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Glass blowing can be a fun and creative way to make money. This method can be used to produce a huge array of products, from easy, simple glassware to intricate works of art. If you’re interested in taking up this hobby or growing a business around it, here’s a guide to sourcing supplies.
The Glass Industry in 2022
The glass industry is mainly made up of large companies that manufacture sheets of glass for windows and other fixtures. However, glass blowing is a more specialized field with lots of independent artisans. It’s gained popularity in recent years thanks to shows like “Blown Away” on Netflix. There’s also a sustained demand for unique artisan glassware.
READ MORE: Where to Sell Wholesale Craft SuppliesTop Places to Buy Glass Blowing Supplies for Your Business
As you build up your stock of glass, tools, and decorative items, there are tons of both online and in-person shops to try. Here’s a selection of top stores for glass blowers to source glass blowing materials.
You can purchase basically anything on Amazon, including glass, heating elements, tubes, and accessories. Many items, including full starter kits, are available with free Prime shipping.
Etsy hosts tons of glass-blown products, as well as materials for makers. In addition to the tools and raw materials needed to stock your new venture, many makers sell glass scraps for discounted rates. This can be an ideal way to practice your craft or add unique pieces to your collection for cheap.
Walmart stocks a huge array of products, including some glass tubes and torch accessories. Most products are available online, but you may find a few in stores as well.
eBay offers a wide variety of glass-blowing tools and supplies from individual sellers. The marketplace features torches, presses, glass, and scraps. Many products are used, which can make them more affordable.
5. Wale Apparatus
Wale Apparatus offers a full stock of products for the glass and quartz industries. This includes tubing, rods, and safety gear. They manufacture their own products and can guide glass blowers to quality items.
6. Mountain Glass Arts
Mountain Glass Arts specializes in equipment for glass artists. They offer glass rods and tubes, along with larger items like heating elements and kilns. They even have larger pieces of equipment like lathes available for order.
7. Glass House Supply
Glass House Supply features a full selection of colorful glass and quality tools for independent artisans. It’s a small business based in California. So you can order products online and find unique, quality items.
8. Hot Glass Color
Hot Glass Color sells a variety of glassblowing supplies. But the shop specializes in colorful glass. The shop has a huge array of shades available to suit nearly any project.
HUB specializes in durable glass heating and melting equipment. They sell large kilns, ovens, pipe warmers, and more. The company also provides training and support for all of its products. So it may be an ideal option for those looking to invest in larger equipment who could use some help starting up.
10. American Glass Roots
American Glass Roots is a specialty online retailer that sells glass rods, tubes, and tools. They stock everything from tubing to torches. And they even have classes available for those looking to improve their skills or learn new techniques.
Essential Glassblowing Supplies
There are a variety of products you may need to build your stock of glassblowing supplies. Here are a few ongoing materials you may need to keep on hand.
Soda-lime glass is the most common type of glass and is typically used in windows, bottles, and many other everyday items. It’s made from sodium carbonate (soda), lime, dolomite, silicon dioxide, and small amounts of other compounds. Soda-lime glass is relatively soft and easy to melt, making it ideal for glassblowing. It’s also known for its clarity, allowing for a wide range of artistic possibilities. Because of its versatility and accessibility, many glassblowers start their journey working with this type of glass.
Often referred to by the brand name “Pyrex”, borosilicate glass is renowned for its high resistance to temperature changes, chemicals, and breakage. It’s created using silica and boron oxide, resulting in a material that has a much lower coefficient of thermal expansion compared to soda-lime glass. This makes it perfect for laboratory equipment, certain cookware, and specialized art pieces. For glassblowers, working with borosilicate glass requires higher melting temperatures, but the end result is a piece that can withstand much more stress and variation in temperatures.
Fused Quartz Glass
Fused quartz, sometimes referred to as fused silica, is made almost entirely of silica in its purest form. This glass boasts remarkable optical clarity, chemical purity, and resistance to high temperatures, making it ideal for applications such as semiconductor manufacturing and specialized optics. For glassblowers, fused quartz offers an opportunity to create incredibly pure and clear art pieces, but it requires special handling and high temperatures to mold.
Dichroic glass is a colorful, multi-layered glass that reflects one color while transmitting another. Its unique optical properties are achieved by applying thin layers of metal oxides or quartz crystal at a very high temperature. The result is a glass that has a mesmerizing, shimmering appearance, with colors that seem to shift depending on the angle of view. Glassblowers often incorporate dichroic glass into their work to create vibrant, dynamic art pieces.
