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How Glassblowing Works

Glassblowing Artist: The Master Glassblower
As a studio art form, glassblowing has gained in popularity in the U.S. since it first become a hit in the 1960's.
As a studio art form, glassblowing has gained in popularity in the U.S. since it first become a hit in the 1960's.

­The history of glassblowing is long and rich, continuing through the ages up to modern times. From its beginning in Syria and its whirlwind development across the span of the Roman Empire, to the stately days of Venetian glass after the turn of the next millennium, and culminating in the American Studio Glass Movement of the 1960s, glassblowing has had a subtle, yet vital, place in human life for more than 2,000 years.

The American Studio Glass Movement began when a man named Harvey Littleton founded the first fine arts glass program in the United States in 1962 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Along with collaborator and workshop partner Dominick Labino, the pair developed many of the practices and technologies necessary for glass making to evolve out of purely industrial applications and move into artists' studios.

The fundamental impact of their work was the development of a vibrant art form, which swiftly gained in popularity over the past half century. One factor that contributed to that success is the culture of collaboration and education that has grown up in the vitreous world. The student becomes the master, as it were; Marvin Lipofsky, one of Littleton's first generation of students founded the nation's second fine arts glass program at the University of California, Berkeley. Another early student you may have heard of, Dale Chihuly, earned an M.S. under Littleton and went on to establish the glass program at the Rhode Island School of Design.

It takes years to master the art of blowing glass, but for those interested in the challenges and rewards of that commitment, there are many different ways to achieve that end. Besides university programs like those mentioned above, students can usually apprentice with a glassblower or take classes at a variety of venues. Glass museums and glass art studios often offer classes and educational opportunities. Some schools are completely dedicated to teaching the art of glassblowing. One such example is the Pilchuck Glass School, which Chihuly co-founded in Stanwood, Wash., in 1971.

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