Tag Archives: Nick Davis

Care and Feeding of the Glass Furnace

By Greg Owen, Manager of Audience Engagement and Hot Shop Heroes 

The artists that work in the Museum of Glass Hot Shop require fresh, hot glass, which is free from imperfections, in order to realize their creations. It is the responsibility of the Museum’s Hot Shop technicians to keep the furnaces filled up and in good working order. The two furnaces at Museum of Glass have 1,000-pound appetites, and they need to be fed fairly often. The furnaces also live fast and die young; burning at 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, 24 hours a day, for years at a time is a rough life. They eventually deteriorate and have to be rebuilt, which is an expensive and time-consuming process. Melting beautiful glass is a balance between speed and quality, with the quality of the glass being the most important consideration.

Loading glass into the furnaces is called charging the furnace, and today we are going to take a look at technician Trenton Quiocho charging our day tank. Commercially available glass comes in one of two ways: in its raw, un-melted form, which is called batch, or as chunks of glass which have already been melted once, which is called cullet. Trenton begins the charging process by turning the furnace up to 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 160 degrees hotter than the furnace usually runs. While the furnace warms up, Trenton opens up bags of nuggets and loads them into specially designed charging trolleys.

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The nuggets are rinsed off with a hose to remove any dust or impurities, which may contaminate the glass, and then wheeled over to the furnace. Some people pre-heat their glass in an oven before charging it, especially if they are using batch in a very wet climate. The charging process is a strain on the furnace. It is asked to run significantly hotter than it usually does, which causes the materials used to build the furnace to break down faster than they would otherwise. Charging is a scientific process of trying to get the highest quality of glass possible, in the shortest possible time, with the least amount of stress on the furnace.

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Once the furnace is hot enough, Trenton will open the door and begin to dump glass into the furnace, being careful not to spill any glass on the area where you rest your blowpipe, called the sill. Two bags of nuggets totals 100 pounds of glass, and that is enough for one charge. You don’t want to put too much glass in at once, or the cold glass at the bottom of the pile will take too long to melt. Achieving an even, consistent melt is very important for the quality of the glass, so Trenton will use a metal rake to spread the cullet out over the surface of the glass that is already melted.

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100 pounds of cullet will take an hour or so to melt, so Trenton will peek into the furnace from time to time to see how it’s doing. Once all the cold glass is completely melted, the next charge will be thrown on top. This process is then repeated throughout the day until the furnace is filled up to (but not over) the sill. When the furnace is filled completely, the temperature will be adjusted in order to bring the glass back to a good working consistency. (If the glass stayed at melting temperature, it would be so runny that it would be difficult to gather it up on the end of a blowpipe, but perfect for ladling glass into open face molds.) Unwanted bubbles are often the enemy of many glassblowers, and if there are a lot of bubbles in a fresh charge, then a squeeze is required. Squeezing the furnace is a way to push all the bubbles to the surface of the glass, so they can pop and disappear. It is achieved by lowering the temperature of the furnace so that the glass starts to shrink, and pushes the bubbles out.

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You can see that quite a bit of work and thought goes into charging our furnaces at Museum of Glass. Lead technician Nick Davis and technician Trenton Quiocho work tirelessly behind the scenes in order to provide an exceptional experience for our artists and visitors.

Now when you visit Museum of Glass, you’ll know just how much our technicians do to keep the Hot Shop running!

Greg Owen is the Manager of Audience Engagement and Hot Shop Heroes at Museum of Glass. Greg can be seen working the mic as the Hot Shop studio emcee, assisting Visiting Artists, and teaching soldiers how to blow glass during Hot Shop Heroes: Healing with Fire classes. 

Making Treasure-trove

By Katie Phelps, Curatorial Assistant and Visiting Artist Coordinator

Our upcoming exhibition Into the Deep takes a look at glass artists who are inspired by the ocean. Glass is an incredible medium, and it allows artists to capture the effects of being underwater better than any other artistic medium.

Last November, artists Kelly O’Dell and Raven Skyriver collaborated on a series of barnacle-encrusted shells, which will be featured in the exhibition, in the Museum of Glass Hot Shop. The complex process is a great example how versatile the medium of glass can be.

The stripes on the clamshell begin as flattened pieces of cane (colored glass) which are heated until they are hot enough to stick together. Here, Nick Davis, MOG’s Hot Shop Tech, is squeezing the hot pieces of cane together so they form a flat panel.

The stripes on the clamshell begin as flattened pieces of cane (colored glass) which are heated until they are hot enough to stick together. Here, Nick Davis, MOG’s Hot Shop Tech, is squeezing the hot pieces of cane together so they form a flat panel.

Next, artist Raven Skyriver picks up the stripes of cane using a piece of hot, clear glass shaped like a plunger. The hot clear glass sticks to the flat panel of cane, and forms a half dome shape. The clear appendage will be used to shape the flat stripes of color into a bubble.

Next, artist Raven Skyriver picks up the stripes of cane using a piece of hot, clear glass shaped like a plunger. The hot clear glass sticks to the flat panel of cane, and forms a half dome shape. The clear appendage will be used to shape the flat stripes of color into a bubble.

After the flattened cane is picked up onto the plunger, Skyriver uses a pair of shears to trim away the excess glass along the edge of the circle created by the plunger, sealing it into a clear glass dome with a colorful, striped base.

