Glassblowing is an art that melts color, texture, shape and passion all into one. Owner and educator at the Hot Glass Art Center in Marlborough, NH, Jordana Korsen came across glassblowing years ago and after years of teaching she finally has her own space to teach her true passion.
“Glass is my jam, glass is my medium and teaching is really what I’m good at and that’s when I realized I needed to start my own place,” Korsen said.
Korsen was teaching glassblowing at Franklin Pierce College for over 20 years and decided to leave the academic setting due to its restrictions for students and change.
“The idea came from the need to want to teach but not in a traditional academic setting, because the traditional is exhausting,”Korsen said.
She continued, “I felt the need to move along from that kind of atmosphere to an atmosphere that embraces all types [of] ages and it doesn’t matter where you came from. If you want to learn about glass we’ll teach you about glass. There’s no prerequisites or if you don’t have a pedigree in blah,blah,blah then you can’t take that, and it’s not about that here. I think people recognize that and appreciate it. We have kids and old people and we have everything in between. All different types of walks of life come here and everybody is treated the same and that’s what it should be about, but that’s sadly what it’s seldom about. I think it’s a level playing field here and everyone can learn and enjoy.”
Four months ago when the center first opened, Korsen contacted a former student and long time friend Brigida Mosley. Mosley concentrated in glass blowing and pottery in college at Franklin Pierce where the two met and before working at the art center was assisting other local artists with various projects.
“When she [Korsen] said she was doing this I said by all means whatever you need,” Mosley said.
As Korsen’s assistant, Mosley said that Korsen can make whatever someone wants and that she rarely says no to people who bring her challenging projects.
“She’s [Korsen] so skilled, she’s made many things, and if she hasn’t made it she has the skills to adapt and figure it out,” Mosley said.
One of the things that’s unique about the center is that there’s a variety of options to create their own glass art.
One way to get the hands-on experience is too book a private lesson. The lesson can be one on one or with a group of people. The private lessons cost $85.00 an hour and people can usually make two pieces in an hour. According to Korsen, the private lessons are the most popular.
“We set up a time that works for their life, usually one of two of us is teaching and it’s one hundred percent hands-on learning. It’s the epitome of hands-on learning. We have them get right into it and make whatever they’re interested in making. It’s all hard. So it’s not like ‘You can’t make that because it’s hard,’ because it’s all hard so just make what you want, “ Korsen said.
Keene Middle School Art teacher and friend of Korsen, Kristin Froling brought her son and daughter to the center to celebrate her daughter’s birthday.
Froling said she was curious about the center and was excited to finally try it.
“It was incredible. They are so knowledgable and helpful and it’s not intimidating and the kids were really excited about it,” Froling said.
Froling’s son Ben, 11, said that the best part was getting to actually blow the glass himself and he said that he wants to come back soon. Ben, who made a drinking glass at their visit is already planning to challenge himself for next time.
“I’m not sure what but I think I want to make something a little harder but also really cool,” Ben Froling said.
The next option for those who want to truly learn how to blow glass is to sign up for either a six or eight week session.
“We give a little more trust to our recurring students because we know they’re coming back several times and are here for hours at a time. So we have them gathering and we give them more responsibility. It’s a commitment you have to be committed to doing it, to learning, improving and a one day thing isn’t enough to get that commitment level,” Korsen said.
If someone wants a special project but doesn’t have time to come make it themselves they can describe the piece and Korsen and her team will make it for them. However, if there are people in the area that know how to glass blow but do not have a space at home or studio to work in they can come and rent space in the center.
“They can come here, rent tools, rent pipes or bring their own tools. If they don’t we have everything they need to just come in and work if you know what you’re doing and are safe in the space,” Mosley said.
Safety is a huge concern considering that the main over holds 375 pounds of molten glass. Korsen said the first step is to take a glass blowing pipe and take the amount of glass you need from the main oven. Next, to create the color of the piece by taking the glass and dipping it into a bowl of broken pieces of the color the person wants, then put the dipped piece in the smaller oven to melt the two together. After that the blower will go through a series of ways to shape the glass.
Korsen said one way to shape the piece is to roll the molten glass on a stainless steel table called a marver. The other is to shape the glass with various wooden tools at a seated station. This process is repeated multiple times to get the finalized piece, it is then polished with a handheld torch and placed in another oven to cool. During the day the final pieces are stored in an annealing oven which is held at 940 degrees and slowly cools to room temperature once the shop is closed. The finished pieces slowly cool with the oven and are ready to picked up once they have cooled for 11 hours.
Aside from teaching her own classes at the center Korsen has teamed up with the New Hampshire Institute of Art and is advertising classes for the institute’s continuing education program.
“Through the program we’ve gotten some people we wouldn’t have reached out to otherwise so it’s good for us and good for them because it gives them ( NHIA) the opportunity to offer something they don’t have and it gives us the opportunity to branch out our network of people,” Korsen said.
When asked if she had reached out to Keene State College yet about a program like this Korsen said, “I’ve already talked to the dean and he seems super friendly and awesome and the head of the art department and they have all the paperwork so it’s just a matter of KSC agreeing to offer the classes. The ball is in their court at this point and I don’t see why it shouldn’t work out. After offering a really solid curriculum for all those years at Franklin Pierce the Keene State students would eat it up and it would be great. It would also be a little more special because it’s a different setting, it’s not on campus so it just kind of has a different feel to it. So I’m hopeful that we’ll make it work out with them (KSC) too,” Korsen said.
Kendall Pope can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org