e.b. glassworks: The Delicate Art of Heat and Timing

“There’s an element of danger, an element of magic, an element of grace,” said Eric Bailey, artist and owner of e.b. glassworks in Corvallis, about the art of flameworking.

Flameworking, or lampworking, is a kind of glassblowing, which Bailey has practiced since 2001. Unlike the huge furnaces usually associated with glassblowing, flameworking is done on a small scale using various sizes of propane-oxygen torches.  In flameworking, instead of being gathered from a molten glass furnace, glass is heated over a torch. Bailey said that once the glass is hot, it’s sculpted or blown, and annealed (slowly cooled) in a kiln.

Bailey’s experience with sculpting and kilns began before his flameworking career. He graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in fine arts and a ceramic sculpture emphasis. After he graduated, he was applying for Master of Fine Arts programs when he saw an apprenticeship for glassblowing open up. Bailey applied for the apprenticeship and got it. He started working for Gazelle Glass, which was a local glassblowing company, in 2001.

“I’d never worked with glass before, but I’d always known about glass and found it very interesting,” said Bailey.

He did find a lot of similarities between ceramics and glass once he got into glassblowing, though.

“When you’re throwing a pot it’s the same motions you use working glass,” he said. “You also want to keep it centered. And then of course the heat factor—firing and kilns.”

Heat and timing are crucial in flameworking.

“It’s hard to just sit down and make something. With glass you have to plan it out,” Bailey said. “Depending on what you’re making—be it a blown piece or a sculpted piece—you have to think about how the pieces will fit together, how to make those pieces to keep them from cracking, how much time you need to anneal them, how much heat you need to keep the piece centered and stable.”

But the challenge of working with glass is part of what Bailey enjoys most about flameworking. He also likes the endless possibilities for creation.

“It’s a medium where I’ll always feel like there’s something new to learn,” he added. “The glass industry keeps growing. There’s always new colors coming out, new tools, that help the artist expand their creative potential. I like that there’s a lot of energy behind glassblowing, it’s very vibrant.”

See more of Bailey’s incredibly unique work at http://ebglassworks.net.

by Lana Jones