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Matt Frost Glassworks

Matt Frost says “Glass chose me!”
He initially hunted for an apprenticeship in ceramics or blacksmithing, never guessing that an opportunity to learn glassblowing would shape his professional future. From his start as a Massachusetts company’s first apprentice, he worked his way up to production manager of 13 other artisans. Then (lucky for us at the gallery!) he came back to Maine to start his own workshop in Strong, near the family antique business. He recently took time to explain and demonstrate how he makes his beautiful objects including vases, ornaments, and glasses.

The beautiful timber framed studio was designed and built by Matt and his friends to provide plentiful indirect lighting, and to vent the heat efficiently from his furnace, which must maintain a temperature of at least 2000 degrees for weeks at a time. He used traditional Maine sugar shack design for inspiration.

Tools of the trade include (front to back) 1. flat paddles for shaping the base or top of a piece and for protection of his arms from the furnace heat. 2. bubble shears for separating the bubble of glass from the blowing pipe, 3.diamond shears which can be used on larger pieces, 4. smaller bubble shears, 5. tweezers, and 6. the jack for shaping molten glass. The charred "book" is damp newspaper. The pretty pile under the table is leftover glass ends.

 

The furnace takes a week to heat up to the 2000 degrees required for the duration of a run, usually 3-6 weeks...hotter while active work is being done. The screen in the foreground can be moved back and forth along the track as needed to protect Matt's body from the heat.


The first step is to take clear melted glass onto the blow pipe from the ceramic vessel where it waits in the furnace.



 

These are basins of the pigment ready to be added onto layers of glass, one by one. Matt always starts with clear glass, adding layers as he goes, so that the final piece is a gather of layers.


 

For this vase white is applied first, giving a creamy base for the colors which will follow.


 

The glass being worked must frequently be reheated...if it cools enough to harden too soon, the piece will be ruined.


 

A wetted wooden mold is used to form a consistent shape before moving on.


 

Folded wetted newspaper in Matt's hand is used for further shaping. The steam layer created between the paper and glass prevents actual burning of the paper...or his hand.


 

Shaping, shaping, shaping. The stereo system is mostly for books on tape!


 

Picking up the blue layer of pigment.


 

The Glory Hole is the furnace used to reheat the glass, and obviously has the coolest name! Here the glass layered with pigment is reheated.


 

Matt is simultaneously blowing through the pipe to shape the glass and constantly rotating the pipe. If he stops rotating the pipe at any point in the process, the molten glass will droop and ruin the shape.


 

And into the glory hole for more reheating. And twirling.


Voila! The final beautiful shape and color of the vase is now visible. The ruffled top was created by spinning the final gathered layers of pigmented glass even faster than usual as they came out of the glory hole. That allowed the end to flare, and then the vase was held upside down to allow the ruffled shape to form.


We also observed the process of making a ribbed ornament. The glass is blown into a mold which forms the ribs. These create a stronger structure, allowing the glass layer to be thinner without breaking. Then the jack is used (very gently) to make the undulating shape.


The final step, forming the hook from a small tube of fused glass, is actually very tricky. As always, Matt's customers benefit from his decades of practice and dedication to the art and workmanship of glass blowing.


 

 
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