I have always been in love with glass; some of my earliest memories include searching sandy beaches for the perfect piece of blue sea glass. While attending college at Franklin Pierce University my love of glass flourished when I enrolled in glassblowing and stained glass courses. I continued my glass training throughout the last three years of college and completed glassblowing I-II, stained glass I-III, independent studies and working as a teacher’s assistant. Glass both hot and cold is an amazing medium which has been around for thousands of years. Some of the earliest recorded use of glass was by the Egyptians; they used it to glaze tiles, form figures and design beads.
When Valentine’s Day arrived with subzero temperatures I couldn’t think of a better way to heat things up with my Valentine then a glassblowing class at Terrapin Glassblowing Studio. Terrapin Glassblowing is located in Jaffrey NH and is open Wednesday through Sunday. Most people recognize the studio by the giant under the sea turtle mural painted on the side of the building and fluttering Tibetan Prayer Flags.
Terrapin Glass consists of a hot shop, gallery and artist studios. They also offer flame-working, fused glass, blacksmithing, wool felting and mixed media paint nights through the Krafts with Katie program. The studio is co-owned by twenty eight year old Dominique Caissie and her mom Anne Marie Caissie. Dom as most of us call her is a unique and talented role model for young professionals in the area. She is not only a successful business owner but dedicates countless hours to giving back to her community. In case she did not have enough going on already Dom is the president of Team Jaffrey , secretary of the Jaffrey-Rindge Lions Club and is involved with the Monadnock Art Tour.
Terrapin is truly a family run business, which all began with Dom taking glassblowing classes with a variety of masters. As her passion grew she began to encourage her mother, Anne Marie, to give it a try. Together they took lessons and rented studio time in Vermont. The passion continued to grow. Dom’s step dad Jim had some experience with glass years ago and it didn’t take much persuasion to talk him into building their own studio. After months of searching for the right location and collecting equipment everything finally came into place.
Our Valentine’s Day class had eight people in it which is a typical class size but can often be much larger for school groups and special events. During our two hour session we made a clear & colored flower, a paperweight and clear glass ornament. Glassblowing is a lot of fun and a memorable experience to check off your bucket list. If you have never seen or participated in a glassblowing demonstration Terrapin Glass is the place to go. This is what you would experience.
You start the class by watching a safety video on how to have fun and be safe in the hot shop. Safety is a very important aspect of glassblowing because you are working with molten and cooling glass which can shatter. Protecting your eyes is also very important and after choosing a pair of protective sunglasses you head into the hot shop to heat things up.
The first thing you learn is how to properly hold the four foot long steel pipe you will be working with to gathering 2,600 degree molten glass from the furnace. The instructor Dom will give a demonstration for every piece that will be made during the class. Dom and her assistant Jimmy help guide students through individual pieces. Glassblowing is truly a team sport and requires everyone to communicate and work together as a team.
The pipe is dipped into the furnace and comes out with a gathering of molten glass on the end. You then begin a different series of steps depending what type of piece you are making. Color can be added with frit which is finely crushed up colored glass. The glass must always stay hot when you are working with it and is temporarily slid into a smaller furnace at the end of the rod called a glory hole. Keeping the glass on center by slow turning the rod in your hands at a level angle is also important for creating a successful piece.
Glassblowers use a number of techniques to shape the glass often using a large flat surface called a marver to roll and shape the glass. Several tools are also used in this process including a wetted wooden shaping tool known as a block, jacks, wooden paddles and large tweezers that grab and manipulate the hot glass. Once the piece is complete it is placed in a kiln called an annealer to slowly bring the glass down to temperature. Students can pick their pieces up the next day or have them shipped to them. All in all Terrapin Glass offers a terrific experience for all.