Blown glass Christmas ornaments

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Elements Glass in NW Portland opens its studio every holiday season to novice glass blowers – that is, anyone who wants to give it a try. My family – including our three girls, ages 5, 8, and 10 – signed up to blow ten ornaments, and we had a wonderful time.

These were even more fun than glass blowing pumpkins at Halloween, because there were endless colors and patterns to choose. Do you want your ornament to be clear, or opaque? One color? Two? Three? More? Do you want your colors to swirl together, or form dots, or (as one of the glass blowers showed me), do you want them to “squiggle” by using tweezers to pull on the glass when it’s hot and pliable?

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I would have never guessed that there were so many variables to producing a simple glass ball – each color melts and blends differently, and at different speeds, the glass must be constantly turned and repeatedly heated, and how hard you blow through the pipe – this is one of the parts that we novices got to do – dictates the shape, size, and thickness of your glass ball. My eight-year-old liked filling the hot glass balls with air so much so that her ornaments came out too big to hang on the tree! It’s truly an amazing and artistic process, I can see that you could do it your entire life and not even scratch the surface of all of the possible variations.

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Elements Glass does have the process set up so that the novice glass blowers are hands-on for most of the time, but still, the artists there assisting us do most of it – we just kind of help hold the pipe, blow when we’re told to, and ask a lot of questions. Still, it’s a great way to spend a rainy holiday afternoon, and if it sparks your interest, beginning glass blowing classes start in January . . .

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