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7 Things You Didn't Know About Glassblowing

posted on: Oct 6, 2021

By: Arab America Contributing Writer, Waverly Nohr

1. Phonecians first used the blowpipe

While glass production was first seen in Egypt, Phoenicians revolutionized the art by using the blow pipe to create shapes of their wildest dreams. Glass, while used for trinkets and jewelry beforehand could finally expand into the game of making larger things like vases, cups, and art. 

2. There is still an active forge from one of the most famous glassblowing families

The Khalifeh family has the oldest running glass forge, and the techniques of glassblowing have been passed down through generations of their family. Due to the move towards industrialization and everything being produced by factories nowadays, the Khalifeh family has faced having to shut their doors. Nevertheless, they were able to keep it open and if you visit Sarafand to this day, you can find the forge and the Khalifeh’s using blowpipe to make their lustrous creations. 

A member of the Khalifeh family heating the glass to later be blown.

3. There’s a Netflix series on glassblowing

While the history of glassblowing is quite intriguing, people in the modern day have taken interest in it as a career or hobby. There has been major clout surrounding the Netflix series, “Blown Away.” Watch this series to see the few that have devoted their craft to glassblowing and to see the steps they take towards taking glassblowing to a new level. 

A photo of Nao Yamamoto, using huge pliers to create her piece.

4. Glassblowing has given glass a new life

A Lebanese recycling company teamed up with the Khalifeh family to take simple glass bottles used for wine, water or beer and give them new life by using a blowpipe to reshape them. By repurposing the bottles, people could participate in buying a zero waste product. An out of the box solution for the waste generated by breweries helped the Khalifeh family to maintain their business with lower costs and an impact on the environment as well.  

5. This art differs by the city

While glassblowing entails each product to be unique and open ended in design, forges from different cities also vary in the color of the glass as well as the opacity and bubbles in the glass creations. This can be demonstrated by two of the top forges, one in Sarafand (the Khalifeh family) and one in Beddaoui. In Beddaoui, an ancient and rarely used technique allows for their final products to be slightly opaque and have tiny air bubbles in the vases or bottles that are produced. On the other hand, in Sarafand, they focus on making their products uniform in that they are clear and have no bubbles. 

6. Glassblowing takes lots of experience

The actual process of glassblowing goes like this: a glassblower pulls out a glob of glass from the furnace, it is red in color due to the heat. While using a hollow rod, they blow air into it, carefully to create the shape desired without letting the air create an imperfection in the piece. Soon after, the piece is detached from the rod and the next tool in use is the pliers to cut and shape the mold to its final shape to be reheated to solidify. This art is a fragile one, requiring precision and laser focus while also needing creativity. 

Watch this video by Bendheim to watch the process!

7. The MET has showcased some ancient glassblown creations

The museum of metropolitan art in New York had an exhibit showcasing glass blown art from the 7th and 8th centuries. The piece below was found in Egypt or Syria and it’s famous for the patterns and unique colors. Furthermore, they showcased an etched piece, a goblet from Iraq or Syria in the 8th or 9th century. More can be found online here. 

Summing up the craft

If you’re looking for a new hobby with intricacies and history beyond most things, maybe glassblowing is for you. While glassblowing arguably has not penetrated into the main stream as much as sculpting or pottery, it is an art that allows for self expression and in a way, connects you to families such as the Khalifeh family who has been doing this for generations. 

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