Bottle museum holds flameworking glass class

You can take a yoga class or learn to make jewelry at community centers all over Saratoga County this fall, but there's only one place where you can learn the art of flameworking.

On Saturday, Sept. 22, and Sunday, Sept. 23, at the hot glass teaching facility operated by the National Bottle Museum in Ballston Spa, you can learn the unusual skill from a professional artist. The museum is located at 76 Milton Ave. in the heart of downtown Ballston Spa.

Students have their choice of making glass bells, candleholders, goblets or sculpted figures, and the class is designed for people with some previous experience in the fine art.

The most important requirements are patience and good hand-eye coordination, said Gary Moeller, collections manager at the National Bottle Museum. "There is an aspect of it that could be somewhat dangerous if you're not careful."

Flameworking is a process of using a torch to melt and shape glass. Also known as lampworking or torchworking, the art form has been practiced since ancient times, and was started in the 14th century in Italy

Early lampworking was done by harnessing the flame of an oil lamp, with the glass manipulated into shapes by the artist blowing air into the flame through a pipe. Today, many artists use torches that burn either propane or natural gas for fuel, with either air or pure oxygen as the oxidizer. It wasn't until the late 1960s that flameworking became recognized and sought after as a serious art form. Flameworking is used primarily in the creation of artwork or jewelry, but can also be used to mold scientific tools.

Different kinds and colors of glass are used to create various shades of color and web effects. Artists try to avoid bubbling inside the sculpture, which can happen easily when working with high temperatures.

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