Finding a gift for someone who has everything, especially a husband who rarely asks for anything is my own personal Christmas frustration each year. As we have become more about experience gifts and less about material possessions, it’s almost become harder, as I try to find a unique opportunity that will be worthy of a memorable present. This year, I found something that not only made a great Christmas gift, but a perfect date for busy parents who need some excitement-glassblowing.
When the Mister was in college, he would walk past the glassblowing studio on his way to much more practical classes in chemistry and wish that he was in there creating. It has been a silent passion for years, so when I learned that Vetro Glassblowing Studio offered an “Extreme” ornament making session, I knew it would be the perfect gift. Vetro is located in downtown Grapevine, a city known as the Christmas Capitol of Texas, and is known for its beautiful art glass year round. At Christmas, they open up their studio to be the hottest space in Santa’s workshop, and allow guests to feel the full glassblowing experience, all 2000 degrees of it.
The experience begins with color choices consultation with the artists. An entire palette of glass chips is available for selection, but it is best to have an idea of what colors and design you want to create so you and the artist can bring your vision to life. The artists have created several of the most popular and best combinations of colors, and have a keen eye about how to create the perfect ornament. We had some idea of what colors and style we wanted to create, but relied on the recommendations of the artists to tell us what would make the prettiest combination.
Once the colors are chosen, there is a quick training session on how to work with the molten glass and not incinerate your fingers, and a dry run with the blowpipe before adding the glass. With the help of the artist, a glob of glowing molten glass is extracted from the furnace, and the color chips are applied while constantly turning the glass. Once you get over the fear of the furnace, this is the biggest challenge of the experience. The glass is like liquid and will fall off the blowpipe if it is not in constant motion, so careful concentration is needed for first time glass blowers. Fortunately, the artists are a step away and worked to let us have as much of the experience as possible, all while keeping us from messing it up in a blob on the floor.
With the colors applied, the glass goes into the furnace to melt together. Each time it is withdrawn, the artist helps to give it a shape and then it is returned to the furnace again to continue the melting process. When the melting is complete, the artist blows a gentle puff of air into the end of the blowpipe and the shape of the ornament begins to form. As the globe begins to grow and take shape, the artist takes over in shaping the glass with tools and adding a glass hook to the top of the ornament. In some cases, there is an additional step involving the fun of blowtorching the ornament, which makes the whole process a bit more extreme, and even more fun.
The ornaments must cool gradually over a period of 24 hours in an annealing oven, so seeing the final product has the excitement of Christmas even for grownups. With the completion of a one of a kind art is completed, the takeaway is a fun way to spend time with your spouse doing something out of the ordinary and a beautiful ornament keepsake to hang on your tree each year (provided the kids don’t break it). It is a small, tangible reminder that if you fan the flames, and keep things hot, you can create a thing of beauty.
~Vetro Glassblowing hosted our Extreme Ornament Creation experience. They did not require that I express a particular viewpoint and all opinions are my own.~