If you plan a trip to the Corning Museum of Glass with kids, don’t overlook the Make Your Own Glass experience. The kids will be very excited to do this, and to be honest, it’s awesome for adults as well.
The studio is in another building and you choose an item to make when you make your reservation (they take walk-ins as well, but best to reserve ahead of time). There are two glass making areas, the hot glass oven area, and the flame work/fusing area. Those not making glass can stand very close by to take photos, and there are wonderful displays in the waiting area of glass pieces made in the studio, so you won’t be bored waiting.
We chose to make two blown glass sculptures shaped a bit like pears, an ornament and a flower, which is a glass forming project. Of the items in this area, the flower was the most interactive and he got to do more work on it than the blown glass projects.
When you check in, you choose the glass colors you want (I changed mine before I started, since my son and I initially chose almost the same palette) and get a pair of safety goggles. Those doing the glass forming work get additional protective gear. Before the session, the workers give a demonstration of what you’ll need to do for the blowing and how to prepare. They have three stations and you work individually with the glass worker.
They’ll get the blobs of clear glass out of the oven, then dip them into the colored glass pieces, turning all the while so the blob stays centered. They bring it over to the work area, where you clean off the blower tip with alcohol and put a disposable mouthpiece on. As you blow (when they tell you to), they turn the rod to keep the glass ball even. It goes back and forth to the oven several times, and they do the shaping for you. The blowing isn’t difficult – we saw a 6 year old do it with no problem. You won’t know what it looks like until it’s cooled in the oven, as hot glass colors are different than cool glass colors.
With blowing projects, you don’t do much yourself. You choose your colors and you blow a few times. If you want a more interactive project, choose a glass forming one, a fusing one or a flameworking one.
After the piece is shaped and blown, they tap it off the rod and add a blob of glass to the bottom (for the sculpture) or to the top (for the ornament) to seal it off, and you get a brief photo opportunity before the glass goes into another oven for the annealing process. At this point the glass is a couple thousand degrees, and the annealing oven is 900 or 1,000 degrees. The glass needs time to cool down slowly overnight, or it will crack. You can pick up your glass the next day after noon, or pay extra for shipping.
For the flower project, the glass worker made a clear glass flower to show my husband what he’d need to do first, and then I guess put the whole thing back in the oven to reuse. There are tools he used to shape the petals, by pulling the hot glass out while the glass worker turned the rod. He helped form the stem as well. He really enjoyed making it, though as a left-handed person, it was a bit tougher for him than for others, as it’s not set up for lefties. If you’re a leftie, make sure to tell the glass worker before you start!
Flamework and fusing
While we didn’t do the flamework or the fusing projects, we saw a bit of what was happening over there. For the flamework projects, the guest worked directly with a glass worker, and the guest was suited up appropriately with safety glasses and arm protection. Those doing the fusing projects (you can see some glass fusing here)
If you go
Ages: The glass blowing projects can be done by any age (all you do is blow a few times). The minimum age for fusing projects is 4, and age 10 for flameworking projects. Those wanting to do paperweights or flowers need to be at least 14.
Types of projects: You can see a full list of glassmaking projects and costs here.
- Fusing: clock, frame or mirror, nightlight, tic-tac-toe, windchime, suncatcher
- Flameworking: bead, pendant, sea slug
- Glass forming: paperweight, flower
- Glass blowing: ornament, sculpture
- Sandblasting: glass cup
They offer seasonal pieces, like pumpkins in the fall and snowmen and trees in the winter, for glassblowing. And seasonal pendants as well.
Tickets: You can get tickets in advance online (recommended since they have limited numbers of spots for each project). You can buy tickets at the front desk of the museum. They have a ticket booth upstairs by the Innovations Center (just by the escalator leading from the back of the building where there’s a parking lot). And you can get tickets at the studio itself.
Cost: Make your own glass projects range from $13 to $46. Most are $21 or $30. You pay for shipping if you’re not available to pick up the glass forming, glass blowing or glass fusing projects the next day. They’ll ship the flamework items for free and you can bring sandblasting items home with you after making them.
Disclosure: We were guests of the museum for adult entrance tickets and for the glassmaking experience. All opinions are my own, and the glassmaking staff did not know we were guests of the museum.
All photos are copyrighted to Deborah Abrams Kaplan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.