gatherhouse: An adventure in glassblowing

I’ve always loved the word “serendipity.” It means a fortunate accident. 

In the last two days I’ve driven from Rochester, NY to Frisco, CO. This post was supposed to be about that adventure. I was going to put up the pictures I took of the St. Louis arch, the old church in Denver that was overshadowed by the new Grand Hyatt, the Colorado mountains as seen at 70 mph, and the pictures of Frisco as I wandered around this afternoon. I was planning on writing about all this as I walked up and down Frisco, trying to find an open coffee shop or cafe at 6p (Mountain Time). I could have written in my hotel room, but it was too nice a day and I was determined to find a cafe with a nice big window and a good cup of coffee.

I never found my open coffee shop and as it happens I won’t be writing about the first half of the trip tonight. I wandered up and down the whole length of the mountain town, and finally gave up. Backpack on my shoulder, camera in hand I started meandering back down the hillside to the restaurant and basketball game I had left my Mom to.

I barely walked a block when I saw a sign for a glassblowers shop –

The door was still open even though it was going on 7p and the sign said demonstrations. Why not? I thought. I wandered in to three glassblowers intently working. I didn’t want to interrupt but it wasn’t long before they noticed I was there. I was so clearly interested, they quickly invited me to come take a closer look.

I watched and asked quiet questions for the first few minutes, but my fingers kept drifting over my camera, and before long I asked if I could photograph them working.

There were three glassblowers working on the project, but before long one had to leave. I was left with the two more experienced glassblowers, John (above) and Steve (not yet pictured). After a minute or two John told me to put down my camera and handed me the metal rod that the glass was on. He carefully showed me where was safe to grab, and then had me insert it into the kiln and do this:

It was a delicate process of turn, wait for the glass to drop to center, turn again, wait, turn, reverse turn, wait, turn… John let me try it for a few minutes before taking over. Then he had me hold a paddle and help while they continued to form the glass. The paddle ended up doing two things. First it helped form the bottom of the vase, and second it helped protect John’s hand from the heat while he worked the glass. I’d show you a picture but I was busy helping and learning!

Around that time two more people wandered in off the street. This was around the last stages of forming the glass. It’s apparently the most delicate stage, so I stopped helping and picked my camera back up.

The evening wasn’t quite over once the glass vase was done. After he finished I moved back to the front of the store and started taking pictures of his finished pieces, which were gorgeous. I especially liked one piece, hanging like a chandelier over the cash register.

When I asked John how he made it, he said it had been made by 100 hands. Before I knew what was happening, he pulled out a blow torch some thin rods of glass and that’s where this next series came from!

So at the end of the day I never got my coffee, didn’t write the post I thought I would write, but happened across one of the best and most unique and unexpected experiences of my 24 years.

I’ve always loved the idea of serendipity, and tonight I feel like I ran across a small piece! It’s that moment where nothing is right and everything is perfect, if that makes any sense. I hope everyone else is having a night as fabulous as mine!


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