What the heck is a Flameworker??
I am a Glass Artist who lives on the West Coast of Canada. I do a style of Glassblowing that is called Flameworking or Lampworking. Which means that I use a direct flame on a torch to heat and melt my glass. Most commonly we are called lampworkers because the ancient glass artists used to actually use oil lamps to melt their glass. But I decided to claim the Flameworker title because it sounds way more badass like I'm a God of Fire of something! Muahaha! Plus lampworkers are generally grannies sitting around making beads on sticks... No offense grannies but...Boring!
So I don't do the big traditional style of glassblowing either which is what most people are familiar with. Have you seen the Netflix show "Blown Away"? (if you haven't, you should, it's amazing!) But ya that's what that is. I do not do that. Although that is some super crazy badass glasswork that I hope to one day try, it is not a very accessible style of glassblowing. Like how is someone ever going to be able to have their own studio of that size? It probably costs like $10,000 just for the furnace alone! I am a broke ass millennial artist who is nowhere able to afford a setup like that, and renting to use that space probably ain't sustainable if you're trying to make a living off of glass like I am. Plus you generally need a team of people to help you since all the tools are so big and heavy. It sounds like a great bonding experience but I am an introvert and absolutely LOVE working from home :).
Another big difference between my style and that style is the type of glass that we use. They use soft glass which means that it is very fragile and if you tink it on something, it will generally shatter into a million tiny pieces, yikes. Hard to come back from that one... I work in hard glass which is MUCH more durable and can withstand more than a tink, it can actually withstand a bang! If I drop one of my pieces onto the ground, it will not shatter, sometimes it even bounces! Usually a side piece will pop off or it will break down the middle which is usually fixable. This is much more ideal for someone like me because I am very clumsy and not very delicate - like a bull in a glass shop one could say 😅. The nerdy scientific name for my glass is borosilicate, the laymans popular brandname for this type of glass is Pyrex. Y'all know that one right? Great! So... the two types of glass melt and move at different temperatures which enables soft glass to be worked from a molten state since it requires lower temps. Hard glass has to be melted in the moment using my big blue flame that reaches 3000 degrees Fahrenheit! Spicy! The kicker though, is that it cools rather quickly, so I only have about 5-10 seconds to manipulate the glass before it phase shifts from a liquid back to a solid. This means you gotta be quick and know what you're gonna do before you start working your piece. Because of this short window available for creation, we flameworkers only heat the specific part of the piece we are working on instead of heating up the entire piece like the softies do in their glory holes! Tehe, naughty! 😜
This is another reason why we are called Flameworkers, because we are constantly adjusting the size and type of flame we are using to best suite the job. If we wanna work on the overall shape of our piece, we are gonna use a big, wide, and hot flame. If we are adding small details to the piece, we are gonna use a tiny, thin, cooler flame. On a more sciency note...(if you don't like science, first - boo, second - you can skip to the next paragraph). We also change up the chemical composition of our flame by adjusting the propane to oxygen ratio. If we have more oxygen then it becomes a hot Oxidizing flame, if we have more propane then it becomes a cooler Reducing flame. Y'all remember in high school chemistry learning LEO goes GER? Loosing Electrons is Oxidization, Gaining Electrons is Reduction? Maybe not but I sure do cuz chemistry was my favourite subject in school... Okay okay I know, a bit too nerdy BUT I'm getting to a really cool point about colour changing glass! 😲 There are some colours of glass that will change colour depending on which flame type you use, a reducing or an oxidizing, they are called Polychromatics! This is because every colour is made from different metal and every metal puts off a different colour when subjected to heat. The blues come from cobalt, the reds come from cadmium, etc. All the glass that I use is a different mixture of metals to create different hues and tones. Fun stuff!
Ok so if you're still with me through all that nerd talk I applaud your curiosity! Also, sike to those who skipped forward hoping to avoid the science, there's more! The big reason that I like glassblowing is because of all the science that is involved in the artform. I was not an artistic person when I found glass but this science art stuff worked for my brain! There is also lots of physics involved like the phase shifting from solid to liquid then back to a solid. During that time I have to be constantly rotating the molten ball of glass that is floating between two solid glass handles. If I don't rotate it constantly then my arch nemesis Gravity will overtake my glass blob and make it all fall to the floor. I am always fighting against the force of gravity so my piece doesn't slump to one side or thicken too much in one area, it sure keeps me vigilant!
Ok I think that is a pretty big info dump for one day. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments, I would be happy to answer them for you. Thanks so much for taking a read to learn about my type of glassblowing, Flameworking! Tune in next time for more nerdy facts about glass and to learn a bit about me as a human!
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Amazing! I had no idea that there was so much science in Flamework. From what I’d seen you are passionate about you work and you make beautiful pieces! I’d love to see you work. Thanks for sharing❣️
Love learning about the different glass art forms! Flame Worker does sound hella bad ass! ❤️