Hyland Glass Makes May Flowers

I have to be up front about something: I’m not good at art. I’m aware that that’s a tremendous generalization. I’m an award-winning playwright, and I’ve participated as an actor in countless shows throughout my life. I suppose I should clarify. I’m bad at visual art.

It was the only class in school that I never seemed able to do well in. Math didn’t come as naturally to me as some other things, but I eventually figured out its cold logic due to persistence and eventually became more than pretty good at it. I’m not athletic, but I always tried hard in gym, a fact that my teachers seemed to appreciate. After a while, I managed to be less terrible, even discovering a talent as a defensive basketball player. Visual art on the other hand… I never quite got it. I read a lot about it, and to this day, I have a firm grasp of its theories and principles. I just can’t do it. I’ll always be scarred from my attempt in fifth grade at making a pinch pot over ten times and finally being assigned a paper on pinch pots by my fifth grade art teacher in frustration.

DSC_0248_webWhen I was told that I was going to have to write a piece on Hyland Glass’ “Blow Your Own,” an opportunity for those interested in a primer on the intricacies of glassblowing, I was a little anxious. All those insecurities came roaring back. I thought, Glassblowing? That sounds really hard. Like, harder than normal art. Can I do it? I can’t make a pinch pot… Then the real kicker came in: What if it’s ugly? In the days leading up to the session, I thought long and hard about this. Art is a beautiful process because it comes from the artist. It’s a piece of them made manifest, so why would anything that comes from me be ugly? It was time to correct this error in thinking head on.

Booking a session is easy. Simply go to the website, and click on “Blow Your Own.” Most of the sessions are Saturdays and last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. On the website, they are separated by the type of object you wish to create. There are ornaments, paperweights and more artistic fixtures like May flowers, which is the option I signed up for more out of the availability in my schedule than anything else.

When I showed up, Casey Hyland, owner of Hyland Glass, had already fired up the furnaces, and after some quick pleasantries and introductions, we got started. Being one on one with Casey was a delight. I never once worried about how my piece of glass was going to turn out, and he put me in charge almost immediately. I started by picking out my colors from a series of trays of different sand-like glass varieties. Knowing my color theory, I decided to choose bold colors that would reflect my personality but some that would also complement each other well.

The first furnace burns at around 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, and Casey helped me heat some transparent glass that would be the centerpiece of my flower and hold all my colors. Next, we moved to a second furnace heated at just a little hotter in order to more easily manipulate glass. Once hot enough, Casey and I removed the glass from the furnace and peeled petals from it using tongs. When the glass would begin to cool, we would heat it again and begin the process anew. All the while, Casey kept me engaged with the task at hand while also keeping the atmosphere light-hearted with idle chitchat. Before long, I had myself a flower, and Casey even complimented me: “This looks great. I like the colors. Very exotic.”

It may not be much, but that compliment did quite a bit to restore my faith in my abilities and in myself. My work is not going to be featured in an art museum any time soon, but I am now sincerely looking forward to returning to the world of art and attempting to make more. Due to a necessary process called anealing, my glass flower needed to stay in a relatively much cooler furnace – a frigid 900 degrees – overnight to set. There was a slight pang in my heart from being separated from it. It’s funny how attached to things we can become isn’t it? Nothing could compare, however, when it was finally time for me to pick it up and hold the fruit of my labor. I urge you to experience this for yourself. Sign up for “Blow Your Own” at Hyland Glass, and you’ll soon have a tiny piece of yourself to take home. VT