The Great Glass Pumpkin

By Alex Carr, Communications Manager

In honor of National Pumpkin Day, which took place on October 26, I thought it appropriate to share the story of the Great Glass Pumpkin.

On October 15, Tacoma Glassblowing Studio and Hilltop Artists joined together in the Museum of Glass (MOG) Hot Shop to blow an enormous glass pumpkin. The much anticipated event occurred on the evening of Third Thursday, during which the Museum offers free admission between 5 and 8 pm, sponsored by Columbia Bank. The word had spread that the two teams were going to attempt this festive feat, drawing hundreds of visitors to the Museum of Glass Hot Shop.

Before I dive into the making of the Great Glass Pumpkin, let’s take a quick journey to the east coast. The Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) in New York claims the record for the world’s largest glass pumpkin, which measures 97 inches in circumference and weighs 70 pounds. It took CMOG 50 hours of work and 17 attempts to create the largest blown glass pumpkin!

With only three hours to blow an enormous pumpkin, the Tacoma Glassblowing Studio and Hilltop Artists teams were not planning to break this record.

Pumpkin 4

World records aside, what the artists accomplished at Museum of Glass in those three hours was nothing short of spectacular. Glassblowing is a team sport, and due to the number of gathers (the process of collecting a mass of molten glass on the end of a blow pipe) required for the Great Glass Pumpkin, this particular event was a massive team effort.

Once the mass of molten glass had been gathered and rolled in color (to make it orange, of course), the teams had to insert it into a blow mold.

It was make or break. Literally. Once blown into the mold, the glass would either hold its shape or shatter once the mold was removed.

To everyone’s relief (and joy!) the Great Glass Pumpkin survived. With the final touch of the stem fused on top of the pumpkin, the Hot Shop crowd roared in applause!

The fun didn’t stop there. Once the Great Glass Pumpkin came out of the annealer, it was time to measure it, and who better to measure a pumpkin than an official state fair pumpkin judge?

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Ron Barker gets ready to measure the Great Glass Pumpkin.

Ron Barker was the man for the task, and he went above and beyond in making what could have been a very quick wrap-the-tape-measure-around-the-pumpkin feel very official. Ron has traveled around Washington and Oregon measuring enormous home-grown pumpkins, and on the day of the Great Glass Pumpkin measure, he brought two of these specimens to the Museum!

While the Great Glass Pumpkin may look small next to these enormous real pumpkins, which weigh over 1,500 pounds each, Ron’s measuring tape revealed a circumference of 88 and 1/2 inches, just under 10 inches shy of CMOG’s world record.

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This was truly a spectacular achievement for a glass pumpkin that was created in only three hours!

Ron was also able to take enough measurements to calculate what the Great Glass Pumpkin would weigh if it were a real gourd. As a glass pumpkin, it weighs between 50 and 60 pounds, but if it were real, it would weigh a whopping 360 pounds!

The Great Glass Pumpkin is on display in the Museum of Glass Store through October 31, after which it will head home to Tacoma Glassblowing Studio.

Congrats to Tacoma Glassblowing Studio and Hilltop Artists on the Great Glass Pumpkin!

Tacoma Glassblowing Studio and Hilltop Artists teams after making the Great Glass Pumpkin.
Tacoma Glassblowing Studio and Hilltop Artists teams after making the Great Glass Pumpkin.

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.

The French Glass Tradition

By Walt Lieberman, Artist, Educator and Hot Shop Emcee

France has a long and proud tradition in glass. Throughout the ages, the French artists have made important contributions to the field. The French first come to prominence with the stained glass windows in great cathedrals of the Middle Ages. These magnificent windows were the jewels in the crown of these stately buildings. They were an expression of great art and great faith. You can still see them today in churches like Sainte-Chapelle, Chartres and Notre Dame.

Scene of Baptism Stained glass Last quarter of the 12th century. From the Sainte-Chapelle de Paris Paris, France
Scene of Baptism
Stained glass
Last quarter of the 12th century. From the Sainte-Chapelle de Paris
Paris, France

There were also other lesser known, but equally impressive traditions such as the lampworked glass figures called “verre de Nevers”. Starting in the 1600s, French artisans made beautiful and highly detailed figures. The figures were made from glass rods melted on to a metal wire armature. The subjects spanned the gamut from lowly farm animals to Marie Antoinette.

"Marie Antoinette Sacrifices the Heart of the Nobility on the Alter of the French Republic" Pierre Haly, lampworked glass Nevers, France 1790
“Marie Antoinette Sacrifices the Heart of the Nobility on the Alter of the French Republic”
Pierre Haly,
lampworked glass
Nevers, France
1790

The process for making large mirrors was invented in France in the late 1600s. This was done by casting large rough glass plates, which were then ground down and polished. You can see spectacular examples of this in the Hall of Mirrors at Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles.

In the 1700s France saw the beginnings of the great crystal factories of Baccarat and St. Louis (pronounced sahn-loo-ee). They made glass favored by royalty and elegant tableware and sparkling chandeliers. The pure brilliant lead glass was cut with perfection and skill. In the 1800s the St. Louis the oldest glass factory in France made intricate paperweights unsurpassed in their skillful execution.

Vase Compagnie des Verreries et Cristalleries de Baccarat France about 1889-1898
Vase
Compagnie des Verreries et Cristalleries de Baccarat
France
about 1889-1898
Floral Paperweight Compagnie des Cristalleries de Saint Louis, Late 1800s
Floral Paperweight
Compagnie des Cristalleries de Saint Louis,
Late 1800s

Perhaps the greatest French influence on glassmaking was the artist Emile Gallé. Gallé started in his father’s factory and went on to become the most important glass artist of the Art Nouveau movement. His interests in botany, nature and poetry were major influences in his work. He is most famous for his cameo vases, which were made with multiple layers of different colored glasses. They were then carved back through those layers to create intricate multi-colored designs that often featured the flora and fauna of the Lorraine where he lived and worked. His work was an inspiration to many others like the Daum brothers of Nancy, France and even Orrefors, the famous Swedish glass factory

Le Débat éternel (The Eternal Debate) Emile Gallé Mold-blown, cased and cut glass Nancy, France about 1889-1898
Le Débat éternel (The Eternal Debate)
Emile Gallé
Mold-blown, cased and cut glass
Nancy, France
about 1889-1898

René Lalique was the French genius of glass for the industrial age. He was a major artist of the Art Deco period, but started his career as a jeweler. He shocked the aristocracy by using colored glass together with precious metals and jewels in his pieces. Later, he would build a business on glass alone. He produced beautiful art glass utilizing the means of mass production and was one of the few glass artists to build a very successful business. Lalique made everything under the sun out of glass, including clocks, fountains, vases and even hood ornaments for cars.

"Escargot" René Lalique Mold-blown glass Combs-la-Ville, France 1920
“Escargot”
René Lalique
Mold-blown glass
Combs-la-Ville, France
1920

Today the French art glass is alive and well thanks to the outstanding artists of Biot. The Museum of Glass has been honored to welcome them to our Hot Shop in the past and hopes to continue developing this special glass art relationship.