Glass blowers create a wide range of glass products by forcing air into molten glass to form desired shapes. Some form everyday shapes such as bowls and glasses, while others create more artistic forms such as ornaments and stained glass. Some professionals also work in the scientific field, making lab items such as test tubes and beakers. They may specialize in a variety of mediums or concentrate on one. Although a small number of people in this profession still blow glass with their mouths, the majority use specialized equipment to manipulate the air.
Glass blowing, whether used to create artistic or practical items, requires excellent attention to detail and skills unique to the profession. Glass products are created by capturing gobs of molten glass on the end of a tube and forcing air through the tube to expand the gob into the desired size. Once the size is right, the glass blower manipulates it by hand or with machines to form it into the chosen shape. After the items dry, glass blowers normally inspect the items to assure they meet the level of quality demanded by the artists or customers.
Many in this profession work at small studios and produce decorative items such as stained glass windows, vases, lamp bases, decorative mirrors and ornaments. Some glass blow artists only design and produce pieces for art shows and exhibitions. Glass blowers who make glass tubing, pipes, test tubes and other commercial, scientific and industrial blown glass items commonly work in production and manufacturing environments. A significant number of glass blowers work exclusively in the field of glass repair, renovation and restoration.
In addition to blowing glass into various shapes using a blowing iron, glass blowers who fall into the artisan category typically apply other skills to their work. These techniques often include sandblasting the glass surface, etching patterns into it with acid or engraving decorative patterns around the objects’ perimeters. Sometimes the pieces are embellished with colored or enameled glass that is soldered in place.
Workers in the non-artisan sector of this industry generally follow stringent production guidelines established by medical, scientific and industrial equipment professionals. These items generally include laboratory tools and apparatuses, specimen containers and glass enclosures that require specific tempering. Glass tools and implements used for applications that resist metal surfaces are also commonly produced by commercial glass blowers.
No formal education is required for this job. A glass blower frequently has a background that includes instruction and education in art, metalwork or industrial tool production. Some art institutes offer classes in glass blowing, and some glass blowers provide private classes for those who desire to learn the art. Industrial glass blowers traditionally received on-the-job training. Solid knowledge in chemistry or physics is usually preferred for industrial positions.