Glassmaking Demonstration with Megan Stelljes

  • On Friday, December 10, 2021, the Smithsonian American Art Museum hosted a virtual hot shop visit with Megan Stelljes, one of the featured artists in New Glass Now, on view at SAAM’s Renwick Gallery. Take a behind-the-scenes look at how glass and neon artworks are made. This exciting virtual studio visit and artmaking demonstration took place at the state-of-the-art hot shop at The Corning Museum of Glass. Learn how Stelljes creates edgy and provocative neon and sculpted glasswork. Enjoy this rare up-close-and-personal look at how glasswork is made and watch a question and answer session with Stelljes, Mary Savig, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft at SAAM’s Renwick Gallery, and staff from The Corning Museum of Glass.

    — (Mary Savig) Good evening, everyone, I'm Mary Savig, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft here at the Renwick Gallery. I'm so pleased to welcome you to our virtual glass demonstration with Megan Stelljes who is beaming in with a talented crew from the hot shop at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York. Megan's luminous artwork, This Shit is Bananas, is currently on view in the New Glass Now exhibition, an international survey of contemporary glass organized by the Corning Museum. New Glass Now will be on view at the Renwick Gallery through March 6, 2022. Megan runs her own neon and glass workshop in Washington state. She creates familiar fruits like bananas, lemons, and oranges to spark playful and provocative conversations about sexual health and consent. In addition to New Glass Now her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Neon Art and the Pilchuck Gallery. Welcome Megan, and thank you so much for joining us tonight  
    — (Megan Stelljes) Hi, Mary! 
    — (Mary Savig) Right now I'm sharing an image of your work in New Glass Now — just so you all know Megan can't see me but I we can see her — I'm sharing an image of your work that's in New Glass Now, a work that has not surprisingly been a visitor favorite. And I would just like to hear the back story of this work. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Sure, I have been a food artist for a long time so I was already working with bananas in my work, and at the time, I was getting ready for a show and it was right after Trump was elected and I was having a lot of feelings sort of about keeping my general positivity and atmosphere of fun, but also being able to comment on the current state of affairs and my feelings about that, and the best thing that I could do to explain my feelings was really to say, like, this shit is bananas, it's crazy, it's really up and down, and so this was my visual representation of my feeling in those moments.  
    — (Mary Savig) For those of you who are not familiar with the phrase, Megan, can you share the origins and what it means? 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Yeah, I think, you know, it's kind of in my language but I think also part of it is from this like, Gwen Stefani song in the early 2000s? 
    — (Mary Savig) Yep, “Hollaback Girl.” 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Yeah. [laughing] 
    — (Mary Savig) Yeah, that song has this kind of punk pop vibe and I feel a lot of that energy in your work. And I think this is really popular in the gallery because it does point out the absurdity of whatever is happening at any given moment, so it remains applicable to current events, and also, I think people are really just fascinated by the glass bananas. Can you just talk a little bit more about your interest in creating fruit? 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Yeah! When I was in college, I was sort of trying to find my voice and I was making a lot of work that was really overtly sexual, and people would sort of shut down and wouldn't approach the work, or even people would go into my studio and cover it up, and so I want to have these conversations. And so, I found that if I used familiar objects such as fruits, people would sort of be more approachable, they will approach my work more easily, and then I could use my narrative in a familiar setting with them and then we could really start a conversation rather than putting up a wall. 
    — (Mary Savig) Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And along similar lines, when and how did you begin to include neon in your work? 
    — (Megan Stelljes) I have a really great friend, Jeremy Burt, and he's a practicing neon artist and he and his wife, Jen Elek, were teaching a class at the Penland School of Crafts, and so I was going to help her with a glass and then they needed a TA that could do both, and I was like, “well, you know, I've always been interested,” and Jeremy was a trooper and kind of let me learn on the fly. And so, I started at the Penland School of Crafts and then I started my practice back in Washington and apprenticed with a gentleman named Grant Gullickson and have started working also in a sign shop. So, I do a little bit of industry and also artwork to keep my practice up. 
    — (Mary Savig) Great! And you do a lot of the juxtapositions of text with fruit that are often very humorous, and tonight we will see you sculpting some of the bananas. And as we'll soon see, sculpting hot glass is very labor intensive, and the fruits of your labor are truly engaging in person, and then often widely shared by our visitors on social media. So, I was just wondering, does viewing your work on social media, or more broadly, in a digital format, does that factor into your process? 
    — (Megan Stelljes) you know, I think part of the reason why I make work is I want people to see it and I want it to be really easily digestible for everybody, so I think it only helps encourage me and my practice to have it out there more and I like having a message but I also like having a bit of cheer and humor in my work so passing a bit of cheer and joy around is certainly a good thing for me.  
    — (Mary Savig) Mhmm, when you're making the work are you thinking about different environments, like, so people will just take it out of a gallery and put it in something like their Instagram feed, or are you thinking more in gallery as you're creating? 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Usually in gallery, and oftentimes, to be honest, I sort of think about it in my, like, in what space I would interact with, you know, how I would want it in my home or...Most of my work is pretty personal in a way that if you're around it, you are, it feels like you already have a relationship with it, so ideally I guess I'm moving through a gallery and into a personal interaction, maybe a home. 
    — (Mary Savig) Okay, well you know I just wanted to get a little bit of context for your work, I think everybody here is mostly eager to see the demonstration, so it's time for me to make like a banana and split and I'm going to hand it over to Eric at the Corning Museum, who will take over moderation from here. Megan and Eric, thank you so much. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Thank you so much! Thanks for having us! So, we started a little bit ahead of time, my color process is really labor intensive so my friend, Jimmy, my studio-mate, who's come out, with, to Corning with me, has our start, so we've made the color and the tube that makes the banana and now we'll pull the stem and it'll really start to look like a banana. 
    — (Eric Meek) All right. Hey everyone, good evening,  
    [inaudible speech]  
    — (Eric Meek) my name is Eric Meek, I'm here on the floor with Jimmy and Megan — 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Beautiful. 
    — (Eric Meek) — in the Corning Museum team and as we go along tonight — 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Okay! I’m gonna get one torch in the back and then I’ll start focusing (inaudible). 
    — (Eric Meek) — I'll certainly introduce you to everybody in the world that you're going to be seeing working here in the studio.  
    [blowtorch starts]  
    — (Eric Meek) We also have a wonderful team of AV technicians here to help follow the action around with some cameras on the floor and some cameras up in the, up in the ceiling here that look down and see the work that we're making. So — 
    — (Megan Stelljes) (inaudible speech) 
    — (Eric Meek) As Megan was saying, this is a, this is a project that will culminate at the end of the demonstration, that, it's gonna take probably well over an hour in length total. [laughs] Hi, I'm Eric. But she wanted to make sure that you saw all of the parts that are going to come together, including the basic form of the banana here. One of the very first things that you're going to recognize is that this doesn't look yellow, and the reason for that is right now the glass is very, very hot. When we're working glass, when you're sculpting glass, it stays in a temperature range between 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Glass that's at 1000 degrees Fahrenheit or around 550 C is already hard and brittle, and that really makes it necessary for us to keep, to keep that hot all the time. So you can see that's not quite the orange color that you might expect a banana to be, but you can see there exactly what happens when you apply that heat and how soft it can get. So, Megan is using a spot torch there to get some heat just on the tip of that to pull it out and to make it thinner, you know, in what we recognize as that stem portion of the banana. So we use a little hot torch here, this is a natural gas and oxygen flame, and burns nice and hot. It's really handy as a glass maker to be able to have a very sharp heat to get specific heat where you want it, and she's really working on shaping the end of that banana to make it look as realistic as she possibly can. 