Opalescent glass is characterized by its milky, opaque appearance that plays with light in beautiful ways. It’s achieved by adding bone ash, fluorides, or phosphates to the glass mix. The light diffusion properties of opalescent glass have made it a popular choice for stained glass projects, and many glassblowers love its aesthetic appeal.
There are also colorful rods and tubes that can serve as the base of projects, or be used as accents. These can come in various glass types, colors, and sizes.
Some glassblowers may integrate other materials like quartz or gold into their art as well.
Frit consists of small bits of colored glass that can be sprinkled or rolled onto hot glass to add color, pattern, or texture. It allows for a wide range of decorative possibilities.
Type of GlassCompositionKey FeaturesUsage & ApplicationNotes for GlassblowersSoda-lime GlassSodium carbonate, lime, dolomite, silicon dioxide, other compoundsClear, relatively soft, versatileWindows, bottles, everyday itemsEasy to melt and ideal for beginners due to its accessibility and versatility.Borosilicate GlassSilica, boron oxideHigh resistance to temperature changes, chemicals, and breakageLaboratory equipment, certain cookware, specialized art piecesRequires higher melting temperatures but results in more durable pieces.Fused Quartz GlassAlmost entirely of silicaRemarkable optical clarity, chemical purity, high-temperature resistanceSemiconductor manufacturing, specialized opticsRequires special handling and high temperatures.Dichroic GlassMulti-layered glass with metal oxides or quartz crystalReflects one color while transmitting another, shimmering appearanceVibrant, dynamic art piecesOffers a unique, shifting color palette for artistic work.Opalescent GlassGlass with additives like bone ash, fluorides, or phosphatesMilky, opaque appearance with light diffusionStained glass projectsPopular for its aesthetic appeal and light-play.Colorful GlassVaries based on type, often includes colored compoundsBase or accent colors in various huesBase of projects or accentsAvailable in various types, colors, and sizes.Decorative ElementsIntegration of materials like quartz or goldAdds decorative appeal and uniqueness to the glassArtistic integrationsAllows for unique design possibilities by integrating other materials.FritSmall bits of colored glassAdds color, pattern, or textureDecorative layering or texture on hot glassOffers a wide range of decorative possibilities.Molds
Molds are generally shaped containers that hot glass is added to in order to harden into a specific form.
Stamps or Optic Molds
Optic molds are tools used to impart patterns onto the surface of blown glass. The mold is typically made of metal and has a patterned interior. The molten glass is inserted into the mold and then blown, taking on the interior pattern of the mold.
If you use a torch or heating element for molding glass, you’ll need an ongoing supply of fuel like propane to provide power.
Paddles are flat pieces of wood or graphite used to shape flat areas of a glass piece. They can be used to flatten the bottom of a vessel or to shape other flat sections. Because of their flat surface, paddles allow for precise control when shaping certain parts of the glass.
These are tools, often made of metal, used to drag and swirl colors or create intricate patterns on the surface of the glass. By pulling the tool through the molten glass, the artist can achieve marbled or feathered designs.
Crimps are tools with ridged or patterned jaws. They are used to create textures or patterns in the surface of the glass. By pressing the hot glass with crimps, the glassblower can imprint various designs or textures onto the piece.
Jacks are tools with two metal arms, resembling large tweezers, that are used to shape, cut, and form the neck of a piece of glass. The arms can be squeezed together to create indentations or to shape the glass while it’s still malleable.
Large tweezers are used to pick out details, pinch, or pull the glass into desired shapes. They can be used to create intricate details on sculptures or to help shape and mold smaller parts of a work.
Specifically designed for cutting hot glass, these shears resemble scissors but are built to handle the heat and stress of the material. They can be used to trim excess glass or make cuts in the body of the piece.
Diamond shears are a type of scissor tool that has a diamond-shaped opening when closed. They are specially designed to cut and shape the glass, particularly when creating a separation between a piece and the blowpipe or punty.
A steam stick is a wooden dowel with one tapered end. It’s used to form an indentation or hollow in a piece of solid glass. When the tapered end is pressed into hot glass, the moisture in the wood turns to steam, creating a bubble in the glass.
