Began in 2006 by Jon Goldberg, the East Falls Glassworks located here in East Falls, Philadelphia, is both an open studio for local glass artists, as well as a teaching facility for the surrounding area where one can go to take classes and learn the skills involved in glass work. The studio is the only glassblowing center in the Germantown/Manayunk area and is open to anyone who is interested in the art.
Shop manager Nikolaj Christensen talked to us about the various types of work the center does. From contract jobs, one-offs, repairs, small batch prototyping and even custom designs, the studio will work with the designer, artist, or client to realize their vision.
Two of the designers we filmed, Miranda Work and Skitch Manion, make up the collective Workingman Handmade. They specialize in contract work and being general glassmakers for hire while still working on a number of their own designs that they sell through their Etsy page. We filmed them as they made an inlaid glass cup, taking it from molten material to a finished product.
First the artist gathers hot glass onto a blowpipe from the furnace. They must continually rotate the rod so that gravity will not affect the viscous glass and cause it to form unevenly. A small wooden tool known as a block is soaked in water and used to smooth the glass. When the hot glass comes in contact with the wet block, steam forms and the glass rides along that barrier, slowly smoothing it out. The glass cools quickly and must be continually reheated so it can be worked with.
A marver table is used to flatten out the form and a small puff of air is sent down the blowpipe to the other side where the glass ball has formed. The air moves to the hottest part of the glass and expands inside. This is how hollow forms and other vessels are started.
It takes great skill to be a glassblower, as it requires you to work quickly so that glass doesn’t cool off while simultaneously fixing any issues that may arise. Another piece of molten glass is gathered and dropped onto one of their delicate designs that rest on the metal table. Colored glass powder is used to make the designs and it melts to adhere with the hot glass puck. Then the previous form is attached to the disk creating the bottom of the cup. A jack or giant pair of shears is used to shape and cut the vessel as needed.
After they are pleased with the design, the rod is removed and the base smoothed out. It is then transferred to an annealing oven for anywhere between 12-15 hours so the glass can reach an even temperature and won’t break after being made.
If you’re interested in learning more about the East Falls Glassworks, taking their classes, or discussing possible projects with the artists in residence please feel free to check out their website at eastfallsglass.com or email them with any questions you have at firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally thank you so much to the team at Glassworks for allowing us to come and film them while they work.