    One of the things, if you haven't watched a lot of glass making before, one of the things you might notice is just how many people are involved in this process. So, glass making really is an effort that requires multiple hands, so, as Megan was mentioning, she brought with her from Washington state her studio partner, Jimmy Anderegg who's going to be helping out tonight. Megan and Jimmy actually co-operate a studio in Washington state called Gray Barn Studios, so they have a partnership there where they both make work and assist each other. A glass studio is something that requires a lot of work to upkeep, and it's really nice when you have someone that you can trust who you can work with, especially again because glass making itself is also a collaborative project.  
    So, as Megan is working there, Corning's own Helen Tegler is on the reheats right now, she's assisting Megan, that way Megan can sit at the bench and stay focused on the tests that she has in hand. And what they're doing right now, we call this “puntying up,” and they're transferring the banana from the blowpipe — this banana is hollow — she's going to be opening that up so it will be, you'll see that there's no banana inside, it's just a banana peel. So this is hollow inside, and, what she's doing right now is a very traditional thing called a “punty transfer” where we take it from a blowpipe and transfer it onto another iron. And now there will be an opening and — you can actually see it in that reheating furnace camera there — you can see that the end of that is open and hollow, and they'll be focusing the heat there so that Megan can begin to cut that banana peel and just to start peeling it open a little bit. 
    — (Eric Meek) Reheating furnace here is around 2000 degrees. Here in a little while we'll be gathering some glass out of our melting furnace. So, we have a couple of different kinds of furnaces here, one is specifically to reheat the glass, one is a glass melting furnace that is basically like a big flower pot full of a thousand pounds of molten glass, and that's kind of the beating heart of a glass studio, so I'll point that out again when we go to get some glass, but everything that we make begins by gathering molten glass out of that furnace. 
    — (Eric Meek) So, Jimmy's getting some heat on that, now, they broke that piece off of the blowpipe and attached it onto this finishing iron, onto this punty, and then that means it's going to take a little while to get the heat back into the top of that, because we had to let it cool down quite a bit for that to soften — or to, become brittle enough to crack off the blowpipe. But there you can see that he was able to heat that back up and there's plenty of heat in there so Megan can now start to shape that. She's pulling it out to make it a little bit thinner just using a big pair of tweezers there. 
    — (Eric Meek) Already the glass is solidified, you don't have a whole lot of time to shape it, so right back into the heat we go to make sure that that's warm enough to shape. The first thing you saw Jimmy do there was called a “flash heat,” there you see him do it again, because even though we're focusing the heat on the end of the banana right now we have to make sure that the whole thing stays very warm. Now, Megan's going to do something here that might be a little unexpected, she's going to take a pair of shears and cut right through the glass — look at that. 
    [soft clatter] [inaudible background speech] 
    — (Eric Meek) Not something you think that you could do with glass, but just using a standard pair of shears there, with enough heat the glass is soft enough. Here at the Corning Museum of Glass we tell people that's kind of like cutting through an orange peel, but tonight we're gonna say that it actually feels like if you took a pair of scissors and cut through a banana peel, it's about the same sort of texture. Also they're gonna be applying a little bit of color. Now, one thing you haven't got to see much of is how color is applied. And you can see that this is kind of a brown color, so, Megan has applied the color for her banana by using — 
    [cough] [pause] 
    — (Eric Meek) Excuse me. 
    — (Eric Meek) By using powdered glass colors, and so we're actually sifting that onto the surface of the glass and then heating it in to get that to melt. So, colored glass is made by adding different metallic compounds to the glass mixture as it's melted down. what Megan is using is glass that has already been colored melted cooled and then crushed and sifted into a fine powder — this is almost like baby powder — and they're just going to sift that right onto the surface there... 
    [clearing throat] [pause] 
    — (Eric Meek) To make very realistic looking. 
    — (Eric Meek) A lot of the artistry and using glass as a sculptural material comes in how you apply colored glass. There are many, many, many ways of taking your clear base glass and applying colors to it to get lots of different artistic and decorative effects. 
    — (Eric Meek) While they're working on that I'm going to see if our camera guys can go to bench two, because I just want to point out that we have a parallel action happening over on another bench over here. The project tonight is going to be a platter that is covered in banana peels. And so, while Megan is working on making some of these bananas, these banana peels, we have another team of glassmakers over here on the other bench who are working on making the platter itself. 
    — (Eric Meek) Sorry, I just realized that my video guys can't hear this Zoom presentation, so my subtle hints to go over to bench two weren't being heard. But I just wanted to point out over here on this bench this is Jeff Mack, he's one of our master glass makers here at the Corning Museum of Glass, and he's setting up a bubble to make the platter that all of these banana peels are going to be going on, so Jeff Mack is working here with Tom Ryder, and they've created a core bubble — Jeff what color are you guys using tonight? 
    — (Jeff Mack) [muffled] This is, uh, opaque pink. 
    — (Eric Meek) An opaque pink color — 
    — (Jeff Mack) [muffled] Yeah. 
    — (Eric Meek) — for the platter. 
     — (Jeff Mack) [muffled] And then it’s gonna have a wrap, or a lip [inaudible speech] 
    — (Eric Meek) great and it will have a sparkly, golden lip wrap, or rim, around the edge of that. So Jeff has set up the core bubble he has that pink colored glass underneath there and now, Brad, if you don't mind, can you follow him and catch this gather? So, this is our gathering furnace, and Jeff is going to go in there and you can see him dip molten glass out of that furnace, gathering glass on the end of the blowpipe, it's kind of like gathering honey out of a jar. And there you can see just how soft that is right out of the furnace. 
    — (Eric Meek) And that's really how everything we make here begins, by gathering some of that molten glass out of the furnace. 
    — (Eric Meek) 2100 degrees, right out of the furnace, as soft as honey. And the interesting thing about shaping glass is that every moment that you're working with it, it's changing consistency. So you gathered out of the furnace, it's very soft, and 10 seconds later it's a little bit thicker. And so what really takes a long time for our glass makers to learn is to figure out how to know the material and what consistency it is from moment to moment. It takes a long time to master the material. Or, to get to a level of fluency with it where you're able to make whatever you can imagine. 
    — (Eric Meek) Yep. 
    — (Eric Meek) All right, now we're going to come back over to Megan's bench here. They're getting ready to cut this the banana. She's got one cut done already. 
    — (Eric Meek) She's making this look really easy, you do have to be quite delicate though. The attachment point at the end of that banana is very tenuous, it is brittle, so Jimmy's doing his best to keep it warm enough that it's stable but not so hot that it's moving around too much. And you can see that Megan really isn't forcing the glass ever. She's using the heat of the material making sure that it's hot and soft enough so that she can shape it easily without forcing it or pushing it too much, using that hot torch to heal some of the shear marks from cutting through there...and make that edge nice and round.  
    — (Eric Meek) I am, with the help of the folks from the Renwick, monitoring questions that are coming in, so if you do have questions make sure you throw them in the chat. We've got a night ahead of us where we're gonna have plenty of time to address all the questions that are coming in. I'm looking right now one of the first ones that I see is “How long do we know to reheat the glass? Is it visual? Is it timing?” Really, I think surprisingly enough, this might surprise you, for me — I've also been a glassmaker for quite a long time — for me one of the things that I rely on is the way the glass feels and moves on the end of the pipe. You can actually feel the material moving on the end of the pipe when it's a little bit hotter, the pipe turns just a little bit harder, and so you really feel when the glass softens a little bit. If you're working the glass in a temperature range where it's not moving so much you do rely more on timing, but it really is variable it depends on how hot the glass is, how thick it is, a thinner piece you have to reheat for shorter periods of time more frequently. 
