Tucked neatly into an envelope of leafy boughs in Hyde Park, Blue Moon Glassworks and owner Jim Berry have breathed life into an artistic niche in Austin for more than 14 years.
The store is filled with a colorful and ingenious array of one of a kind glass creations, and today my own unique collection of blown glass ornaments sits among these treasures.
Jim grew up in a home filled with artistic craft projects which he learned to recreate later in life. After retiring, he found himself learning new techniques and even selling pieces, soon setting out with a personal agenda to teach. At that, Blue Moon Glassworks was born.
“Classes have always been about keeping people hooked up for as long as possible,” says Jim. With some classes lasting as long as six weeks, Jim and his team of instructors teach with the intent to not only provide the tools needed to create, but also to explain how to use them on a continuing basis.
My Mission: 10 Ornaments in 2 hours
I’m weary of very few things…dark, unexpected noises and – until today – open flames and thin glass objects.
After a great deal of consideration, I set out to make something beautiful from an ordinary piece of glass. Testing my creativity and nerves, I arrived at Blue Moon Glassworks with fervor, sweaty palms and boots for good measure. Jim told the class that last year alone, he guided over 200 people in their glass blowing mission. I immediately felt like I was in good hands.
Just past the shop dog Luna Azul (Spanish for Blue Moon) is the studio space where all the magic happens. It’s a multi-purpose area that transitions to fit any of the various classes offered at Blue Moon Glassworks. Individual stations for each member of the class are set up with the following:
- A flame working station with a box of matches. Are you scared yet? I was!
- 10 individual glass kolbens. I am only savvy of this terminology after mastering my class. Kolben is a German word for cylinder or globe. These kolbens will later be heated to the point of being completely malleable.
- A personal kiln. This was a clever way to make me feel like I was meant to be in that space, yet also necessary to house the finished blown ornaments while they bake (that terminology is all my own). During the annealing process, where glass is allowed to cool slowly from a liquid state to a solid, the ornaments hold for 45 minutes at 900° and the kiln slowly decreases in temperature until annealing is complete.
- Frit and Stringer. A variety of colored ground glass and the thin strands of colored glass that transform ordinary kolbens into extraordinary glass ornaments.
Fire It Up
The time came when we each ventured off to our work stations. With glass kolben in my shaky hand, it was time to hold enter the flame. Let me note that I was literally sweating the small stuff, my clammy hands clasping the cylinder and shaking to the extent that the frit inside the kolben were rattling a bit.
Round one looked just like this:
After what I will describe as a professional level of marshmallow roasting, then later a bit of rotisserie action, I was having a great time. Once the kolben is red hot and frit is in its place, you place your lips to the kolben and attempt to blow it into a dainty spherical ornament. This step is learned with experience, but described by Jim as “mouth-to-mouth for a mouse.”
As soon as your ornament is blown into what should look something like a globe, you insert it into your kiln. Not to be discouraged at my inability to create a perfect sphere, I decided my ornament collection would maintain its one of a kind status with unique integrity!
Break Glass in Emergency
With nearly as much excitement as a kid on Christmas morning, I returned to Blue Moon Glassworks to retrieve my fully baked ornaments.
My mission still not complete, the box of gleaming globules were placed in front of me along with ornament caps and what I will call the emergency stick. This little tool is used to lightly scratch the glass tubes that are connected to the kolben, then push against the fault to break the tube free from your ornament. This is where my fear of thin glass gets washed away, forever, and I leave the store with a smile on my face.
Another satisfied Blue Moon Glassworks customer, headed home with a shapely and identifiable collection of ornaments, all of my own crafting. Who knew I had it in me?
Blue Moon Glassworks has a little something for every interest, and most experiences begin or end with cutting or breaking a piece of glass. The shop offers more than seven different styles of glass crafts and countless workshops, such as:
- Stained Glass – From basic glass cutting to workshops involving copper foil, building art strips, lamps, boxes and bevels.
- Glass Fusing – Entering the world of fusing, slumping, firing a kiln and other techniques that transform ordinary glass into imaginative shapes. Essentially glass fusing is just what it sounds like, but creations include jewelry, picture frames, sun catchers and other interesting items.
- Flameworking – Allows for many outcomes. Glass blown ornaments are a popular holiday class, while bead making takes on a life of its own as somewhat of an international phenomenon.
Interested in learning a new trade or creating handmade holiday gifts for a loved one? Blue Moon Glassworks is known for hosting workshops led by diverse talent converge from throughout the world to teach right here in Austin.
Keep up with Blue Moon’s calendar of classes and sign up for your favorite right on their website.
@CrisMueller wants to know:
Which of Blue Moon Glassworks’ classes interest you the most?