion Architecture Series object. A punty is a piece of hot glass that is attached to the object, helping transfer it from one pipe to another. This way they can work on the opposite side of the vessel.
Annealed and Polished
Once the object is properly cooled off in an annealing oven (which ensures the glass won’t cool too rapidly, causing cracks or breaks), it’s taken to a Cold Working Studio, where it’s polished and perfected.
A version of this article originally appeared in Volume 13, Issue 2 of arTMAtters, the Toledo Museum of Art’s member magazine.