    — (Eric Meek) So, it's one of those things that's a whole bunch of different factors that we can just sort of sum up as experience. 
    — (Eric Meek) I see a question for Meg and I'm going to let her get some of the fine tuning on this one done then I'll — okay Megan! The question is, “Did you experiment with other ideas for themes of sexuality before settling on fruit?” 
    — (Eric Meek) Yeah and other ways of expressing that or other objects that could express those ideas. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) I did, and then I landed on using fruit and other food objects because people already have a relationship with these objects and already feel pretty comfortable with them. So, by using fruit, or food, I can make the viewer comfortable and then use my own narrative inside those visuals and really have a conversation before people shut down and, you know, have a preconceived notion about something that's naughty or bad or sexy. Rather, they have a relationship that's very comfortable and, you know, often positive emotions towards food, and, you know, bananas are really, like, sunny and fun and have this comedic theme too. 
    — (Eric Meek) Thank you. I also see from some of the questions coming in that I want to make sure that I cover some of the basics of what's happening in here, of how we make glass, what glass is made out of, and all those sorts of things. So I'll make sure I'm talking about all of the aspects of glassmaking. I mean, here we see a literal master at work who's taking this material that's really difficult to...really difficult to form in... to get's really difficult material to express your ideas in. And Megan's making it look really easy. But we will talk about some of the basics like where we start, how we learn and all those kind of good things too. 
    — (Eric Meek) There's a great shot there, very nice. So, one by one she's working on the ends of those banana peel sections, on getting those pointed up and not squared off like that. This is particularly difficult for Jimmy to reheat because if any of those bits get too hot and flop together, once the glass flops together and touches itself there's really no way of separating it. So, if that were to happen, we'd really have to, what the glass makers say, we'd have to spike this one and start over. So we'd probably just toss it in the bin and start again if that were to get too hot and collapse in the reheating furnace. So, one of the one of the questions is, “How do we make the glass that we start out with?” So, we saw Jeff make a gather of that molten gooey glass out of our 2000 degree melting furnace over there. If you can imagine, inside of that melting furnace is just a great big ceramic pot, and what we do is literally shovel the raw materials used to make glass in there at night when we're done. So, we don't use a thousand pounds of glass every day, but sometimes we may use 150 or 200 pounds, and at the end of the day then, we can take a big scoop, and take the raw materials, and shovel them in there, and at night the furnace gets a little bit hotter — it gets up over 2000 degrees — it'll reach about 2400 degrees and the material melts down and slowly finds out over the night, and then the next morning we'll have nice glass. And, yes you heard it right, the basic material for making glass is sand. We use a very pure silica sand — so it's like the finest white sand you've ever seen on the nicest beach — and  the formula that we use actually, the formula that most ordinary glasses made out of, is about 70 percent quartz sand or silica. Additionally, as the basic components, glass also has limestone and soda ash. So it's about 70% sand, about 20% soda ash — which is a cousin of baking soda — and about 10% limestone. So, the soda ash helps to lower the melting temperature of the sand, and the limestone helps to keep it stable over time. So those three ingredients are the main formers of glass — the main glass forming agents. And then, there are lots and lots of trace ingredients that go into glass to give it different working characteristics or to give it color. So we did mention that we make colors in glass, colors are made by adding different metallic compounds to that basic mixture, the basic formula. Something very common that a lot of people have heard of is a color called cobalt blue. Cobalt blue is a beautiful royal blue color and that's made by adding a compound of cobalt. You put a little bit of cobalt in a furnace full of glass and you'll get the most beautiful blue glass you could imagine. We also use very common things like iron to make a green glass — a compound of iron oxide, actually. Rust will give us green glass, and even more precious metals like gold can give us a beautiful ruby glass. That's why sometimes you hear red glass referred to as “gold ruby glass.” 
    — (Eric Meek) Also, we're getting some images, some shots, of Jeff, Helen, and Tom over on bench two. They've taken those gathers of glass and they're working on inflating them. One of the things you'll probably notice is that, like a lot of people these days, we're wearing masks and you may notice on the end of the blowpipe that Jeff is using... 
    — (Eric Meek) We actually have this, this hose attached to it, and we're using compressed air to blow glass. We've been doing that for over a year and a half now, our glass making staff here at the Corning Museum of Glass has been blowing glass, without blowing through a blowpipe, for about a year and a half now. We use these tubes attached to the end of the blowpipe with a compressed air and a little foot solenoid so we can actually tap on this valve with our foot and it introduces air into the pipe. There you can see Megan is just giving that banana peel a little bit of lifelike flare — I guess bananas aren't alive — but she's giving it some natural flair. 
    — (Eric Meek) And she's also putting some heat on that punty, we want to make sure that that's stable on there. When Jimmy sets that down on the yoke there he wants to make sure he sets it down very, very gingerly at this point, and as he's going in and out of that furnace, it looks like it's happening really quickly but he has to be very careful that he doesn't touch one of the doors of the furnace. If he touches the door of the furnace, the glass would immediately stick to the door of the furnace and then it's over.  
    — (Eric Meek) So, you do have to be — glass making is this funny balance between times when you really...when it's very strenuous and heavy and tedious and it just doesn't stop, but at the same time you have to be extremely delicate to make sure that you don't push the glass in a way that it would react negatively to, so. Megan has just heated up a little gob of black glass to put on the very end of the banana peel there. Again, using that torch and using a rod of black glass, that's a bit of a flame working — a flame working practice there. 
    — (Eric Meek) One of the neat things that that's happened in the world of glassmaking, and really in about the last 15 or 20 years, is that there's a practice of glass working called “flameworking” and then there's “furnace working,” like you're seeing happening here, and the line between those two different ways of forming glasses have really blurred. Flame working is what you may have seen at an art fair or a carnival where you heat rods or tubes of glass over a flame and you can form those into all kinds of different things, but a lot of furnace workers are using techniques of flameworking just like Megan is doing right now, using that sharp flame. Now she's using a little tool to add texture... 
    — (Eric Meek) And again, it's these touches that Megan is doing now that really take it from good to great, right, you know, you can make something that looks a little bit like a banana peel in less time, but the way that Megan has applied the color, the way that she's refining all these little different areas and giving them that really natural look is what makes her work so very effective. 
     [clearing throat] 
    — (Eric Meek) I have a couple of questions about the heat and the burns, “Why isn't anyone wearing gloves?” and, “Do we ever burn ourselves?” Yeah, I think I was shocked too when I first started blowing glass and noticed that no one was wearing gloves. We kind of liken it sometimes to playing an instrument with gloves on, right, you can see that Megan, everybody really, needs a lot of dexterity and grip in their hands and so we prefer to be careful and to know where to touch and where not to touch and to not wear gloves because it really helps us with dexterity and grip on the pipes and being able to grab the tools, so...Right here you can see Megan's hand gets very close to that banana peel, that, what they're doing is separating that from the punty rod. Megan, for the — I'm sorry, Helen for — in this case, actually did put some gloves on because she has to grab that thousand-degree glass, but they're going to put that into a little oven there, and we will get that peel out later to attach to this assembly as it comes together. Megan! Nice job, how'd that feel? 
    — (Megan Stelljes) [muffled] I have a second if you want to take some questions? 
    — (Eric Meek) Yeah, sure I can look at it — are you, are you on? Okay, Megan's gonna take a second here...I wonder if there's any questions for Megan? “Megan, what's sort of the most popular thing that you've made, or that you're making now? 
