Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
By Colin Smith Staff Writer
Glass art became a performance at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts this past week. From Oct. 5 to Oct. 14, “The Hot Glass Roadshow” brought its tour to the KIA and performed at least six times per day for a total of 60 shows. For seven dollars, or five for members of KIA, spectators watched multiple molten globs of glass transform into a solid design by the end of a half-hour performance.
The Hot Glass Roadshow’s tour of Kalamazoo involved multiple professionals stationed at their GlassLab workshop. At the beginning of each show, three or four glass blowers met onstage to decide what they wanted to transform into a spectacle for the audience. In Kalamazoo they made glass pumpkins—colored glass plumped up full of air and topped off with a green swirl.
The glass blowing team traveled to Kalamazoo with the help of their mobile trailer, called the “GlassLab.” They brought this trailer along on a recent European tour and have become internationally recognized as artists. In fact, the artists recently began performances on cruise ships.
According to team manager Steve Gibbs, the best part of blowing glass as performance art is the spontaneity he finds in the art form.
“It’s real people doing their real job, doing what they love to do everyday,” Gibbs said.
These artists craft vases, bowls and other designs in the matter of minutes in front of a live audience every day. They start with a preheated blowpipe and with a ball of gooey glass. Then they rotate the pipe while sticking it into a furnace. In order to expand the glass, a glassblower breathes into the end of the pipe. After molding the glass into the desired shape, the blower briefly submerges it in water. Other tools, such as large pliers and other metal objects—both blunt and sharp—are used to manipulate the hot glass.
The year 2012 marks “the 50th anniversary of the development of contemporary glass in the United States,” one of the KIA staffers said. For those who missed seeing the process of glassblowing, the KIA is offering a glass art exhibit called “Expressions: International Glass Invitational” this year.