SupplyDescriptionFunction & UseMoldsShaped containers that hot glass is added toUsed to give glass a specific shape or form.Stamps/Optic MoldsMetal tools with a patterned interiorImpart patterns onto the surface of blown glass by inserting and blowing molten glass inside the mold.FuelOngoing supply, like propaneProvides power to torches or heating elements used in molding glass.PaddlesFlat pieces of wood or graphiteShape flat areas of a glass piece, such as the bottom of a vessel. Allow for precise control in shaping parts of the glass.Raking ToolsOften made of metalDrag and swirl colors or create intricate patterns on the glass surface, achieving designs like marbling or feathering.CrimpsTools with ridged or patterned jawsCreate textures or patterns in the glass surface by pressing the hot glass, imprinting various designs or textures.JacksTools with two metal arms, resembling large tweezersShape, cut, and form the neck of a glass piece. Can create indentations or shape the glass while it’s malleable.TweezersLarge tweezersPick out details, pinch, or pull the glass into desired shapes, especially for intricate details on sculptures or molding.ShearsScissor-like tools designed for hot glassTrim excess glass or make cuts in the body of a piece. Built to handle the heat and stress of molten glass.Diamond ShearsScissor tool with a diamond-shaped openingCut and shape the glass, especially useful when creating a separation between a piece and the blowpipe or punty.Steam StickWooden dowel with one tapered endForm an indentation or hollow in solid glass. When pressed into hot glass, the moisture turns to steam, creating a bubble.READ MORE: 50 Handmade Business Ideas You Can Start from HomeGlass Blowing Equipment and Tools for Business
There are also some larger pieces of equipment that may be useful to create unique items or maintain safety.
The furnace is the heart of the glassblowing studio. It’s where the raw materials are melted into a molten state, ready for the glassblower to gather. The furnace needs to maintain temperatures around 2,000°F (1,100°C) to keep the glass in a workable state. It’s essential for producing the raw material needed for glassblowing and requires careful maintenance to ensure safety and efficiency.
A kiln is a large heating element that is often used to make glass pieces moldable. It’s similar to a furnace, but often smaller and may operate at lower temperatures.
Torches can be used to heat smaller glass pieces or to mold individual parts of a larger project.
An annealer is a controlled oven used to slowly cool finished glass pieces, ensuring that they cool evenly and reduce the risk of cracking. Proper annealing is crucial for the stability and durability of the final product.
The blowpipe is a long metal tube used to gather molten glass from the furnace and shape it. One end is dipped into the furnace to collect the glass, while the artist blows through the other end to inflate the material. The length and sturdiness of the blowpipe allow the glassblower to manipulate the molten glass at a safe distance, and its design ensures even inflation of the glass.
Punty (or Pontil)
A punty is a solid metal rod used for picking up and holding a piece of glass while working on another section, typically when the bottom of a piece needs finishing after the top is completed. The punty is attached to the base of the item, allowing the glassblower to break it off from the blowpipe and work on the opening.
A marver is a flat, usually steel, surface used to shape and cool the glass. By rolling the hot glass on the marver, glassblowers can control its temperature, smooth its surface, and give it a cylindrical shape. Originally, marvers were made from marble, giving them their name.
Claw grabbers are long arms used to grip glass pieces, especially as they’re pulled out of a kiln or heater.
EquipmentDescriptionPrimary Function & UseFurnaceThe heart of the glassblowing studio where raw materials are melted.Melt raw materials into a molten state for gathering. Maintains temperatures around 2,000°F (1,100°C).KilnA large heating element similar to a furnace but often smaller and may operate at lower temperatures.Make glass pieces moldable.TorchesUsed for heating purposes.Heat smaller glass pieces or mold specific parts of a larger project.AnnealerA controlled oven that cools glass pieces slowly.Ensure even cooling of finished glass pieces, reducing the risk of cracking and enhancing durability.BlowpipeA long metal tube for gathering and shaping molten glass.Collect molten glass from the furnace and blow to inflate the material, allowing manipulation at a safe distance.Punty (Pontil)A solid metal rod for holding glass pieces.Pick up and hold a piece of glass to work on another section, especially when finishing the bottom after the top is done.MarverA flat surface, typically made of steel, used for shaping and cooling.Shape and cool the glass by rolling it. Controls its temperature, smoothens its surface, and gives it a cylindrical shape.Claw GrabbersLong arms used to grip glass pieces.Grip and handle glass pieces, especially when extracting them from a kiln or heater.Kevlar Gloves
Kevlar gloves are heat-resistant gloves made from a synthetic fiber that can withstand high temperatures. While glassblowers typically don’t touch hot glass directly, these gloves protect the hands from radiant heat and accidental touches to hot tools or surfaces. They’re a crucial safety measure, ensuring that the artist’s hands remain safe during the process.
Given the extreme temperatures and potential for splattering or breaking glass, protecting the eyes is paramount. Safety glasses, preferably with UV protection, shield the eyes from harmful infrared and ultraviolet radiation produced during the glassblowing process. These rays can be harmful with prolonged exposure, so glasses are a necessary safety precaution.
Specifically designed for glassblowers, didymium glasses filter out the bright yellow flare produced when hot glass comes in contact with tools. This flare can be not only distracting but also damaging to the eyes with prolonged exposure. Didymium glasses improve visibility and reduce eye strain, making them a crucial tool for any glassblower.