    — (Megan Stelljes) I think probably the piece at the Renwick, yeah, in a New Glass Now, yeah. But also bananas of course. 
     — (Eric Meek) All right, and then, how long — there's a question about how long each of us has been have been in this business, but can you talk a little bit about your education: where you learned to blow glass, how long you've been doing it, and that sort of thing? 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Sure. There was actually a glassblower in my hometown and my mom was like ‘hey, you know, I think you might like this,’ so I went down and I worked there for just a couple months, and they closed down. So after that I decided to go to college for glass, like, having played with it for like two months, which feels a little crazy —  
    — (Eric Meek) [agreeing] Yeah. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) — however, I knew that I was really passionate about it so I went to Emporia State University and —  
    — (Eric Meek) That's in Kansas, right? 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Yep, in Kansas, and I studied there and have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Glass Forming. 
    — (Eric Meek) Over on the other bench now we can just see that Jeff has applied a nice big gob of glass to the tip of that bubble, what's that gonna become?  
    — (Megan Stelljes) That is a foot! 
    — (Eric Meek) Oh, okay. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) So, because this is such an elaborate piece, we want a really nice, thick, stable base for us to work on because we spent two full days in a hot shop with a four person team making peels. So this foot is going to give us a nice stable place to stick our punty onto and give us a nice base heat that we can kind of maintain this platter with.  
    — (Eric Meek) Okay, great. So, while Jeff is finishing that up, are you guys going to make another — do you have anything else on the agenda to make while he's doing that, or... 
    — (Megan Stelljes) He's finishing up. 
    — (Eric Meek) Okay so we're going to focus on finishing up this platter now. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Yep. 
    — (Eric Meek) Okay, great. So, everybody making glass here has learned in their own way, all over the country, really, but I would say probably the most common theme anymore is that glassmakers — most of the people that we see here coming through the museum, most of the people that we know through our network of acquaintances in the glass world — have started to do this mostly when they went to college, not a lot of people have gone to college intending to become glass makers, but there are actually a lot of schools across the country that have glass making in their fine arts program and that's really where we see most people picking this up today. So they learn to use glass as a sculptural material to express themselves in school of art. Here in upstate New York, where the Corning Museum of Glass is located, we're close to a couple of very renowned glass schools; one of them is at Alfred university in Alfred, New York, and another one is RIT which is Rochester Institute of Technology up in Rochester, New York. But really, wherever you go in the country you're not too far from a school that has glass making, which may surprise a lot of people. As Megan said, in Kansas at Emporia State there's a school, on the East Coast there's a great school in Philadelphia called Tyler, there's glassmaking at Mass Art, so glass programs really all across the country, where people are learning to make glass today and to use it as a sculptural material.  
    So, Megan and Jeff are getting ready, Megan's preparing the punty, so we saw her make a teeny little punty to transfer that banana from the blowpipe onto that punty rod so they could work on opening it up, they're going to do the same thing with the bubble that Jeff has formed over there. You might notice that the bubble that Jeff has formed is lopsided. They've been talking about this as a platter, if you look at this now it's clearly not a platter, it's kind of a capsule shape, but surprisingly enough this will become a platter, and one of the interesting things — I might save this as a surprise — you'll have to watch and see what happens to this platter, and I'll give you a hint that it relates to the shape of the bubble right now, but a very interesting thing will happen to this platter as they work get it on the punty and work on opening it up.  
    So, a great question that we have coming through is, “Can we use the scraps of glass that are made throughout the process?” So, in the process of making glass, there is quite a lot of scrap glass that is a byproduct of that, and anything that is perfectly clear, we can reuse. And it's just as simple as shoveling it back into the furnace at the end of the day with the raw materials. Actually, it's very useful to have some scrap clear glass when you're melting the raw materials, because that scrap clear glass actually helps to melt the raw material faster and at a little bit of a lower temperature than if you're melting the raw material alone. In fact, one of the things that we've learned is that for as long as people have made glass they've actually added scrap to it, and it's not just because they didn't want to waste the material, it's mostly because they wanted to save the energy. Glass making has been done, glass has been made by man for as far as we know around 4000 years now, so it's been made a very long time, and for most of the history of making glass people have melted it using wood. So when settlers came to Jamestown in 1608, some of the first people that came with them were glass makers and they came to Jamestown, they came over here, they established a glass studio because they knew there was plenty of wood around here to burn the fires, to melt the glass, to make the materials and the objects that they needed. 
    Okay! So Megan and Jeff are working on punting this up, they're using a big chunky punty for this piece because this will not only have to carry the weight of this platter that they're working on, but also a weight of a half a dozen or more banana peels that they'll be putting on there as the demonstration goes on. Jimmy, do you know how many peels are in there to put on this platter finally? 
    — (Jimmy Anderegg) [muffled] I think there’s nine... 
    — (Eric Meek) Nine of them, okay.  
    [clears throat] 
    — (Eric Meek) Okay, so they have, currently they have this attached to two pipes... 
    — (Eric Meek) Jeff is using the bench torch there to keep the neck of the piece warm...And with a little tap, it breaks free. So there they made a transfer and they're going to be working on putting some heat into the top of this platter so they can start to flare that out and open it up. 
    — (Eric Meek) So... 
    [clears throat] 
    — (Eric Meek) There's a general question about how long do you need to make glass to be able to assist Megan or to assist in a glass shop. One of the great things about assisting an artist working in a glass shop is there's really a role for people at a lot of different levels. Glass making is a very — as you're seeing tonight — it's a very collaborative way of creating art, right. And there are a lot of different things where if you — even if you don't have a lot of experience where you can come and you can be in the shop, and you can participate and help out in a meaningful way even if you're just beginning. There are ways to prepare the tools or ways to make sure the equipment is ready that is very useful to the glass makers that you don't have to have a lot of experience for. That being said, I think to be able to successfully assist in making things, for example doing what Helen is doing right now which is preparing some glass to apply to the platter that they're working on, four years is probably the minimum that I've seen someone come here with four years of experience and to really be able to participate in a confident way. Certainly, it doesn't take four years to be able to make anything, but it takes four years to be able to make things consistently. Just because, glass is a material that's so hard to understand, it's just changing all the time, different colors of glass react differently, different studios work differently, so it really takes a long time to become confident.  
    — (Eric Meek) So, Helen is heating up a bit of glass right now which will become the rim of the piece that Jeff is working on. Jeff is working on flaring out the rim a little bit on that piece. Before they flare out the rim too much — which you can see him doing over there — he's going to trim it to make it even, perhaps. He had his shears out there, we'll see if he does that or not. But then they're going to wrap this colored glass around the rim that Helen is using here. So, there you can see now that that's a hollow form, that's an open form... 
     [muffled voices in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) And very much not a platter yet, but they're going to be working to a point where that becomes a nice flat platter. I'll take a look back at my questions here one more time. 
     [clears throat] 
    — (Eric Meek) “With the time sensitivityy of this project, is it right to assume that it has to be very well planned in advance so that the team knows exactly what's going on?”  