After the flattened cane is picked up onto the plunger, Skyriver uses a pair of shears to trim away the excess glass along the edge of the circle created by the plunger, sealing it into a clear glass dome with a colorful, striped base.

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The newly-formed dome is heated in the glory hole, and then rolled across a steel table called a marver to create a smooth bubble that is half clear glass, and half colored cane stripes.

The newly-formed dome is heated in the glory hole, and then rolled across a steel table, called a marver,  to create a smooth bubble that is half clear glass, and half colored cane stripes.

In order to start making the clam shape, the colored stripes need to be removed from their clear glass holder. The stripe canes are pinched inward to form their own bubble, and then connected to another blowpipe, so that they can be separated from the clear glass, and blown into a clamshell shape.

In order to start making the clam shape, the colored stripes need to be removed from their clear glass holder. The stripe canes are pinched inward to form their own bubble, and then connected to another blowpipe, so that they can be separated from the clear glass, and blown into a clamshell shape.

Tah-dah! After about 45 minutes of adding more clear molten glass, inflating the bubble by breathing into the blowpipe, and carefully sculpting the shape with tools, the bubble is beginning to look more like a clamshell. You can see the stripes from the cane, which have stretched and curved as the glass has been shaped.

Tah-dah! After about 45 minutes of adding more clear molten glass, inflating the bubble by exhaling into the blowpipe, and carefully sculpting the shape with tools, the bubble is beginning to look more like a clamshell. You can see the stripes from the cane, which have stretched and curved as the glass has been shaped.

Hot Shop Team member Sarah Gilbert transfers the piece from the bench, where the artists are working, to the gloryhole for it to be heated back up to above 900 degrees Fahrenheit. This is important to keep the glass from cooling too quickly and cracking.

Hot Shop Team member Sarah Gilbert transfers the piece from the bench, where the artists are working, to the gloryhole for it to be heated back up to above 900 degrees Fahrenheit. This is important to keep the glass from cooling too quickly and cracking.

After the artists are satisfied with the shape of the clamshell, it is time to attach the barnacles. These fabulous acorn barnacles are also made of glass. They were created ahead of time by Kelly O’Dell, and in then placed in a furnace in the Hot Shop called the garage – named because pieces are heated to 900 degrees and “parked” at that temperature until they are ready to be used.

After the artists are satisfied with the shape of the clamshell, it is time to attach the barnacles. These fabulous acorn barnacles are also made of glass. They were created ahead of time by Kelly O’Dell, and in then placed in a furnace in the Hot Shop calls the garage – named because pieces are heated to 900 degrees and “parked” at that temperature until they are ready to be used.

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Just before the barnacles are placed on the clamshell, they are loaded onto a pastorale (a flat, metal tray) and heated in the gloryhole to make them the same temperature as the shell.

Kelly O’Dell attaches a heated barnacle to the clamshell using a pair of tweezers. A torch is being used to keep the rest of the glass at the same temperature. Kelly also has a torch which she is using to heat the bottom of the barnacle so the hot glass can stick to the surface of the clamshell.

Kelly O’Dell attaches a heated barnacle to the clamshell using a pair of tweezers. A torch is being used to keep the rest of the glass at the same temperature. Kelly also has a torch which she is using to heat the bottom of the barnacle so the hot glass can stick to the surface of the clamshell.

After the barnacles are applied the whole piece is heated back up in the gloryhole.

After the barnacles are applied, the whole piece is heated back up in the gloryhole.

Now that all of the barnacles have been placed on the shell, the piece is complete. Water is dripped onto the end of the piece, which causes a crack to form where the piece meets the punty (the metal rod it is connected to) and allows the piece to be broken off of the pipe.

Now that all of the barnacles have been placed on the shell, the piece is complete. Water is dripped onto the end of the piece, which causes a crack to form where the piece meets the punty (the metal rod it is connected to) and allows the piece to be broken off of the pipe.

Success! The finished piece is rushed to an annealer, so that it can be cooled slowly overnight to room temperature.

Success! The finished piece is rushed to an annealer, so that it can be cooled slowly overnight to room temperature.

Kelly O’Dell (American, born 1973) and Raven Skyriver (American, born 1982); Treasure-trove, 2016; Blown and sculpted glass; 12 x 16 x 13 inches (30.5 x 40.6 x 33 cm); Courtesy of the artists; Photo by Kp Studios.

After the piece is completely cooled, it is coldworked to add texture to the surface of the shell, and a mount is made. Photo credit: Kelly O’Dell (American, born 1973) and Raven Skyriver (American, born 1982); Treasure-trove, 2016; Blown and sculpted glass; 12 x 16 x 13 inches (30.5 x 40.6 x 33 cm); Courtesy of the artists; Photo by Kp Studios.

The finished piece, Treasure-trove, will be one of the many ocean-inspired pieces featured in Into the Deep. The exhibition opens September 24, 2016. Come check it out!

Thanks to Alex Grümmer for the awesome Hot Shop photos!

Katie Phelps is the Curatorial Assistant/Visiting Artist Coordinator at Museum of Glass. She is an alumnus of Whitman College (BA) and University of Washington (MA). In her life outside of the Museum she is outside as much as possible, wearing skis as often as she does hiking boots.