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Look | Artists Design Blown Glass on Governors Island

Graphic artist Peter Buchanan-Smith braved Friday’s heat to help make a hand-blown glass buoy in front of a 2,200-degree Fahrenheit stove. He's one of several artists who, with the help of professional glassblowers, will try out their designs on glass even if they've never worked with the material before.

The glassmaking workshop is part of a traveling exhibit organized by the Corning Museum of Glass called GlassLab. The public is encouraged to watch the glassmaking performances from Saturday through July 29.

"The glassblowers are great,” said Buchanan-Smith. “They're sort of like a combination of a mad scientist and a magician. I really wanted to challenge the glassblowers, so I wanted to give them a job that would excite them and get them inspired.”

The Corning Museum of Glass has brought its state-of-the-art mobile glassmaking studio around the world for glassblowing performances and demonstrations. The studio includes a stove that produces temperatures upwards of 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. That kind of heat melts stones of sand, ash and limestone into a molten soup, which is then gathered on a hollow pipe and expanded by blowing air through the pipe. Metal tools are used to shape the glass.

"It's extremely unusual,” said Robert Cassetti, the creative director of the Corning Museum. “There have been mobile studios before, but we've really gone to school on how to do this and how to do this with very low energy consumption."

The advent of the small-scale studio is just one of the steps the Corning Museum is taking towards making glassworking more accessible to artists. The craft, which takes several years of practice to perfect, can be daunting. But by pairing expert glassblowing professionals with artists, GlassLab only asks that creative types bring their own unique designs to the performance.

“I think a lot of people who work with materials can relate to clay or wood or metal because it is something you can get your hands on,” said Eric Meek, a 20-year-old glassmaker who works at the Corning Museum. “With glassmaking, it’s difficult to have the opportunity to do that, so what we do is demystify glass for the designers. They bring new designs and new ideas and you never know what you’re going to have to make.”

Other artists who will try out their designs on glass at Governors Island include Eric Ku, James Victore, Mike Perry and Chris and Dominic Leong. Click here to see a schedule. See a slideshow of glassmaking below.

Glasswork sits on a fridge used to cool glass.
Glasswork sits on a fridge used to cool glass. ( Jorteh Senah )
Several pieces of glassmaking equipment.
Several pieces of glassmaking equipment. ( Jorteh Senah )
Glassblowing rods sit in an oven.
Glassblowing rods sit in an oven. ( Jorteh Senah )
One of several ovens used to heat glass.
One of several ovens used to heat glass. ( Jorteh Senah )
The annealing oven.
The annealing oven. ( Jorteh Senah )
A GlassLab glassmaker heats glass in an annealing oven.
A GlassLab glassmaker heats glass in an annealing oven. ( Jorteh Senah )
The orange glow from the high temperatures of the annealing oven.
The orange glow from the high temperatures of the annealing oven. ( Jorteh Senah )
Excess molten glass is placed in a pail of water.
Excess molten glass is placed in a pail of water. ( Jorteh Senah )
A discarded piece of molten glass submerged in water.
A discarded piece of molten glass submerged in water. ( Jorteh Senah )
A wooden bowl is used to shape the glass.
A wooden bowl is used to shape the glass. ( Jorteh Senah )
Glassmaker Eric Meek molds glass on his way to creating a glass buoy.
Glassmaker Eric Meek molds glass on his way to creating a glass buoy. ( Jorteh Senah )
Air is used to shape a piece of glass.
Air is used to shape a piece of glass. ( Jorteh Senah )
The audience at Governors Island observes the GlassLab performance.
The audience at Governors Island observes the GlassLab performance. ( Jorteh Senah )
The ink from a magazine page is used to add color to the glass.
The ink from a magazine page is used to add color to the glass. ( Jorteh Senah )
Meek prepares to separate two pieces of glass.
Meek prepares to separate two pieces of glass. ( Jorteh Senah )
Meek uses a blade to separate the glass.
Meek uses a blade to separate the glass. ( Jorteh Senah )
A glassmaker uses a metal tool to shape the glass.
A glassmaker uses a metal tool to shape the glass. ( Jorteh Senah )
Glassmakers combine separate pieces of glass to form the buoy.
Glassmakers combine separate pieces of glass to form the buoy. ( Jorteh Senah )
A glassmaker in an outfit made to protect himself from the heat handles a finished glass buoy.
A glassmaker in an outfit made to protect himself from the heat handles a finished glass buoy. ( Jorteh Senah )
Meek adds the finishing touches to a glass buoy.
Meek adds the finishing touches to a glass buoy. ( Jorteh Senah )
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