The medium of ‘molten honey’
Describing glass as a "fantastically unusual" medium, artist David Jacobson hopes to share his love with Midcoast Mainers in his new Montville studio.
Jacobson became intrigued with glassblowing while in college at Kent State.
"It was spring and there were people who set up a glassblowing demonstration outside," he said. "I said 'what is that? I've got to learn how to do that.'"
Graduating from college with a degree in glass, he went on to work for several newspapers as a cartoonist — he continues to cartoon for Down East Magazine — while keeping up with his favored craft.
"My cartooning supported my glass work," Jacobson said.
He and his wife moved to their Montville home in 2003. Jacobson spent the last year renovating what used to be a shed on the property into a glass studio housing his 2,135-degree furnace, sculpting tools, forge and glass.
He has work on display locally at Leslie Curtis Designs in Camden, Åarhus Gallery in Belfast, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport and the Maine Crafts Association Store in Gardiner. In January, Jacobson began offering classes, which have so far been a success, he said.
With a ready smile, he moves about the studio with a practiced and smooth manner, keeping those inside current with a running commentary of what he is doing. First, though, people are given safety glasses — "it's like looking at the sun," he said — before he opens the propane-fired furnace where chunks of glass resembling ice cubes are melted in a waiting crucible.
Jacobson warms a rod in the smaller, cooler, forge to prepare for gathering the hot glass from the furnace. The furnace, he said, he purchased used from a friend.
"It's like honey, molten honey," he says, dipping the preheated rod into a pan of waiting water, twirling it around to gather the glass. "The glass won't stick to something at room temperature, so we have to heat the rods."
He said heating causes gases to form on the rods as well and the dip in water helps dispel the gases, which can cause bubbles in the finished glass.
With a glob of hot glass on the rod, he moves to a metal table — called a punty — to roll it into a cylinder before blowing a breath through the rod to form a bubble inside the hot glass. As the glass cools, Jacobson returns to the forge periodically to reheat it and make it malleable again. To add color, the clear glass is rolled in crushed colored glass, which melts into the clear glass with more heat. Once the colored glass cools a little, Jacobson goes back to the furnace for more hot clear glass, explaining if the original shaped glass is too hot when more is added, the bubble inside will collapse.
He continues to roll the glass, always in motion so gravity doesn't pull the glass out of the desired shape. He uses old-fashioned tools — a jack, tweezers and scissors — to create first a round bubble of glass, then the neck. Back and forth between a bench made from wide boards salvaged from the attic of his home and the custom-built forge, Jacobson makes it look easy as he flattens the bottom of the soon-to-be drinking glass with a board, blackened from many uses.
The next step, though, is tricky and requires another set of hands. As one person continues to keep the rod rolling evenly, Jacobson heats and shapes another dab of clear glass. That is stuck to the bottom of the colored glass, water is dripped on the neck of the cylinder and with a quick snap, the glass — now looking like a small bottle — is released from the original rod and attached by the bottom to a new rod.
Jacobson heats just the neck of the glass and teases it with tweezers until he can trim the excess from the lip with scissors, where the glass should be thinner. Then, using the jack, he widens the mouth of the glass to a uniform shape. A few drops of water later, the glass is released from the rod and ready to be cured in an oven that starts at more than 900 degrees and cools to room temperature overnight.
Those attending his class will learn how to make a drinking glass, which is also the first item Jacobson learned to make in college. In fact, he still has that glass, fashioned from melted 7-Up bottles, he said. A typical class lasts about an hour and a half; those who prefer to watch also are welcome to stop by the studio at 210 Choate Road.
Jacobson can be contacted for lesson rates and more information by calling or texting 914-715-6848 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
(207) 338-3333 ext. 110
Stephanie is editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. She previously served as editor of Camden Herald following its return in April 2012.
Stephanie also was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has nearly a decade of experience in the newspaper business ranging from southern and central Maine to Waldo County.
Outside the office, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.
Stephanie lives in Washington with her husband Jeff, four children, a dog named Chewbacca, a rabbit and chickens.