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Enraptured by Steuben glass during my childhood visit to the Corning Museum of Glass, I wanted to feel the magic again. I did. Like the grand finale 4th of July fireworks, my brain exploded. Synapses sparked fast and furious, shooting multi-colored idea sparks in every direction. The Corning Museum of Glass is so much more now, in exhibits and demonstration and especially in my appreciation for glass artists.

Geeking out at every turn, my brain could not process the level of craft and artistry displayed in so many disparate ways. These artists made glass do things I had not thought possible. There was a glass animal that looked so soft it invited petting, until a closer look revealed the “fur” was sharp-edged shards of glass. An imaginative tree of glass was built from ordinary drinking glasses and proved to be quite relatable for visitors. A museum staff member remarked, “No matter where people are from, any country any state, they point to a glass and say ‘I had that one as a kid.'”

Ancient glass, traditional cut and etched glass, stained glass and art glass were arranged in galleries, accessible for all. Equally engaging are the glass blowing and flame work demonstrations. Glass blowers, in under 30 minutes, created a unique blown glass piece and made it look easy. It isn’t. My one glass blowing class taught me humility. Glass blowing is physical, technical and artistic. Physically demanding, glass blowing requires the strength to wield iron tools, the lungs of a marathon runner and tolerance for extreme heat. Technically, glass requires a respect for chemistry and physics. Thermodynamics lays down the law for glass blowers. Chemistry dictates color. Artistry is harnessing the physical and technical to create a vision. After a demonstration in which a glass blower created a perfect purple wave bowl in 20 minutes, I asked how long he had been at it to be able to achieve this skill. His answer was “17 years”.

Having learned humility from glass blowing, I moved on to glass fusing, a kinder, gentler craft. Unlike glass blowing, glass fusing is “only” technical and artistic. Here too, I bow to the masters. Affordable creations in the gift shop with intricate patterns far exceed my skill.

While the museum website recommends 3-4 hours, if you are a glass lover, plan on 6, as you will undoubtedly want to take in multiple demonstrations.

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