Make Your Own Glass (or Pottery)

By Susan Wallner

Wheaton Glass studio.

The urge to create cannot be completely suppressed, no matter how unnecessary it might be in this day of cheap imports. Knitting is one example of a skill that many people take up for the sheer enjoyment of making something useful. Working on the potter’s wheel is another. Less common is blowing your own drinking goblets or vases. Yet the intensity and drama of working with molten glass to make your own tumbler, vase, or paperweight is exactly what WheatonArts allows anyone at least 16 years old to try.

Participants blow through a pipe to create the form. Then, according to Studio Program Coordinator Karin Kozlowski, they get to “swing, stretch, twist, roll, and flip” the hot glass as they shape it on the blow pipe. Although the art of blowing glass takes years to master, the “Make Your Own Glass” program at WheatonArts gives a truly hands on experience for beginners.

A “Make Your Own Glass” participant working with Karin Kozlowski, Studio Program Coordinator.

In just under an hour, you design, color, and create a vase or paperweight. Goblet, pumpkin, and ornament options are available at special times throughout the year. After your creation has been annealed (a process that brings hot glass slowly down to room temperature), it’s yours to take home – shipping is offered for a small additional fee.

A main attraction at Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center is the chance to see world renowned glass artists at work in the historic hot shop. From the viewing gallery, the process unfolds like a dance, with blowers and assistants working in a well-rehearsed choreography of motion. As the doors to the furnace open, the 2300 degree liquid glass blasts out light and heat. On the floor, traditional artisans attach stems to glasses and handles to pitchers, while contemporary artists manipulate the glass into surprising and original forms.

No wonder people want to try this for themselves – and Kozlowski says “we can blow glass with anybody!” Last year, a visually impaired person participated in the program. Sometimes high school students want to create something unique for their college portfolio. Usually it’s just someone who wants to try something totally different.


A video featuring the new WheatonArts “Make Your Own Pottery” program.

The success of “Make Your Own Glass” has led to the new “Make Your Own Pottery” program, open to anyone 10 years of age or older. There are also longer classes offered at WheatonArts: a five day “Intro to Glass Blowing,” and a three day “Ceramic Art: Woodfiring” workshop are just two of the selections.

WheatonArts is located in Millville, New Jersey where some of America’s first glass factories flourished. It is a unique destination. Glass and pottery are made throughout the day in studios open to the public. A tour through the Museum of American Glass starts with colonial flasks and paperweights and ends with work by today’s most exciting glass artists. There’s a museum shop with affordable original art for sale, and many weekends feature festivals on the rambling grounds. The biggest of these is in the fall – named one of the “2011 Top Ten Fairs and Festivals” by AmericanStyle Magazine, the Festival of Fine Craft takes place October 6th & 7th, 10 am to 5pm (rain or shine).

Susan Wallner is an award-winning producer with PCK Media. She is a long-time contributor to State of the Arts, airing on NJTV Sundays at 8 pm.