A leather apron provides protection against radiant heat and potential splatters of hot glass. Made of thick leather, the apron is designed to be heat-resistant and durable, ensuring that the torso and legs of the artist are shielded from potential hazards.
Proper ventilation is vital in a glassblowing studio. The process can produce fumes and gases that are harmful when inhaled. A well-designed ventilation system ensures that these fumes are effectively removed from the workspace, maintaining a safe environment for the artist and any observers.
Foot Covers or Spats
Made from heat-resistant material, foot covers or spats protect the feet from hot shards of glass that might fall during the glassblowing process. Given the proximity of the feet to the working area, this protection ensures that the artist can work confidently without fearing burns.
Cooling blankets or pads made of heat-resistant materials like graphite are often used to hold glass products as they cool.
Equipment/GearDescriptionPrimary Function & UseKevlar GlovesHeat-resistant gloves made from synthetic fiber.Protect hands from radiant heat, accidental touches to hot tools or surfaces, and ensure hand safety during glassblowing.Safety GlassesProtective eyewear that shields against extreme temperatures and potential glass hazards.Shield eyes from harmful infrared and ultraviolet radiation during the glassblowing process. A crucial safety measure.Didymium GlassesGlasses designed to filter out the bright yellow flare when hot glass contacts tools.Improve visibility, reduce eye strain, and protect eyes from the damaging bright flare in the glassblowing process.Leather ApronThick, heat-resistant apron made of leather.Protect the torso and legs from radiant heat and potential hot glass splatters.Ventilation SystemSystem designed to remove fumes and gases produced during glassblowing.Ensure the removal of harmful fumes from the workspace, maintaining a safe environment for artists and observers.Foot Covers/SpatsProtective gear made from heat-resistant material for feet.Shield feet from hot shards of glass that might fall during the glassblowing process.Cooling PadsBlankets or pads made from heat-resistant materials.Hold and support glass products as they cool, ensuring that they remain in shape and cool evenly without direct contact to surfaces.READ MORE: Where to Find Cricut Fonts and How to Use Them
How Does Glass Blowing Make Money?
Glass blowing can be a fulfilling way to express oneself artistically, but it can also be a lucrative profession for those who are skilled and entrepreneurial. Glass blowers can turn their passion into profit by employing a mix of traditional and innovative strategies. Here’s how glass blowers can monetize their craft:
Direct Sales to Consumers:Craft Fairs and Art Shows: Participating in local or national craft fairs can provide direct access to customers interested in handmade items like jewelry or glassware.Online Marketplaces: Websites like Etsy, eBay, or other specialized platforms can be excellent places for glassblowers to reach a global audience.Personal Websites: Having a personal online storefront allows artists to showcase their portfolio and sell directly to consumers.Galleries and Exhibitions:Consignment: Galleries may display an artist’s work and take a commission when the piece is sold.Solo Exhibitions: Experienced or well-known artists might host their own exhibitions, drawing attention to their craft and potentially leading to higher-priced sales.Wholesale:Boutiques and Specialty Stores: Selling pieces in bulk to stores can provide consistent income, though usually at a reduced price per piece.Restaurants and Hotels: Some upscale restaurants or hotels might want custom glassware or decorative pieces, providing bulk orders for the artist.Workshops and Classes:Teaching others the art of glass blowing can be a source of income. This can be done in a physical setting or even online through platforms like Zoom or YouTube tutorials.Custom Commissions:Creating custom pieces based on a client’s request can often fetch a premium price, especially if the work is intricate or large.Personalized items, like engraved glassware for special occasions, can also be a steady source of income.Renting Studio Space:If a glassblower has a large studio, renting out space or equipment to other artists or students can be a way to generate additional income.Repairs and Restorations:Given their expertise, glass blowers can offer repair services for damaged glass items or restore older pieces, a niche that can be quite profitable.Collaborations:Partnering with other artists or brands can lead to unique pieces that appeal to a broader audience and can be sold at a premium.Merchandising:Besides selling the actual glass items, artists can produce merchandise like posters, t-shirts, or other branded goods showcasing their work or designs.
By diversifying their income streams and continuously seeking new opportunities, glass blowers can turn their craft into a sustainable and profitable business. The key lies in understanding the market, promoting their unique brand, and being adaptive to changing consumer tastes.
How Much Money Can You Make From Glass Blowing?
Glass blowers can make anywhere from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. The amount varies based on your commitment to the craft, the price of products, and your ability to market effectively. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the median salary for fine artists like glass blowers at just over $50,000 a year.
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