"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Blowing Glass in Santa Fe

Here in Santa Fe it's all about the arts. Galleries and museums seem to be on every corner, at least those corners where there isn't a restaurant or a government building. (Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico so all it's administrative functions are housed here, in adobe buildings of course.)  Our new friend Kate, a fellow RVer staying next to us here at Santa Fe Skies RV Park, found a participatory art experience in town and we all joined in on the fun.

Ristra of blown glass chiles at Prairie Dog Glass

Kate, her husband John, Rick and I piled in our car and headed to Prairie Dog Glass for an active tutorial in glass blowing. The hour long class was $175 for all four of us. Each student gets to select a small glass design as a finished product to take home with them.  Prairie Dog Glass doesn't have a website, but it is located at the Jackalope Market, 2820 Cerrillos Rd. in Santa Fe. 

I'm going to try to explain the process and illustrate it with pictures of all four of us working on our glass pieces, so it may seem we were all working simultaneously. In reality, brave Kate went first and completed her piece, then we all followed one at a time. Our teacher Richard walked us through every step along the way.

The process starts by dipping the four foot hollow pipe into an oven filled with white-hot molten glass...

...and pulling a glob of it out on the end of the pipe.

The the glob is rolled on a metal table to smooth it out.

Smoothing the hot glass glob

Then you dip the hot glob into a dish of colored glass bits to add whatever color combination you choose.

John adding white to his Seattle Seahawks themed paperweight

My glass chile pepper gets a coating of red color

Rick remelting his glass

After adding the color crystals, the glob goes back in the fire to melt the color into the glass, softening it again in preparation for shaping the form of the finished piece.

I'm wetting down the newspaper pad between rollings

Forming happens in a series of steps, depending on the final product. For Kate's vase and my chile pepper, the forming happened by rolling the hot glass glob on a mat of wet newspaper until it was elongated. Then we blew the right amount of air into it to create the air space inside.

Because Kate went first, every step along the way was a big surprise.

For John's and Rick's designs, the forming entailed pulling the glass glob into a spikey shape to create the swirls inside the paperweight...

...dipping it again in the molten glass, and then rolling it in a wet wooden bowl to create the round shape.

The paperweight gets finished with a final blast of fire before squashing it into a flatter globe.

Kate's vase took a few more shaping steps and more blowing to create a large hollow shape, breaking the shape off the pipe and then reattaching it to create an opening at the other end. 

Richard performed the finishing step of the vase, a quick and dramatic swing of the pipe and the hot glass, that created the rippled fluting of the vase mouth.  We were all in awe of the process and Richard's skills.

We were all pretty happy with our finished products too.

Now what are we going to do with them!  : )


  1. Very, very cool! (Hot?) ;-)

    We are at Santa Fe Skies too, in site 19, for a week. We'd love to say hello sometime and meet your new addition to the family. Are you here for much longer?

    1. Oh! We're in the other site 19 on the other corner of the park. We're here until Monday. Honey is at the vet all day today but she'll be up and about by the weekend. We'll try to catch you soon.

    2. Sounds like she may be getting spayed. We'll keep an eye out for you.

  2. This sounds like so much fun! We use to visit Corning Glass Works in NY for weekend trips and we both enjoyed watching all the glass blowers. I'll have to remember this place when we get to Santa Fe. Thanks for showing all the steps. I really enjoyed reading about your process. The finished products are beautiful!

    1. Thanks! We sure had a lot of fun. I'll bet you'd like it too. It's a different kind of adventure. We're loving Santa Fe as a whole and would recommend Cowgirl BBQ when you're here.

  3. How fun. I'm bookmarking this. We find ourselves passing through Santa Fe somewhat regularly and this sounds like something we shouldn't pass doing. Beautiful finished products.

    1. Thanks Ingrid. Yes, I'm sure you'd enjoy it.


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