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How to Create a Glass Blown Figurine Vase

Sculpt a figurine vase from hand-blown glass.

Elodie Holmes of Santa Fe, N.M, majored in pottery and glasswork while in college, but when she started glass blowing she knew she'd found her calling. It came very naturally to her and the process still fascinates her today. She creates everything from glass platters and paperweights to beautiful pieces of fruit and, of course, her signature glass vases.

Materials and Tools:

colored glass rod
silica sand
silver nitrate
copper oxide
zinc red iron oxide
wooden molds
steel jacks
large tweezers
graphite and wooden paddles
folded wet newspaper
cloth pads or cork pads
glass furnace
mixing bowls
measuring spoons
kitchen scale
glass blowing workbench
pick-up oven
oxygen/propane torch
tile nippers
hot metal table
glass blowing safety equipment (mask, Kevlar gloves)


1. Make the dancing figures by starting with a glass that is custom made from silica sand, fluxes and oxides, then melted with a special formula. All the colors are melted in a furnace in separate crucibles at 2,450 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours. Then the furnace is cooled to a working temperature of 2,100 degrees. Molten glass is like the consistency of honey at 2100 degrees and the blowpipe is used to gather molten colored glass out of the furnace. The pipe has to be turned constantly so the molten glass does not drip from the pipe. This gathering takes about 10 seconds.

2. Some colored glass rod needs to be preheated to 1000 degrees in a small kiln called the pick-up oven. Some of the colors are bought commercially, and some are made from scratch. The color used for the vase is a commercial color called Lapis Blue. The rods of glass are approximately 1" x 12". The end of the rod is hit with a chisel to the desired length and placed into the pick-up box.

3. The glass is then rolled onto a metal table called a marver. The marver is used to shape and cool the glass.

4. The glass is pulled using pliers, stretching like taffy into a long piece of cane about 12 feet long for about 15 to 20 seconds.

5. When the glass cools, it is then cut into smaller lengths of about 18 inches.

6. Using a small oxygen/propane torch, the glass is hot sculpted or flame worked into dancing figures that will be later melted into the glass vase. Each figure takes about 3 to 5 minutes to sculpt.

7. Italian-style murrinis are premade. They are layers of colored glass that form a star, heart or floral patterns pulled into a cane, then crosscut with tile nippers.

8. The figures and murrinis are then placed on a hot metal table to preheat.

Blowing Glass Vase

1. Using a hollow blowpipe, the end is heated and the preheated Lapis rod is stuck to the end of the pipe. The glass rod is then heated in the glory hole until soft, about 2 minutes, then rolled onto a metal table and blown to produce a bubble.

2. The bubble is cooled to about 1100 degrees, and then a gather of clear glass is taken onto the pipe, rolled, shaped with a wooden mold and blown, then reheated. Three more gathers are taken.

3. After the last gather, roll the molten glass into a crushed colored glass called frit. This will add a layer of gold colored texture to the surface of the vase.

4. The frit is then melted in, reshaped at the bench, reheated again, and then the figures and murrini are added by sticking them onto the molten glass.

5. The figures are carefully heated, pressed down with a paddle, heated again, touched up with a pick tool and then melted in.

6. The glass is shaped using a wooden mold, then wet newspaper and blown. Reheat.

7. Steel jacks are then used to create the neck of the vase and also to shape the shoulder. The neckline will also be the place that the vase will be separated from the blowpipe.

8. The vase starts taking shape by blowing and shaping the glass to the desired thickness. It blows like a balloon and starts out round.

9. When the glass is heated just right, then swung around on the pipe, centrifugal force stretches the glass into a cone shape.

10. The glass is reheated, and the bottom of the vase is flattened using a paddle.

11. The vase is then reheated, hung on a pole to stay centered while another pipe is used to gather a small bit of glass to be used as a punty. Note: The vase will be transferred to this other pipe to be finished.

12. The bit of glass on the punty is shaped on the marver table to just the right temperature, the vase is then laid down on the workbench (while still on the pipe) and the punty is then stuck to the bottom of the vase.

13. Keeping both pipes in a straight line and always rotating the glass, a small bit of water is applied to the neck of the vase, and then the pipe is lightly tapped, breaking the vase free from the blowpipe. It now is attached to the new pipe. This allows a way to then finish shaping the top end of the vase with reheating.

14. The top of the vase is then reheated, shaped with the jacks, pulled and stretched with the pliers, thinning and elongating the neck of the glass.

15. The glass is reheated and trimmed evenly with shears.

16. The glass is reheated, shaped a little more with the jacks, and wet newspaper is used to shape the shoulder of the vase.

17. The glass is reheated, jacks are used to flare out the lip of the vase and a paddle is used to make the lip nice and flat, finishing the form.

18. The figurine vase is reheated slightly, and then using Kevlar gloves to catch the vase, the pipe is tapped lightly with a metal tool then put into a 900 degree kiln to anneal, or harden. The annealing process evens out the temperature of the piece to remove stress, and then the kiln is slowly cooled (about a 12 to 16 hour cycle) overnight with the glass blown figurine vase removed from the kiln the following morning.

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