Glass Blowing Class: The Glory Hole

How many times have you found yourself at a party surrounded by laughing people sharing their most entertaining glass blowing stories, while you sat, twizzling your swizzle stick, unable to participate?  10? 100?

In my ongoing quest to Be More Interesting ( <— this phrase is said with a booming echo effect) I’ve turned to to find unusual hobbies at half price.  My first discovery: a Glass Blowing class. A BYOB glass blowing glass.

Wine, molten glass and fire; what could go wrong? Third degree burns? HA. I laugh in the face of danger. Half my skull tragically engulfed in molten glass, transforming me into Batman’s latest nemesis, Crystal Beth? PSHAW.

My only real fear was blood-thirsty, dead-eyed snipers. I went to college in Historic Williamsburg, enduring 4 years of people in colonial garb.  I’ve left strict instruction for snipers to take me out if I EVER show the slightest interest in pewter molds or candle dipping, so trying my hand at glass blowing made me nervous. One sniper with an itchy trigger finger and the imagination to make the leap from glass blowing to butter churning and it could be lights out for our hero (me).

I looked death in the eye until he uncomfortably looked away and asked his buddy if I was still looking (I was), called my friend voted Most Likely to Enjoy 18th Century Arts and Crafts, and prepared to blow.

At the glass works, the lovely people of Lillypad Studios greeted me and my friend Kara (you may know her from such hits as “Amy and Kara Play with Meat“) with pointy sticks and molten glass and introduced us to their glory hole.

What’s a glory hole you ask? For the love of all that is holy, DO NOT GOOGLE IT.  I’ll tell you. The “glory hole” is the furnace used to reheat glass while you’re shaping it. And that’s all you need to know. STEP AWAY FROM THE GOOGLE.

Here how I made a paperweight, which, in the 21st century, is about as useful as, say, glass blowing or an iPhone 2, but it’s still pretty.

1. Drink a glass of wine.

2. Shake color chips onto a table. (preferably a non-flammable table). Mention that the room, filled with roaring furnaces, is hot as a camel’s bellybutton.

3. Spend next 1o minutes wondering if camels have bellybuttons. Google it. (They do.)

4. Drink another glass of wine while the Glass Lady (we’ll call her “Michelle,” because that’s her name) says something about safety and the smell of burning flesh and blah blah blah.

5. Michelle the Glass Lady dips the “punty” (the long stick) into a box marked “HOT” and when she pulls it out, the tip has a blob of molten glass on it.

6. Think “Wow, that looks dangerous. I probably should have listened to that safety speech.”

7. Take the punty and roll your hot glass in the color chips. This is what will ultimately give your otherwise clear glass some color and make you the envy of everyone else in the room.

8. Put the punty and your molten glass into the glory hole furnace to keep it soft (ironically, the opposite use of the other kind of glory hole), while your face melts from your skull like the Nazi in Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom.

9. Withdraw the punty and dip the hot end into a mold that will give the blob a paperweight-type shape.

10. Back to the glory hole, to keep things hot.  Inquire if anyone is familiar with the early signs of heat stroke.

11. Next, carefully sit down at a little bench where Michelle tells you you’re going to shape the molten glass with newspaper she’s dipped in water.

12. Look at Michelle like, as a professional, she really should know that paper is quite flammable.

13. Constantly rolling the punty to keep the liquid glass from dripping off the end, make a wincing face while you shape the glass with your hand, which is protected by nothing but wet paper. You will maintain this wincing face for the rest of the class.

14. Once the glass is smoothed, take a pair of tongs that probably have a fancy, specific name that I’ve forgotten, and use them to pinch the glass near the punty end. As the glass cools, this action makes a horrible screeching noise that helps to preserve your wince face.



15. Once the part you’ve been pinching is small enough, Michelle knocks your paperweight off the end of the punty and you smooth down the little pinchy spot into the rest of the orb so that your paperweight won’t list to the side like a peg-legged sailor.

16. Your paperweight will almost certainly list to the side like a peg-legged sailor.

17. The paperweight goes into a kiln overnight which allows it to cool slowly, prevents cracking, and makes you pout like a 4-year old because you don’t get to take your trophy home with you.

18. Have another glass of wine, and marvel that you just touched molten glass with a wet piece of newspaper. Wonder what the heck else you should have been using wet newspaper for all these years. Oven mitts? Building backyard sheds? Rocket re-entry heat shields?

19. The next day, rush back to the glass blowing place to pick up your beautiful paperweight because you’re a type-A paranoid freak and you’re SO sure your paperweight will be the Most Beautiful Paperweight Ever Molded that you’re petrified someone else will accidentally (or not so accidentally, that one dude was clearly GREEN with envy) take it.

20. Spend all day pointing out various details about your gorgeous paperweight to your husband until he threatens to throw it through a window.

21. Realize weeks later that at no time did you actually blow glass. Huh. How did you not notice that until now? Oh well. Close enough.

TA DA! My finished paperweight. Now if only I knew what “paper” was…


Special thanks to Lillypad Studios of Millersville, MD for a lovely time. Anything said here that made them sound anything less than professional and wonderful was just me trying to be funny. If you’re in the Annapolis, Maryland area, check them out!

Amy Vansant

18 Responses

  1. Lance

    this is a lot of work with a lot od double entendres to end up with a paperweight.

    I’ve assuming there’s plenty of booze, sarcasm, and dinner?


  2. Keith

    If there was no actual blowing, where did the bubbles come from? Are you sure there wasn’t any blowing?


    • Amy Vansant

      Well I’m so glad you asked, allowing me to be SO INTERESTING talking about my foray into glass blowing! That happens when you put it in the mold.

      Hm. I guess it wasn’t that fascinating…


    • Amy Vansant

      Ok, picture me as the midget woman from Poltergeist: Step away! Step away from the light!

      This would be a lot more effective if your name was Carol Anne.


  3. Raymond

    This looks like a hoot. Wasn’t there a song about this in olden times? Something along the lines of “Pass the punty from the left-hand side…” 🙂


  4. Jen Has A Pen

    This is insanely “involved”. Who’da thunk they’d allow you to DRINK while handling all these rods ‘o fire?!?!?!


  5. Nicole

    I’m eternally grateful that I don’t have to google whether or not camels have belly buttons.


  6. Tracy

    You said glory hole, heh-heh.

    I’m super behind on my blog reading, but rather than catch up in chronological order, I went straight to the glory hole and was not disappointed.

    I saw a real life glass blowing demonstration in Corning, NY once, and even though they actually did blow glass, your recap was considerably more interesting. The fine folks at Corning said nothing about the important glory hole.


    • Amy Vansant

      When you’re blog is “Logy” express, no one has high expectations for you being speedy. Excellent plan to set the bar so low. I wish I’d thought of that before I picked the twitter name “IReadAllBlogs2SecondsAfterTheyArePosted” 🙂



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