    [Eric chuckles]  
    — (Eric Meek) And I would say yes, in the very best scenarios, when you have a piece like this that has multiple components that have to come together, the artist is very good at communicating to the team. In this case that is true, Megan thank you for laying out a plan that we all know and understand and agree upon, it's not always the case, everybody communicates in different ways and sometimes glassmakers like to fly by the seat of their pants a little bit. But we've had the good fortune of being able to work with Megan Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday preparing for this, and in that time — we've known Megan, and we've worked a little bit with her before — but in that time we got to know her better and her style of working and the way that she likes to collaborate, and that's been really useful for us. That being said glassmakers are also used to being very flexible. Here at the studio — at the Corning Museum of Glass — we have artists come here from all over the world and the team has experience working with all sorts of different people, and they're very flexible, and what we try to do as a support team is just to remain flexible and neutral, right, and to let whoever's leading the charge call the shots. And that's the most important thing, no matter who is in Megan's role — tonight of course it's Megan, she has a lot of experience — whoever's in that lead role we let them lead and we follow. So right now they're applying this lip wrap. So, Helen has this — this is an aventurine color so this is got some nice sparkle to it, which you can see there, these amazing cameras — and they're wrapping it right around the rim of this piece. This is called a lip wrap and that'll be a beautiful color highlight on the rim of this platter, all the way around the very edge. Right now it's very small, but you'll see as this piece opens up that that will follow the rim all around the edge.  
    — (Megan Stelljes) This brown is the same brown as on the bananas.  
    — (Eric Meek) Oh, it is? 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Mhmm. 
    — (Eric Meek) oh, cool! Yeah, that'll tie it all together.  
     [pause] [inhales] 
    — (Eric Meek) Hey, Megan did you...I think this is always a fun — this is always something I think about. So, did you have to invent new techniques to make bananas? I always feel like when I'm making something, there's something in the history of my experience that informs how I'm approaching making a banana, or whatever I happen to be doing. Is there anything that you feel like was breaking new ground to work on this particular piece? 
    — (Megan Stelljes) You know, I kind of feel a little bit the same...the one thing that I think...technique that's a little strange that I do for the bananas is, I pull a ridge and then I cut that ridge off. 
    — (Eric Meek) Yep. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) So, where there's the cut mark, there's actually the absence of color, which draws a line for me. So, by removing the color it's actually drawing a line and so that was sort of the breakthrough, I guess, that really brought — 
    — (Eric Meek) Is that — that's the product of that, right? 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Yep, and then if I show you in the trim...Sorry, Jeff! You can see these lines — 
    — (Eric Meek) Yep, okay. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) — and so when the banana is whole those lines 
    — (Eric Meek) Let me hold that out here for them to see. So, Megan was saying that to get that line, she actually squeezes the glass up while it's hot and then cuts that off, and that that helps to make that color line there. 
    [sound of blowtorches] [sniffle] 
    — (Eric Meek) I'll walk away from the torches here, I don't know how bad that is on the audio, but I'll walk away here for a little bit. There was a question about applying that lip wrap...”How much force is Jeff using at any particular time?” When he was applying the lip wrap, it goes on really softly, it goes on easily. As he's opening this up, you'll see him using quite a bit of force, because this glass is quite thick. Right, it'll still be hot, and it will be it'll be pretty soft, but he'll still have to use quite a bit of force when he starts to push this open.  
    The other fun question that I just saw was about the about the compressed air system that we're using to blow glass and that is, “Do we miss not blowing through the blowpipe?” And the answer to that is a resounding yes. You know, you have a feel and a modulation blowing through the blowpipe. There's a feedback system that's just missing when we have to use this compressed air system, so, it's different. We've certainly gotten used to it, and I would be lying if I didn't say  that there are times when we prefer to use the compressed air now. So, if we are working production and we really want to get something done quickly and we've been doing the same thing over and over again, then the compressed air is really an asset because it can help us speed the production along. But when we're doing things that are more delicate, or things that are kind of one-off, you know, being able to blow through the blowpipe provides one more sort of direct link between you and the material. As silly as that sounds, you can actually feel the glass reacting to your breath. Another question that we always get asked is... 
    [Eric chuckles] 
    — (Eric Meek) “What happens if you breathe in?” And fortunately the answer to that question is nothing. So, there's no risk of breathing in hot air from the blowpipe because the pipes are too long, and you couldn't inhale that amount of air through the pipe to hurt your lung. 
    [sound of blowtorch] 
    [microphone thump] 
    — (Eric Meek) Megan, there's a question about the finish on the banana peels in the museum. Now, they're not as glossy as you would expect glass to be, and I know using the powder that you use makes them a little bit matte, but is there anything else that you do to for the finish of the banana peels that are in the museum piece? 
    — (Megan Stelljes) I do. I sand blast them, and then I also oil them. 
    — (Eric Meek) Oh, okay. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) I know some people use different finishes, and I use an oil because it will eventually go away and then you can reapply — 
    — (Eric Meek) Yep. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) And then that way it's, in a way it's archival because it's not archival... 
    — (Eric Meek) Right.  
    — (Megan Stelljes) If that makes sense... 
    [Megan laughs] 
    — (Eric Meek) Yeah, yep, so, I'll restate what Megan just said if it'll be of any use and that is that we actually, often, if we don't want a glossy finish on glass we'll use a sandblaster, which is a cold process. So you blow compressed air and sand particles on the surface of the glass and it erodes, it etches it a little bit and it will become very matte, it almost becomes too matte. And so, Megan said that what she does, then, is rub it with oil so it gives you a nice satiny texture, and it isn't too chalky looking on the surface. There's a question about “Does Megan know what the peel will look like when she starts and does she make it up as she goes along?” I think Megan, the positioning of the peels and everything, you probably have a general idea of how you want the peel bits to lay. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) I do, I have them in the garage in a very specific order, and this morning I spent some time arranging them —  
    — (Eric Meek) Oh, cool. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Which was a little unnerving because it's like dry very breakable glass 
    — (Eric Meek) Yeah. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) So I just kind of stacked them together today and really planned out their placement, and then as I loaded them into the equipment they're by order — 
    — (Eric Meek) Oh, wow. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) And I've relayed that information to the team so they know when to bring which one over.  
    — (Eric Meek) Okay, so we're getting close to the point now where this platter is gonna be flat pretty soon, so the next part of this process is to start bringing banana peels — which we have pre-made in a little oven over there — start bringing those banana peels out and attaching them, hot, permanently stick them onto this platter. 
    [microphone thump] 
    — (Eric Meek) Now this is a really fun part of the demonstration because you get to see some drastic change happening, without the use of a lot of tools 
    — (Eric Meek) Look at that, it's just getting this nice and hot and spinning faster and faster. 
    [muffled voices in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) Jeff has flattened this out into a nice platter. And now you can see the result of having made that sort of capsule shaped, rather than perfectly round, it's made an oblong or an oval platter. Very nice. 
    [sound of blowtorch] 
    — (Eric Meek) There's a comment about the physicality of the work, and —  
    [pause, searching for words] 
    — (Eric Meek) You know, I would say I would say that, that glass making is physical work for the people who like that — I mean, it's always an active process, right, you're always using your body and you're lifting things, and you're moving around and you're in the heat so it's always an active process, but I wouldn't say that it's always a strenuous process, because there are things that you can do that are different in scale, or that are lighter, that don't take quite as much that don't take quite as much effort. And, I think the other thing about glass is that, you know, what we're doing here tonight — working molten glass out of a furnace on the end of a blowpipe — is just one of many different ways that you can form glass as an artist, and there's nothing that will make that more evident than going through the gallery there and seeing the New Glass Now show. Believe it or not, very few — I really don't know by percentage-wise, but certainly not a majority certainly, not even half of the objects in New Glass Now were formed on the end of a blowpipe like this. Glass can also be cast it, can be cold worked, it can be molded, it can be flameworked, and so for people who have different abilities who maybe wouldn't want to work in a hot shop like this can still work in glass and express themselves using this amazing and versatile material. 
