Playing with fire
Glass artist Christopher Orr adds color to a hot bog of molten glass.
Michael A. Foley/MAF Photography
Christopher Orr is peering into a 2,200-degree furnace, twirling a long pole in his hands and looking more relaxed than someone should when they’re standing a few feet away from a couple hundred pounds of liquid glass. Pulling the pole from the furnace, he shows off a few ounces of molten glass, glowing at its end.
Orr—who has been blowing glass since 1994—deftly turns the clear lump into a multicolored, wavy-edged bowl that measures a foot in diameter. Gather, roll, add color, reheat, blow, gather, roll. . .This repetitive process requires countless reheats of the glass and about 25 minutes of intense workmanship.
On this particular autumn day, Orr’s 16-person audience at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens oohs and aahs with each new technique. He fields questions throughout the process, then detaches the bowl from the blow stick and wipes sweat from his face.
Orr, whose construction company built the conservatory’s Hot Shop, isn’t a professional glassblower. A graduate of Columbus College of Art & Design, he says glass-blowing is a hobby and his “first love of art.”
He’s one of the many glass-blowers who do daily demonstrations at the conservatory’s Hot Shop from mid-March to December. During those months, Hot Nights workshops give visitors the chance to try their own hand at glass-blowing, and personal training sessions allow for one-on-one experiences. Items made in the Hot Shop, as well as pieces from visiting artists, are sold year-round in the conservatory gift shop.
But if you can’t wait until March to start blowing your own bowl or vase, here are a few other options.
55 S. First St., Newark
Demonstrations: Tue-Fri at 1 pm (January), Tue-Sat at 1 and 3 pm (Feb-May and September-December), Tue-Sat at 1 pm (June and August).
Classes/workshops: Classes vary; visit the website for more information. Drop-in workshops are the third Saturday of the month.
Private training: Two hour minimum, limited to two people, by appointment only.
Shop hours: Tue-Sat 9 am-5 pm year-round; Sun noon-5 pm January-March.
Special glass-blowing event Cocktails by the Fire at the Works in Newark, 7-9 pm Feb. 4. Visit attheworks.org for more information.
1341-B Norton Ave., Grandview
Demonstrations: Usually the last Saturday of the month, 4-6 pm.
Classes: Numerous and vary by day; visit the website for more information.
Shop hours: Mon-Wed and Fri, 9:30 am-2:30 pm and Thu, 9:30 am-7 pm.
Emma Frankart is an assistant editor for Columbus Monthly.