In glassmaking, the glory hole is where you re-heat a glass object to keep it pliable.
I took so many different versions of this photo, trying to capture this moment and to express what it meant. Here is some of what I see:
The fire in this glory hole is the first one I ever lit myself.
It’s the first real day of my transition from a beginner to a novice-intermediate glass student, empowered to set up the hot shop on a Saturday morning and to have my own blow slot–my own time to work in this place. Four hours to make anything I want.
I lit the fire by myself, but four different mentors demonstrated how to do it earlier in the week, and my partner came the first hour to watch (or to call 911 if something went terribly wrong), and a half a dozen advanced students checked in on me during the morning to make sure I was okay. Because Glass is a community and this fire is our fire.
You cannot see it. But it’s my first day as a gaffer: the person sitting at the bench, making and breaking the things, moving between the fire and the bench. The gaffer is also a kind of conductor: she’s got a vision, a project, and whatever she’s making is made easier or better through the help of assistants, glassworkers at all levels of expertise who show up to help–to open doors, to shield the gaffer’s arm from the heat, to warm and transport the object. Sitting at the bench means directing and accepting help . . . possibly the biggest thing I still need to learn, the most overwhelming and gracious part of it all. This morning I was grateful for time alone to just sit with the fact of being there. I moved the bench into a position that felt right, and got out the tools I thought I’d need, and then sat down and meditated on the fire.
When I look at this image I see the track that moves in just two directions, forward and back between the bench and the fire. It’s such a relief, during this complicated time, to have such a clear path.
In actuality, by the end of my five hours in the hot shop, I’d spent almost no time using the glory hole because you only re-heat a thing that’s good enough to warrant refinement. I spent most of my day gathering glass, watching how it moves, manipulating it with tools, and attempting to blow a decent bubble.
And it was glorious.