    [muffled voices in background] [sound of blowtorch] 
    — (Eric Meek) Good question about making something larger than the hole in the oven, 
    [Eric chuckles]  
    — (Eric Meek) And the answer to that is, you can't really. You need to make sure that whatever you're making will fit in the furnaces that you're making. We do have a we have a bit of an answer to that question right here, and that is next to this reheating furnace we have a bigger one, so all of the doors are open on this furnace tonight, and here you can see that they would not have wanted to make that platter any larger. But if we know that they wanted to make it larger, we have a bigger furnace right next to this one here that we could have turned on. All right, so now this is the part of the process — nothing that they've done up until now has made anyone very nervous. This is the part of the process where people start getting a little nervous, because Jeff has taken a banana peel — that was pre-made — and was in a box that was about 900 degrees and now they're heating it back up to a point where they can stick it onto this platter. So this is this is really tempting fate here, right. One thing I haven't talked about with glass is that you can never let it cool below about 900 degrees while you're working on it or it will shatter. So, they're taking things that are cold and they're bringing them back up and applying them and putting them into a 2000 degree furnace, and that is really a very precarious thing to do. And, again, Megan just made that look really easy. 
     [Eric sniffles] 
    [muffled voices in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) Things are getting exciting in the hot shop now. Tom and Jeff are over there making sure they know the order in which to bring these bananas out. They want to make sure that they're serving bananas to Megan relatively quickly, right. We don't want Megan over here idling, waiting too long for the next banana, because you really — to be successful in this, you want things to go at the right pace, right, you don't want to be waiting for someone to bring you something, because then the glass is just getting colder, everything's a little bit more risky. So it's really on Tom, Helen, and Jeff right now to stay on top of bringing these bananas out and serving them up to Jimmy and Megan here. Who knows, maybe before the night's over I might have to have to jump in here and help out too. 
    [Eric clears throat] 
    — (Eric Meek) How are we going to get the platter off? We hope, we hope that the attachment point that we've made at the bottom of this platter to the punty will be the weak point. That's what we hope, there are a lot of delicate connections here, but we hope the most delicate will be the one where the punty attaches to the bottom of the piece, and this is one of the things that makes glass making really challenging, is that that is something that requires just a whole lot of experience to make sure that you have it right. This timing here, Jeff, Megan, and Jimmy are working out their timing. 
     [Eric clears throat] 
    — (Eric Meek) They've got, I think Jimmy said eight or ten of these to put on, and they want to make sure that their timing is right on... 
    — (Eric Meek) So the process doesn't take longer than it should. “Are there environmental concerns about glassmaking?” The answer to that is a resounding yes, what we're doing here tonight is energy intensive, it's resource intensive, and, it's something that we're all aware of and we're concerned about. Our furnaces are fueled with natural gas...we're fortunate here at the Museum that we've invested in some technology — and we're using some technology — of melting glass with electric furnaces, which of course will open the door to using renewables to do this. I know in industry a lot of glass is made with electric furnaces. The resources itself that we use to make glass...certainly silica is a very abundant mineral in the earth's crust, however, really high quality silica, and sand itself, are becoming limited, and so it is certainly something that we're all aware of. We're trying to do our part at the Museum and investing in things that will hopefully make a better tomorrow for glass. 
    — (Eric Meek) Also a trend you see is that people are opening more cooperative studios, so in the past, you know the dream was always to open your own glass shop, and to have your own furnace, and to  make everything by yourself, in your own studio, in your backyard or in your hometown, but we're not seeing that happen as much anymore, and we're seeing a lot more people open cooperative and collaborative studios, like Gray Barn studio where Jimmy and Megan work. They work together, they also provide a place for a lot of the artists in the Seattle glass community to work, and so those are trends that we see happening that I think are positive, where resources are being pooled a little bit more to make this something that that is more sustainable down the road. 
    [Eric clears throat] [muffled voices in the background] 
    — (Eric Meek) Another good question that pertains to this a little bit is, “Does the molten glass in the furnace stay hot?” Our main heat, our main melting furnace here actually stays running 24 hours a day. There's really no way to heat up 1,000 pounds or even 100 pounds of glass in the morning to start a project, so a glass melting furnace stays on 24 hours a day. Overnight, when we're not using it, we melt more glass and so that furnace stays on 24 hours a day. The reheating furnaces that we use are shut off immediately after we're done and so, fortunately, those are not running all day and night. 
     [Eric clears throat] 
    — (Eric Meek) Again, any tools for measurement, in this particular case no. I think Megan is going from experience, you know, she's made enough of these banana peels now that she knows about the scale to make them, about how much glass to gather to get the banana peel the size that she wants...I overheard Megan and Jeff talking when they were talking about making this platter, and you'll certainly notice that the platter is just the right size, right, it just fits into that furnace, and so certainly Megan and Jeff were aware of that scale of limitation. Because Jeff works in this studio every day, he knows this shop very well and he knew how much glass he needed to gather and how large he could make that bubble to make the platter the right size, and not to scale out of this reheating furnace that we're using tonight. So, there are certainly cases where you need to use measuring devices, if you're making a set of wine glasses you want all of them to be exactly the same height, it's useful along the way to make a few measurements to make sure you're on the right track, but I would say the more experienced glass maker that you see working the less you'll see them using calipers or rulers or anything like that. 
    — (Eric Meek) So, again, I'd just like to say one more time, I mean you can see some t-shirts and some logos around, we are at the Corning Museum of Glass. A little bit of information about the Corning Museum of Glass: we're located in the small community of Corning in Upstate New York. Corning is a small community with a long history in glass making, people have made glass here in Corning, New York for over 150 years now. It's really an honor to be in a town, and associated with a museum, that's part of that ongoing tradition of making glass. There are many places in the country that have an industrial history or an identity like that, like we do here in Corning. So, glass making came to Corning in 1868, and  it came here for a number of reasons, probably the biggest reason was that Corning here was a northern terminus for some coal fields — coal was being mined in northern Pennsylvania, and it came up into Corning, New York and it and from Corning, New York it went into the Erie Canal system. So, 150 years ago, Corning was actually one of the places where glassmakers were getting the coal to fuel their furnaces. And so, once again, that need for fuel wound up bringing a glass company to Corning, New York. It was the Brooklyn Flint Glassworks and it became the Corning Glassworks, so the Corning Glassworks started here 150 years ago, now, the Corning Glassworks had already existed in Brooklyn and before that in Massachusetts, and on their 100th anniversary — and this was in 1951— they founded the Corning Museum of Glass. So, the Corning Museum of Glass was founded in 1951, and it's the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of glass objects, and, part of what we do here at the museum is interpret those objects in our collection through live demonstration. And so, here at the museum we know that a lot of people love to see glass being made, they love to see the art in our collection, and the historical pieces in our collection, come to life through demonstration and so we are very fortunate to have a wonderful studio dedicated here to making glass for visitors who come to the museum, and for collaborating with artists who want to come here to Corning and work.  
    — (Eric Meek) The Corning Museum of Glass also has a wonderful school called the Studio where people can come and learn to make glass from experts from around the world, we teach workshops here and have glassmakers from around the world come here to teach and students from around the world come here to learn. And so, it really is a place, not only for the history of glass, still the hometown of the of the company Corning Incorporated, but also the home to this wonderful museum and a place that almost every glass artist comes to sooner or later. Because this is a nice studio too — someone asked about the temperature of the room — it's also one of the most comfortable glass shops that we've ever worked in. We built the studio in 2015, and we have the good fortune here of having had a lot of experience and having a lot of people with experience in industrial glass, so they were able to help us make this a very comfortable studio. So, this studio tonight is very comfortable to work in, it's not too hot, it's not too cold, a lot of glass studios get very, very hot, it's a lot of very hot air coming out of those furnaces, a lot of volume of hot air to move out of a room and so a lot of glass shops are very hot in the summertime, you know, easily over 100, 120 degrees. 
