What Travel Writers Say

Glass blowing envy at Corning

© By Mike Keenan
  My abysmal attempts at artistry are legendary in our family. First, there was the bright oil painting of a clown to amuse our first born. A little too large and not very credible as oils go, certainly for my first self-taught effort, nothing to attract AGO scouts for sure. Nonetheless, I was ecstatic and felt an overwhelming need to create something beautiful, not realizing that that deed was already accomplished. The oil languishes yet in the basement, a testament to the thought that really counted most. Then, there was my attempt at macramé with an owl (over-sized once more) that would scare most birds out of their roosts. I refer to this as my "primitive" period. Picasso, after all, underwent a blue period. I'm entitled to mine.
     Undaunted, I sit at a metal desk wearing Teflon mitts, my arms covered in sleeves to prevent burns, safety glasses protecting my eyes. Today, I am creating a glass flower at Corning's amazing museum in New York State. Quinn, my patient instructor, also equipped with Teflon gloves, pokes a long metal rod into one of the many gas furnaces that glow yellowish red. Carefully, she returns with a bright molten mass that I will tug and pull at with long metal clips, shaping my flower while simultaneously rolling the rod such that the glass does not drip on the floor. Suddenly, I am filled with awe for the many artists who have created stunning treasures in the museum's astonishing, eclectic collection.
     With the assistance of people such as Quinn, you can make your own glass souvenir in less than an hour. However, be advised to make a reservation and arrive early because the studio is a big draw. All slots are available on a first-come, first-served basis. All objects made in the workshop (except for sandblasted objects) go through an overnight annealing (slow cooling) process, not available for same-day pick-up. They can be picked up the next day after 12:00 p.m. or shipped. When my flower arrives, I have a lovely clown and owl to keep it company.
     Besides flowers ($22), you can make holiday ornaments ($22), pumpkins ($22), paperweights ($40) glass beads ($15), magical charms ($17) wizard hats ($17), wind chimes ($25), glass picture frames or mirror frames - large ($25), small- ($17), sun-catchers ($17) sandblasted alchemical beakers ($9) and sandblasted glass cups, plates and more ($9) All ages are welcome. I thought it best to rest on my laurels with the flower.


     At the museum, there are "Hot Glass Shows," live, narrated glassmaking demonstrations taking place all day, every day. Master glassblowers create beautiful vases, bowls and more as a narrator explains each step in the process and answers questions. They employ steeply banked seating and large mirrors for easy viewing.
     The collection is impressive with objects dating from early centuries B.C. to some incredible contemporary Asian pieces that caused me inconsolable envy. Add that one to the list, Dr. Freud, glass-blowing envy.
     The Studio of The Corning Museum of Glass is an internationally renowned teaching facility offering glassmaking classes for a variety of skill levels and techniques. Instructors from the United States and abroad share their insight and wisdom. Students at The Studio range in experience from beginning to advanced, fueled by their passion and desire to create. I'm pondering a potential scholarship depending on how well my flower is received at the next Men's Book Club meeting.
     After touring 35 centuries of glass history in the Museum's galleries, I visit the sprawling GlassMarket, featuring sparkling displays of glass and glass-related items from around the world in eight exceptional boutiques. Here, there are original works by more than 200 emerging and established artists, including jewelry, accessories, holiday ornaments, and collectibles in every price range. Prices tend to be steep. The GlassMarket is the largest resource anywhere for books, videos, and images about glassmaking and glass history.
     People of all ages will love this exhibit. I was fixed there from lunch to closing time, mesmerized by the exquisite displays.


Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.

Photo Credits
Mike Keenan
Courtesy: Corning Museum of Glass

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Corning Museum of Glass: http://www.cmog.org/
Corning and the Finger Lakes Tourism: http://www.corningfingerlakes.com/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corning_(city),_New_York
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Corning_(New_York)

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