…probably shouldn’t take photographs.
Tuesday was my mother-in-law’s last full day here so we took her to downtown Toledo to the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art. While searching for different activities and outings to do while she was here, I stumbled across the fact that the Glass Pavilion does glass blowing demonstrations several times a week. As I have never been to the Glass Pavilion, and the glass blowing demonstration sounded interesting, I quickly penciled a visit into our itinerary.
Opened in 2007, the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art celebrates Toledo’s glass making history. The building itself is a work of art, made almost completely out of glass. It consists of more than 360 glass panels (many of them curved), each measuring approximately 8 x 13 1/2 feet and weighing up to 1,500 pounds. The steel roof is supported by these walls of glass. The building is 74,000 square feet and contains more than 5,000 works of art made from glass. Read more about the Glass Pavilion here.
Needless to say, it was quite a challenge taking photographs of glass objects displayed in glass cases within a building made of glass walls! I did my best.
The artwork displayed in the first gallery we visited was entitled Beauty as Drama by Ginny Ruffner. Many of the pieces looked like birds.
The museum has works spanning the centuries – from ancient times before Christ to modern works. Many of the pieces in the collection were acquired by Edward Drummond Libbey, founder of the rich glass-making heritage of Toledo. There are also many items on display made by the Libbey Glass Company, including this huge punch bowl made for the 1904 World’s Fair. The punch bowl weighs well over 100 pounds (I believe it is the heaviest item on display at the museum) and holds 15 gallons.
It won a prestigious award at the World’s Fair. We found it amusing that the award for such a large object was so small, about the size of a police badge.
One of my favorite items on display was this glass gown. The artist cast a mold of a (live)woman’s body, then cast another mold of the woman in the dress so that the inside of the gown would have the impressions of a real body. It was exquisite!
We wandered through about half of the museum before it was time for the glass blowing demonstration. I found the glass blowing to be one of the most interesting demonstrations I have ever seen! The demonstrator – Leonard Marty – is a long-time instructor at the Toledo Museum of Art and he was amazing. He kept up a very informative and interesting dialogue the entire time he was making the glass piece.
The blast furnace and cauldron are kept at a whopping 2100 degrees!
I learned that glass has to be at least 1500 degrees to continue to be pliable.
It starts out as a hot red lump at the end of the blow pipe.
He was using a layered technique and added color – amber – as one of the layers. When he began the demonstration, he wasn’t sure what the object would be at the end. I thought that was pretty incredible! The glass has to be continually spun so that it doesn’t sag and become uneven. He shaped it using a bowl-shaped tool made from fruit wood.
He blew the glass into a fluted mold to give the outside of the object ridges.
He continued to add layers of glass – three in total I believe – heat and air to make the object bigger.
He wanted to add color to the bottom of the vessel so put a colored flake on the steel table and added a dollop of molten glass. Then he placed the object he was making directly onto the molten glass to adhere the color to the bottom.
When it was the size he wanted, he removed the pole from the “open” end and switched it to the bottom of the piece so he could widen the opening or top. All while he continued to keep the glass spinning.
He added more heat and spun the pole faster so that centrifugal force would create a wider opening. This is when my jaw dropped. I could not have imagined what the end product would look like!
He added a burst of heat to make the inside of the bowl shiny.
Then he removed it from the blow pipe and added a stamp on the bottom to show it had been made at the museum. The bowl then went into a computer controlled oven that is heated to 950 degrees and slowly cooled over a period of 18 hours so that the glass doesn’t shatter.
I’m sorry if I put in too many photos of the demonstration but I was so completely fascinated by the entire process! But, we were glad to leave the hot demonstration room and head back out into the cool of the museum. We enjoyed the displays in the final galleries, including the Glass Study Room that has an interesting and eclectic collection, including this 1950’s diner made entirely of glass. It was another of my favorite pieces.
The Pavilion also has a gift shop where you can purchase items made by the glass blowers, including this lovely bowl.
As you exit the gift shop, you can’t help but be amazed by this huge glass chandelier.
I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Glass Pavilion. I really am not much for museums. My husband and daughter both love the Toledo Museum of Art but it is not high on my list of things to do. But the Glass Pavilion was a real treat! (Mark did not enjoy it nearly as much as I did, which I thought was interesting, considering he enjoys the art museum and I don’t.) If you are in the Toledo area, I encourage you to check it out.
Admission is free but there is a $5 charge for parking.