    — (Eric Meek) I'll ask this is a good question about, is it difficult — Megan is it hard for you to work in a different studio like this? 
    — (Megan Stelljes) [muffled in background] Um, it’s not [inaudible] 
    — (Eric Meek) Make sure your mike's on, here. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) It's nice, I've had a couple days to get used to it, but you know, it's definitely not my home turf, but it's a lot of the same equipment and everybody here speaks the same language of glass, so I feel pretty comfortable. 
    [sound of blowtorch] 
    — (Eric Meek) Yeah, that's a great question, you know, you certainly get used to what we sometimes say ‘cooking in your own kitchen,’ right, you know what drawer to go into to get the knives and where to find the butter and all those kind of things, and it's the same for glass makers — 
    — (Megan Stelljes) [in background] All right, Helen. 
    — (Eric Meek) But, a lot of glass studios are laid out in a similar manner and, as Megan said, we all speak the same language and so you can really adapt. The style of equipment that we have here is very universal — 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Okay. 
    — (Eric Meek) There are some studios that really customize their equipment,  
    — (Megan Stelljes) We’re gonna need it here (inaudible) 
    — (Eric Meek) Their benches, for example or something like that, and that makes it a little harder for someone coming from outside to adjust to, but the studio here is pretty universal in the orientation of the equipment, where the furnace is relationship to the bench, and things like that so, we try to be able to accommodate and adapt to a lot of different people's working styles. “Will this piece be on display at the Corning Museum of Glass?” The answer that to that is no, Megan is here making this object that will belong to her, the museum may eventually decide to collect it —  
    — (Megan Stelljes) Flip 90 degrees!  
    — (Eric Meek) It’s really something different, so, when we have guest artists here and they're making work in our in our shops, we'll certainly display it in here when it comes out of the furnace but we're really here as a resource for Megan to grow her work and to grow her profile and portfolio — 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Okay, it's kind of... 
    — (Eric Meek) And this piece will belong to her. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) It’s on there, but we'll take a roaster and I'm going to kind of move it with the corks a little bit, okay, Jeremy? 
    — (Eric Meek) I'm so, so happy this question came up — 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Give us a little life! 
    [muffled voices in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) about the competition— 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Yep! 
    — (Eric Meek) reality show called Blown Away — 
    — (Megan Stelljes) Oh, I’m gettin' a little hot. 
    — (Eric Meek) there is a competition reality show about glass making, 
    — (Megan Stelljes) [giggles] Thank you. 
    — (Eric Meek) If you haven't seen it, I would recommend that you watch it, it's on Netflix and it's called Blown Away, there are two seasons there and what kind of effect has it — 
    [Eric coughs] 
    — (Eric Meek) Excuse me, has it had on the glass world? And, the show the show itself is entertaining, it's very beautifully shot, and I have to say that it's had a remarkable, almost profound effect for glass artists around the world. You know, just the fact that glassblowing is now in the living rooms of millions and millions of people has brought a profile to what we do, and brought awareness to a level that none of us have ever experienced before, and that is a very positive thing. At the Corning Museum of Glass we hear every day people being aware of the museum and glass making for the first time and deciding to visit our museum because of Blown Away, we hear of artists every day saying that their work is selling better, or more people are visiting their studios because of this show, and so, within the community of glass artists it is hugely appreciated. The rising tide of Blown Away has really helped lift all boats and it's been a wonderful thing. 
    — (Eric Meek) “Are the techniques for making and shaping neon different to the kind of glass making that we're doing here tonight?” And that's another great question, we've talked about glass making in that there are lots of different ways to use glass as a sculptural material, neon is a very different way of sculpting glass. Fundamentally, it's similar to flame working, so the torch that Megan has in her hand right now you could use to heat a tube of glass and to shape it into a neon form. Typically, torches used to make neon — when you make neon you start out with glass tubing, and you heat that tubing and bend it, basically, but typically the torches used to make neon have very wide flames, so that it's a flame that might be a foot wide with little flames coming up all along that, so you can heat a long swath of that tubing and get it to form a gentle arc. So, it's a very, very different way of forming glass, it's an amazing art form to watch, the people that make neon tubing and bend tubing well are just incredible to watch.  
    [sound of blowtorch] 
    — (Eric Meek) “What's the most surprising and interesting material you've added to glass while experimenting with it?” It might surprise you to hear that there are hardly any materials that play well with glass. So, glass as it heats and cools, expands and contracts. It has  something called a ‘coefficient of expansion’ which means that as the temperature of the material changes it very imperceptibly expands and contracts, and glass does that in a way that's unlike almost any other material. So there are very few materials that you can embed, or fuse with glass, that won't cause it to shatter and to fall apart. You sometimes can get away with adding copper to glass, because copper is so malleable that it will deflect with the glass and maybe not break it — 
    [muffled voices yelling in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) But it's not really a good practice to introduce materials other than glass into the glass making process. That's why glassmakers have become so adept at making glass look like other stuff,  
    [Eric chuckles] 
    — (Eric Meek) because we can't use other stuff, we have to we have to make it imitate other things. This is just awesome, I love seeing this come together! 
    [muffled voices in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) There’s a question about how long the process is start to finish, so, you guys are joining us tonight — and thank you for hanging on for as long as you have, we've got a couple more of these peels to stick on. So, you know, we've been working just over an hour now but that's really only represents a fraction of the work that's gone into this piece. You know, Megan has spent over an hour on each of the bananas as well and so all together this piece is going to represent basically Megan's last week of work with us, so this is really culminating in quite a lot of effort. which is a very exciting thing to see come together. 
    [sound of blowtorch] [door hinge creaking] 
    — (Eric Meek) Great, I love seeing these questions come in. There are some questions about the weight of the piece, and I know those questions came in early, but now that this piece is being added onto and being added onto, the weight really is becoming a factor. So, you can see that Jimmy isn't moving quite as easily as he was before. I would say the blow pipe that he's using probably weighs 10 to 12 pounds, the glass on the end of it I'm guessing right now weighs that again, maybe 10 to 15 pounds, and so, you know, all together he might have 20 to 25 pounds, and that doesn't seem like a lot, right, that 25 pounds 20 pounds, I can lift that up, but just the fact that you're doing this for an hour and a half that it never stops, that you can't stop turning. Also that it's 2000 degrees that it's moving, that all makes this something that takes quite a bit of a bit of effort. 
    [sound of blowtorch] [door hinge creaking] [muffled voices in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) “How will Megan sandblast the bananas on this?” Megan, do you think you'd sandblast the bananas on this one? 
    — (Eric Meek) Oh, Megan's in it now, do you think you'd sandblast these bananas? 
    [muffled speech in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) Yeah, so, if Megan were to sandblast these bananas... to do that without affecting the platter, you'd have to mask the platter off, and it's literally like masking a wall if you don't want to get paint on it you just have to put down masking tape. And she would literally have to get down there, in between all the cracks, underneath all the peels there and make sure that she has a material on there that would mask the platter from becoming sandblasted. I mean, the other thing that she might do is just sandblast the whole platter as well, which is another option. 
    — (Eric Meek) Yep! “Do you tag team?” That's a great question, somebody asked if we tag team in terms of handling the load, and you might have noticed, but it has happened, you know. So, earlier on Jimmy was less involved and Helen was taking some reheats and that's really by design, you know, a lot of times glass artists will work in a way where if they know someone will have a real heavy jag on the pipe near the end of the piece, they'll just take it easy in the beginning and they'll save some of their strength, you know they won't be making the gathers, they won't be running around, and so you really want to reserve someone — when you're doing a strenuous piece, you want to reserve them for the crucial moments, and that's actually happened tonight. 
