Tesuque Glassworks Mesmerizes Visitors

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Posted Wed, May 8, 2013

Schanfeld pulls the melted glass to fan out as he finishes making his glass flower. Photo by: Jen Sasser

ALL THAT GLASS: Glass master Dave Schanfeld pulls the melted glass to fan out as he finishes making his glass flower. [Photo by: Jen Sasser]

SANTA FE–Dave Schanfeld pulls and molds the molten glass into the form of a flower with metal prongs, quickly crafting a Calla Lily in mere minutes.  This is the daily scene at Tesuque Glassworks North of Santa Fe, NM.  Established in 1975 by Charlie Miner, Schanfeld is just one of eight glass blowers who contributes to the vibrant display in the gallery.

From the outside, Tesuque Glass looks like an average glass store, but upon entering eyes are immediately drawn to the open studio behind the gallery.  Heat emanates from the studio as a blowtorch sits idly waiting for Schanfeld’s next piece.  A short distance away he turns newly melted glass in a fire kiln allowing the high temperature to turn the glass into an orange and yellow glowing cone.  Potential customers watch eagerly from the viewing area captivated by this manipulation of such a fragile substance.

“It [glass blowing] is a very hard trade to learn,” says Kay Hamilton, an employee who started as an intern.  “Glass is very unforgiving.”

Schanfeld chooses his colored glass and places the shards where he can melt them into his creation. Owner Charlie Miner uses these for his glass casting also. Photo by: Jen Sasser

CHOICE OF COLORS: Dave Schanfeld chooses his colored glass and places the shards where he can melt them into his creation. Owner Charlie Miner uses these for his glass casting also. [Photo by: Jen Sasser]

Charlie Miner created his business with the intention of inspiring others to take up his craft.  Now, his love of glassblowing is overshadowed by his deeper appreciation for the art of glass casting.  The glass casting process takes anywhere from four months to over a year, making the finished art all the more rewarding at the end.  Miner is the only one at Tesuque Glassworks that does glass casting, although he gets the occasional help from his fellow glass blowers.

Tesuque Glass Blowing; allows artists like Dave Schanfeld to persue their passion and create works of art through glass blowing. Photo by: Jen Sasser

ART OF GLASS: Tesuque Glass Blowing; allows artists like Dave Schanfeld to persue their passion and create works of art through glass blowing. [Photo by: Jen Sasser]

Glass casting, also called “lost wax” casting, is created the same way that bronze is cast only Miner uses powdered glass.  The first step to this meticulous process is to make the piece in wax then it is coated in plaster.  After the plaster dries Miner cuts through it and takes the original wax sculpture out.  Then glass is poured again into the negative space, thus creating the glass cast that will continue its journey for several months before being showcased in the gallery.

Throughout this process the cast is covered in hand-made plaster again and put into a kiln to be heated slowly.  This is the part that takes four months or more, because the temperature rises so slowly that it takes that long to reach the appropriate temperature in the kiln.  This kiln guides the glass to the next step, which is the fun part.

During the last stages of “lost wax” casting, the color is added.  Rods of color are chosen and crushed, then ever so gently applied with a brush to the cast glass.  Once the color is cooled and dried, it is a finished piece that cannot be replicated.

Watching the process of glass casting is definitely not as visually entertaining as watching glass be blown, but it is a practice that takes ample patience and respect for the materials. Glass is one of the most brittle of elements; to master such a delicate processes is a talent very few have.  Tesuque Glassworks is a great place to start for hands eager to learn these techniques that have been perfected for centuries.

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Ashley Hattle

About Ashley Hattle

Ashley Hattle is a senior at Metropolitan State University (MSU). In high school, Hattle worked for the school newspaper, The Blazer, as the Executive Photo Editor and Lifestyles Editor. After high school she pursued a career in photography and attended the Art Institute of Colorado. After the Art Institute she quickly began working for a photography company in Denver. Through working as a photographer in Denver she re-found her love of journalism and has been a magazine journalism major at MSU since 2010. Hattle hopes to work as a journalist and photographer after graduation in May 2014.

View all posts by Ashley Hattle

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