Playing with Fire

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you probably know that I’m all about having experiences instead of acquiring stuff. At this point in my life, I certainly don’t need many more things to make me happy. Of course, if an experience happens to result in a beautiful item I can brag about  show off  display, that would be OK too.

Over the Christmas holidays, my husband and I were treated to a glassblowing session given by an artist whose studio is in the beautiful Northern California town of Benicia. My brother and sister-in-law – the givers of the gifts – joined us for this extraordinary opportunity to play with fire that was raging inside a furnace operating at temperatures around 2,000 °F (1,090 °C).

I’ve always admired art glass and have acquired a few small pieces over the years, but I never thought I could actually be part of the creative process. Although David, the studio owner and master glassblower, was with me every step of the way, I came away feeling that the glass ornament was truly my creation. I got to pick and apply the colors, I manipulated the molten glass, and I blew into the pipe to expand the bulb to the correct diameter.

The four of us had such a great time. Our individual lessons not only resulted in four beautiful ornaments but gave us a deeper appreciation of the art of glassblowing. I don’t think any of us is destined to become a professional glassblower, but who knows? Retirement is supposed to be a time of discovery and we all had fun discovering a new way to express our creative selves.

Author: Janis @

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

77 thoughts on “Playing with Fire”

  1. I am totally impressed. Your creations are gorgeous. I tried to make pottery in Vietnam and my creation only got sympathy or laughter. Needless to say my vase did not make it out of the country 😆

  2. Lovely. Blown glass has always been a favorite of mine ever since a visit to the Murano glass works in Venice back in the 60’s. I sent home my wine glasses and I still have them. Lucky you to have had the experience. Though I have been to many studios over the years and watched the process, I do not think I would have the nerve to do it myself.

  3. Beautiful – I love the colours. I have had a few pairs of titanium earrings over the years with those colour gradations in them. Sadly, I only have one single earring left, but it’s so pretty I can’t bear to throw it away!

  4. I’ve done this too, Janis. A friend and I spent a day blowing glass for our 50th birthdays. It is truly an incredible experience and gives you a new appreciation for the work that goes into this art form. I saw the Dale Chihuly exhibit some years later and definitely was amazed by it at a whole different level.
    The experience of glassblowing also gave me a new understanding of why professional glassblowers have no hairs on their arms near their wrists. The heat of that furnace is truly memorable, isn’t it!
    I’m so glad you had the opportunity to express your creativity this way. Your ornament is gorgeous!

    1. Just this past summer, my husband and I visited the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington. Watching the teachers and students create gorgeous art pieces from a bit of molten glass was so inspiring. And yes, the heat from the furnace is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Wowzer!

  5. When you acquire experiences like glass blowing and take home your very own creations, store bought items can never match the intrinsic value of such experiences. Amazing post!

  6. Beautiful! My friends and I did the same thing last fall, and I made a really pretty oil bottle. I agree that life is about collecting experiences, not stuff! Your post makes me want to do it again! ~ Lynn

  7. What a great present…and lovely baubles. I’ve done glass-blowing too and it was a great, creative experience. I’m even thinking of trying blacksmithing…there’s something elemental about working with fire…

  8. I’ve never done this but about thirty years ago and old beau gave me a hand blown vase. It is so beautiful and perfect. I’ve always been inspired by it.

  9. Janis, as someone who loves trying new art forms, I absolutely enjoyed this post…thanks for all the pictures. Your ornament is beautiful and looks like you had lots of fun, the requisite for trying new art forms! Happy New Year.

  10. What a wonderful gift, Janis. Your brother and sister-in-law are very wise. The resulting ornaments are gorgeous and something to truly treasure! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  11. Glass blowing is such an interesting artistic technique, and the iridescence of your pieces is beautiful. In this experience, you gained a better understanding of art, and created something special to keep as a reminder. These are the kind of “things” worth acquiring.

  12. How fun, Janis! Definitely a time to treasure. I am always amazed by the detail some of the glass figurines can have. Thanks for sharing this experience with us!

  13. Hi Janis! Yes I agree with the others above. It does look like fun. And you are so right that retirement–actually life itself IMHO–should be an ongoing pursuit of interests and passions. Like you said, it isn’t the stuff (or end result) that made it fun, it was the action. Thanks for sharing you experience. ~Kathy

    1. You and I are certainly in agreement! I wish I had realized it when I was younger (I wouldn’t have so much “stuff” to get rid of), but I’m making up for lost time. There is so much out there to experience.

  14. Agree with the above comments – wondering, though, about the ‘glaze’ on the finished ornaments. Is that a natural result of the heat/fire with the chosen colors or is it more hit and miss like with pottery glazes?

    1. Hmmm… if I’m understanding your question, towards the end of the process, after the round shape had been created but the glass was still very hot, a metal dusting was added to the surface. That created the iridescent glow.

  15. We have discovered a really talented glass artist here in our new community. He also offers glass blowing lessons. When it comes to accumulating “stuff,” I make an exception for purchasing beautiful art. I would rather own a few beautiful pieces of art than heaps of factory made stuff. And I love to support artists by purchasing their work.


    1. I agree with you about art… it’s not stuff (at least most of it 🙂 ). I also like to purchase artists’ work, and when I can understand what actually goes into creating it, the prices don’t seem so out of line.

  16. That looks like so much fun!! Such a wonderful art form, that I guess is at it’s very best when you see Chihuly’s extraordinary work. That was whenI first got curious abput glass as an art form. Totally agree on “experiences over stuff”! Hands down.


    1. The work coming out of Chihuly’s studio is amazing. We saw a lot of it, and other artists’ work, at the Tacoma Glass Museum last summer. Even having this short experience with the process makes me even more in awe of what true artists can do.

  17. I adore blown glass and have acquired quite a few lovely pieces through the years. Trying it out been on my possibilities list for 3 years to try it out …and the local studio often has Groupons. You are actually the second friend who did this over the holidays; I must do it this year – no more someday! I did a pottery class with a master potter in 2016 and use my small (not quite round) bowls as snack bowls and smile every time I use them. It also (as you point out) increased my appreciation of the craft. I love pottery as well as blown glass, and mixed media and wood work and metal work. Spending an afternoon in art galleries that showcase those items is another experience I make sure we have everywhere we visit!

    1. I agree, Pat – you must do it this year! No more putting off those experiences you want to have until “sometime later.” That you still get so much pleasure out of the bowls you made is a testament to the value of the experience. Have those experiences now and enjoy the fruits of your labors well into the future.

  18. First, I love the way you spend your time and money on experiences rather than acquiring more stuff. Secondly, I’m very impressed with your first attempts at glass blowing! (I’ve always wanted to try that, but I doubt the results would look anywhere near as nice.)

    1. You should try it! David, the glass artist was alongside us every step of the way and took over some of the more challenging (and maybe dangerous) steps. I bet your creation would be every bit as satisfying as ours were.

  19. Looks like a lot of fun Janis. My wife and I were invited to watch Master Glassblowers in Murano, but they wouldn’t let us play along.

    We’re with you regarding the value we place on “living” vs. “having.”
    Looking forward to seeing the products of this year’s experiences Janis!

  20. My dad used to blow glass in his Chemistry lab. He made me a K-shaped crazy straw to drink my milk when I was a kid. Unfortunately it wasn’t very durable! The process was fascinating to watch, just how glass can be liquid and solid again. Wax is like that too.

  21. What a beautiful experience, gift and result! Nice to see the photos after your quick tale before lunch the other day about the glassblowing session. I love those two balls at the end. We both seem to have an affinity towards purple. 🙂 Perfect memory and useful souvenir to cherish forever.

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