    [muffled voices in background] [Eric clears throat] 
    — (Eric Meek) “Will we be able to see the piece when it's cool?” “Will we post an image of the object when it's done?” Now, the Corning Museum of Glass, we always post images of the objects that we make on our social media streams, on Facebook and Instagram. I assume that the Renwick will do the same, we'll make sure they get an image of this. I'd also like to share that a recording of this will go on YouTube as well, so a recording of the creation of this object tonight will go on YouTube if it's something that you'd like to share with one of your friends or if you'd like to come back and take a look at. We will be sharing out the creation of this object on YouTube after the fact, it'll take a few days for it to get there, but it's certainly something that we like to do. 
    [muffled voices in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) It’s always an amazing transformation after the piece has cooled, I mentioned the very beginning of this of this stream that the colors look different when they're hot, and I'll just say it again, that when this cools down completely, you'll see that those bananas brighten right up, that that pink will really will just look amazing. 
    — (Eric Meek) Looks like we have all the — is that all the bananas, Jeff? All right, so we have all the bananas on it. Right now Megan is using some cork paddles to do some final pushes. 
    [sound of blowtorch] [muffled voices in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) You know, we were saying that this piece has taken a long time and it represents a lot of effort, but really, when you think about it, three days of work, an evening here to bring it all together to create a vision that you have in your mind, a sculptural object that you have in your mind, to create a piece made of glass that will endure potentially for decades, right — millennia, perhaps, we have pieces of glass in the Corning Museum that are 2,000 years old — it's really a pretty remarkable material, glass, that you can sculpt it so quickly... 
    — (Eric Meek) And that it's so versatile and it can mimic things like this. It's just an amazing material, and we couldn't be more proud that the Renwick is sharing this show, New Glass Now, in their venue to really showcase the versatility of glass, and how artists are using it today to express themselves. How artists are taking an ancient material and shaping it in new ways and continually learning and discovering more about it. It's just amazing. 
    [muffled voices in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) “Why do we keep turning?” That's a great question, so this piece is it's becoming more and more rigid, however, it is still soft, right. And if Jimmy were to stop turning you would see this piece sagging down towards the floor. We really turn to keep it as symmetrical as we can, we turn to keep it centered, and as it gets hotter ,it's just more important to turn a little bit faster. So, the turning is always necessary because the glass is always sagging, even if it's starting to set up, it's not sagging quite as much, it still is sagging and moving and deforming. Megan is working on refining some of those parts that have gotten deformed a little bit. You know, we put a lot of weight on this piece, and it throws the balance of it out a little bit, so right now she's really working to refine the form of that platter as we're winding down. She's also heating some of those joints...we're going to have to still get this off of the punty, right, and we need to make sure that all the joints that are holding those bananas onto the platter — and holding those bananas to each other — are stronger than the joint that's holding the platter to the punty. And so this is really a point at which we want everybody, as this is winding down, as we're working towards getting this off the punty, where we want everybody to cross their fingers out there to make sure this comes off just like Megan intends. When we do break this off the end of the punty, I've said all along that we can't cool the glass below 1000 degrees...we can cool the glass below 1000 degrees, of course, but we have to do that in a very controlled way. So we're going to put this entire platter into an oven that's just below 1000 degrees, and it will cool for about 24 hours. It cools down very, very slowly, and that forces the glass to cool evenly. The thickest and the thinnest parts of this glass, if left to cool in the air, would cool at different rates. And because glass expands and contracts as it heats and cools those hotter parts and the thinner parts — the thicker parts and the thinner parts — would separate from each other and break. So by putting this in an oven and forcing it to cool slowly, we force the thickest parts and the thinnest parts to cool together and that way it will stay in one piece. That's a process called annealing, and all glass has to be annealed. All glass has to be cooled slowly so that it doesn't break the dimensions of the finished piece. I know that the retainer ring on this reheating furnace is about 20 inches, so the ring of that furnace that you're seeing when they open those doors is about 20 inches, so I'm going to guess that this platter, where it's its widest, is probably 17 or 18 inches in diameter. And again, I'm going to guess the whole piece weighs around 15 pounds. 
    [sound of blowtorch] 
    — (Eric Meek) This is amazing, I love this piece and I love this view. This view inside of our 2000 degree furnace is complements of a very special piece of glass called fused silica. Because we happen to be in Corning here — and we know some folks at Corning Incorporated — Corning Incorporated developed a glass that is pure fused silica, pure silica fused at around 4000 degrees. It's actually glass that was developed for use in the Apollo spacecraft, and so we like to tell people that we have a spaceship window in the back of our furnace that's protecting our camera from the extreme heat of that furnace, so we can get that amazing view in our reheating furnace there. 
    [muffled voices in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) All right, it's time to get out the iPhones...we want to make sure we — yeah. 
    [muffled voices in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) Sorry, I'm going to narrate and get the obligatory...iPhone photo here. 
    [sound of blowtorches] [muffled voices in background] 
    — (Megan Stelljes) [inaudible speech in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) Oh, I wish you could all be here and see this piece in person, and feel the heat. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) [inaudible speech in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) All right, so what they're doing now, again, is making sure that those attachment points are secure and they're working on making the, where the punty meets the piece, making sure that that's the weakest point. 
    [sound of blowtorches] [muffled voices in background] 
    — (Megan Stelljes) [in background] Last flash! 
    — (Eric Meek) Alright, last flash, that means this is the last heat before we break it off. Tom Ryder has his space suit on, he's got a suit with Kevlar gloves, he'll catch this piece 
    — (Megan Stelljes) [inaudible speech in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) All right, so they're going to get in there and crunch on that with some sh...thick one. 
    [crunch and clatter] [rustling] [metal clattering on ground] 
    — (Eric Meek) And there it goes! Now, we don't like to celebrate too much until it gets into our annealing oven...they're walking over there... 
    — (Eric Meek) All right! And now we can finally take a sigh of relief. Amazing, amazing job. How can art be that exciting. 
    — (Megan Stelljes) [in background] Thank you! 
    — (Eric Meek) Megan, Jimmy, nice job! Helen Tegler, Tom Ryder, Jeff Mack, absolutely killing it tonight. 
    [muffled excited speech in background] 
    — (Eric Meek) Well, I certainly want to thank all of you for tuning in and being part of this tonight. We really love to share this excitement and our love for glass from the Corning Museum of Glass. We're really honored to be a part of this with the Renwick. Thank you guys so much for giving us the opportunity to have Megan here and to share this amazing piece with you.  
    Thank you all so much, that was truly extraordinary and more action-packed than a Marvel movie! I want to thank you, Eric, for narrating and keeping and educating us so much on the process of glass. Extraordinary work to Megan and Jimmy and Jeff and Helen and Tom and everybody who was behind the camera providing these wonderful detailed shots. Thank you all thank you all a bunch for joining us this evening, please remember to go to your browser window and complete the survey. We appreciate your feedback about our program. As a reminder, New Glass Now — including Megan's work — will be on view through March 6, 2022 at the Renwick Gallery and, as Eric pointed out, the hot sculpted glass bananas and the neon are just one of many — or, two of many, many, many examples in glass that are on view in the exhibition. Our museum is a nonprofit organization that relies on private donations. We're able to share free digital programs like the one tonight thanks to funding from generous supporters like you. Please consider showing your support with a donation today using the link we shared in the chat box. Good night, everyone, thank you so much. Good night to our friends and morning and happy holidays to everyone watching thank you 
    Thank you guys, good night.