Hot Shop Intern for the Day

By Alex Carr, Communications Manager

The Museum of Glass Hot Shop Team once again kindly extended the invitation to be a Hot Shop intern for the day to Museum staff – a unique opportunity that I did not want to miss.

I completed a half-day internship in the Hot Shop last year, but was eager to return for a full day this time around. I spend a lot of time on the studio floor taking pictures for the Museum’s social media, so I have the opportunity to watch MOG’s Hot Shop artists up close. Observing them is certainly enough to make anyone admire their skills, but assisting them as a Hot Shop intern gave me a whole new appreciation and respect for their craft, talent, and teamwork.

Shielding gaffer Gabe Feenan.

Thanks to their guidance, and teasing, I walked away at the end of the day having learned a few new things…

  1. Glass is delicate. The lightest touch of a paddle can change the shape of glass – something I did not quite grasp when first told to paddle lightly or paddle hard. I thought I needed to push the paddle as hard as I could against the glass vessel in order to create a flat base. Turns out, you don’t need to push that hard.
  2. Timing is everything. With the help of the full-time, and far more talented, Hot Shop intern, I worked with smaller pieces in the Hot Shop’s garage, transferring them from the garage to the furnace and then finally to the Visiting Artist, who picked them up to attach them to a vessel. There are many moving parts in the Hot Shop, so the timing between putting the vessel back into the glory hole and getting the pieces in the garage ready had to be just right.
  3. Drink water. I know, duh. But when the temperature rises outside (thank you unusually warm Puget Sound spring…) so does the temperature inside the Hot Shop, as if it wasn’t hot enough. I was reminded to drink plenty of water, but by 4 pm, the heat was becoming exhausting.  When people start to ask if you are okay because your face is turning the color of a tomato, that’s a good time to take a little break.
  4. Burned hair smells like corn nuts. It all happened so quickly. One minute I was standing by the bench with the Team’s gaffer, Gabe Feenan, and the next minute flames from his blow torch were going over my arm. Upon realizing I had lost some arm hair, and voicing my alarm, I was met with “doesn’t it smell like corn nuts?”
  5. Amber Cowan is great. Amber Cowan was the Visiting Artist for the week, and she was nothing but friendly and encouraging when I showed up for my day in the Hot Shop. In the back of my mind I was worried that she would be concerned about me assisting, but if she was, she didn’t show it.
My supervisors for the day. From left to right: Amber Cowan, Gabe Feenan, Will Bell, Sarah Gilbert, and Benjamin Cobb.
My supervisors for the day. From left to right: Amber Cowan, Gabe Feenan, Will Bell, Sarah Gilbert, and Benjamin Cobb.

Alex Carr is the Communications Manager at Museum of Glass. When she’s not circulating the Hot Shop floor trying to get the perfect Instagram shot for the Museum, you’ll find her baking at home, running at Green Lake, or exploring Washington’s wineries.


Five Minutes with Amber Cowan

Amber Cowan will be working in the Museum of Glass Hot Shop from May 4 through 8. MOG’s Visiting Artist is currently a faculty member of the glass department at Tyler School of Art in Pennsylvania and her work is represented by Heller Gallery in New York. Cowan is known for searching flea markets and thrift shops for discarded objects such as teacups, plates, and dishes and transforming these discarded items into decorative sculptures ornamented with of swans, lambs, roses, leaves, and floral layers.

Photo courtesy of Amber Cowan.

MOG caught up with Amber before her residency to talk art, flea markets, and pastries.

I started collecting objects at flea markets, in thrift stores, and on eBay when…

I was in graduate school, from 2009 to 2011. I began working with old glass when I found a barrel of old factory cullet at Tyler. This barrel was from an old run of easter candy dishes. Since people have started learning about my work, I now get packages from people all over the country. Sometimes people I have never met send me old glass that they don’t want to keep, but feel sad about throwing it out. They know that I will give it a new history.

Amber Cowan; Bottle Bowl, 2012; Flameworked and fused recycled wine bottles; 15 x 15 x 2 inches; Photo courtesy of the artist.
Amber Cowan; Bottle Bowl, 2012; Flameworked and fused recycled wine bottles; 15 x 15 x 2 inches; Photo courtesy of the artist.

I source most of my glass from…

An old cullet yard in West Virginia. But, I am also always looking for new places to get old glass at good prices. I just discovered an amazing store in Richmond, Virginia, that was the biggest vintage glass and ceramic store that I had ever seen.

If I wasn’t working in glass, I would…

Probably be a pastry chef.

The last time I was on the west coast was…

When I was visiting a friend in LA and then drove out to Joshua Tree. The last time I was in Washington state was last August, when a friend and I drove from San Diego to Seattle and then I taught at Pratt for the week.

During my residency I hope to…

Get inspired about new directions I can take my work. I have created a special press mold for my residency based of an old vintage milk glass hand. I had the old piece 3-D scanned and another faculty member at Tyler milled the graphite for me to create the mold. I can now reproduce this vintage piece very easily. I am excited to see where this process can take me when it is combined with the skilled glassblowers at Museum of Glass.

Plan a visit to Museum of Glass to see Visiting Artist Amber Cowan working, or tune into her residency online.