Never Have I Ever: Glass Blowing

Calvary Glass Blowing Studio

385 Born St. NW, Lawrenceville, GA 30046

It’s a new year, and if you’ve been looking forward to the hope and change of 2021, we’d suggest making a change within yourself. Start small by learning something NEW! Learning something new helps us break out of our normal patterns of behavior and it gives our brains something to think about other than our daily worries. When we succeed in learning something we feel more confident in ourselves and our ability to tackle other areas of our lives. 

Creating has always fueled a fire within me, and while over the past year I have had the extra time to get my hands on some new projects around the house, it was time to break out (literally of the house) and try something new that was beyond my pinterest page abilities. Sometime in the last few years I had binged the Netflix reality competition show ‘Blown Away’ on master glass blowing artists and was in awe of their quick pace and elegant creations. When I saw Calvary Glassblowing Studio in Lawrenceville, I knew exactly what I wanted to do as a creative learning opportunity for myself (not another elementary school craft project from home). 

Photo Credit: Rachel Jeffers

Kelly Robertson, artist and owner of Cavalry Glass Blowing Studio opened his roll up doors to his studio in Lawrenceville in February 2020…and then the pandemic hit. As any good business owner, he’s adapted and put in place safety protocols to provide the community with a unique and safe learning experience. He’s passionate about his craft, but equally passionate about teaching others a skill he loves. 

The studio and gallery are not fancy, but cozy and colorfully adorned with pieces of artwork along the walls; glasses, vases, flowers, paper weights, holiday decor and jewelry are everywhere. Kelly uses the ‘see one, do one’ approach for teaching his classes and teaches in a calm and professional manner that empowers you to confidently handle the molten materials coming out of a 2,200 degree glass furnace. 

First step– pick your color of frit! Frit is thermal fractured glass from Germany derived from various precious metals to create colors. Gold makes pink, copper makes aqua, etc. I selected the colorful ‘party mix’ for my glass ball ornament. Kelly then explained safety precautions like where to place your hands to prevent getting burned, how to hold the equipment and where to stand. 

Then the dance began! The entire process is a series of fluid steps perfectly timed out to a waltz step count, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, not too fast, but constantly moving. We dipped our blow pipe into the glass furnace and pulled out a white glowing blob of glass. Then dipped the blob into the glass frit to coat the outside of the glass blob, like dipping a freshly dipped chocolate cake pop in Fruity Pebbles cereal. Then, it was back into the fiery glass furnace to melt and fuse the colorful coating pieces to the glass blob. I was sure to constantly rotate the blow pipe ever so slightly to catch the drooping glass blob from falling off into the glass furnace…1-2-3, 1-2-3. 

Next the shaping process begins with a wooden tool called a block that cups around the glass blob to begin shaping it into a spherical shape. Next, air is puffed into the center of the glass blob and slowly the ball begins to take shape as more air fills the blob, all while continuously rolling the pipe to maintain the orb shape. To detach the ball from the pipe, shears are used to etch a line into the top of the glass ball creating a cut. Kelly handed me a baseball bat and told me to hit it…delicately. I tapped it, which wasn’t enough to separate the glass. Baseball bats are not something I imagined I’d encounter in a glass shop! 

We dipped a tiny amount of “blobby” glass to the top of the ball and used a tweezer to pull and twist the glass into an eye-hook to complete the piece of artwork. Ta Da…next year’s new Christmas ornament! The entire process is a ‘pat your head and rub your tummy’ task…completing two continuous movements simultaneously is tough. 

The studio offers a number of group classes all within safe social distancing standards. The online booking system is simple, allowing you to book your date, time, number of people, select your artwork item and pay in one foul swoop. Classes range from 45 minutes to two hours. This is a perfect date night activity followed by a trip to one of Lawrenceville’s breweries, which are located right across the street. (Valentines Date? Learning something together is proven to strengthen a relationship bond!) Bonus: the winter is a perfect time to take a class, that glass furnace is a natural heater! 

Thank you Cavalry Glass Blowing for showcasing your craft and teaching me a new skill! Next time I am making a pair of stemless margarita glasses to sip on this summer! 

— Rachel Jeffers, The DiG

Benefits of Learning Something New: 

Your brain chemistry changes and your learning speed increases. | It fuels creativity. | You become a more interesting person. | It fights boredom and depression. | You adapt better to change.| You could stave off dementia.