Can I start blowing glass at home?

Now or never: Birte makes glass

If you are looking for decoration, please do it from our own production and with a history. Find our author Birte. And blows her first glass ball. Pardon: It "makes" it.

I've been back in Germany for a year. Before my trip around the world, I sold most of my things or gave them away, and stowed the last of my belongings in a storage box on one square meter. During the trip I realized: I don't need much to be happy. After all, other people can also live with little possessions.

Back in Germany, it is clear to me - in the spirit of minimalism goddess Marie Kondo - that what I own should have value for me, tell a story. Like a glass ball that I made myself. My short internet research shows: This is not a project for the home, too expensive and too hot. And: you need a professional by your side. Someone like Sabine Putbrese. She offers a workshop at the glass furnace in Ulsnis on the flat land in Schleswig-Holstein.

Making glass is like meditation. "

Sabine Putbrese

“That's how it has to be in Hell.” That is my first thought when Sabine pushes the door to the furnace aside with a loud creak. For a brief moment I regret my decision. The inside of the glass glows so brightly that I have to shut my eyes first. In addition, I am not listening to a cozy patter, as I know it from the fireplace stoves in Danish holiday homes. No, this stove is boiling. Loud and terrifying. And this incredible heat that is almost unbearable. Sabine doesn't seem to care, on the contrary. “Making glass is like meditation,” she says happily, and I'm curious to see if I can believe her later. Not at the moment. But no matter, let's go!

But wait - I have one more question for Sabine before we start: "Why do you always say 'making glass' and not 'blowing glass'"? "I thought I was doing a glassblowing course. “The difference lies in the detail: the glassblower uses the Bunsen burner to produce small vessels and fine decorative elements such as pearls. The glassmaker works in front of the furnace and makes large glass products such as vases, spheres or lamps, ”Sabine explains to me. All right, understood. So now I'm making glass.

1. Learn the theory

Before I can really start, there are some dry runs on the program. Sabine gives me cotton cuffs for my arms to protect them from the heat. And a pipe in hand. This is the name of the long steel tube, at the end of which my glass ball will later be created. Inside it is hollow, because glass is also blown. Sabine patiently explains every step of the work to me, letting me carry the pipe. The work doesn't seem easy, I'm curious. She needs 15 minutes, says Sabine, to make a glass ball. Let's see how long it will take me.

While Sabine shows me everything, the liquid glass is simmering in the oven. 1200 degrees Celsius hot. Because it wouldn't be worth turning it off overnight, Sabine runs it twice a year for about three weeks each time. While I'm sweating to myself, Sabine tells me that the glass she used was originally intended for car headlights, but that it had production defects. Good for Sabine: she bought it from the producer and is now processing it.

Together with me. We scatter crumbled colored glass in white and two shades of blue on a metal table. You should add color to my glass ball later. I briefly blow into the pipe to make sure that it is free of glass residues. Then I can stand in front of the stove.

2. Pick up the first layer of glass

Sabine opens the door and I get glass out of the oven for the first time. She helps me with this, because she only knows how much I need based on her years of experience.

I twist and twist and twist while walking to the metal table with the hot glass. Turning is important to keep the glass in shape. Otherwise, gravity will just pull it down. “And now pick up the white glass splinters,” calls Sabine from behind me. What shards of glass? At first I can't see any colors on the table. Due to the bright light in the stove, I can only see a gray veil in front of my eyes. Luckily Sabine notices this and quickly says: "Far left".

With the liquid glass on the tip of my pipe, I roll through the white shards of glass. Only at the top, because all the glass that is on the pipe will be knocked off later. I don't have too much time because the glass cools down quickly and has to be put back in the oven. But not immediately. First of all, I put the pipe down just in front of the stove so that the loose glass splinters fall off. Otherwise they would end up in the oven, and after a few days the remaining raw glass would be brightly colored. Now I can rest a little. All I have to do now is turn the pipe slowly and evenly. "When making glass you always have to concentrate for a short moment, then you can relax again in front of the stove," says Sabine and adds with a laugh: "I'm already considering selling this to large companies as mindfulness training." That's right, me too come to rest here while turning in front of the stove. If only it weren't for the heat ...

3. Shape the glass

The glass at the end of the pipe is already a bit rounded, but we still want to get it into shape now. For this I take a seat on the glassmaker's bench. Sounds easier than it is, because I am supposed to put the stick with the hot mass in front of me - without injuring myself or others. Works! I grab the soaked wooden spoon from the vat and hold it to the liquid glass while I keep turning. This gives the glass a nice round shape. I have to warm up the glass in the oven one more time, then finally the step I was looking forward to is waiting.

4. Blow the glass

In fact, glass blowing is just a small step in the glass making process. It gives the glass its shape, but the decisive factor is the continuous turning of the pipe. So now, when I put my lips on the pipe and blow hard. As with inflating a balloon, the beginning is the hardest, Sabine explained to me beforehand. So I give it a lot of gas, puff and puff - and a small bubble actually appears in the glass. But I don't see that at all, so Sabine takes over the instructions. "Further! … Slowly, slowly, stop! ”She says. Phew, that would be done! The glass is now round. But the ball is still small and a little more color is still missing. So I dip the pipe again in the hot glass mass and get another layer of glass. "It's not 15 minutes now, is it?" I ask Sabine, while beads of sweat drip from my forehead. She laughs: “No, beginners need an hour for a crystal ball,” she says. I immediately get a little warmer and I briefly hand the pipe over to the expert to take a sip of water.