From the Fiery Furnace

Artists breathe beauty into molten glass

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The art of glassblowing came into being two millennia ago, in Syria. It spread from there, over time and across the world, and became particularly popular in coastal settlements due to the demand among fishermen for glass fishing floats, which kept their nets from sinking.

Although it’s certainly possible to find a coastal glassblower who is willing to sell a fishing float or two, today’s glassblowers tend to focus their talent on crafting intricate works of art. We talked with four such glassblowers, Joe Hobbs, Russ Gilbert, Devon Murphy and Dave Magee, all of whom live and work on Florida’s Emerald Coast.

Courtesy of Joe Hobbs 

Joe Hobbs’ original glasswork, titled “Bird In Hand”

The Glassery

A glossary of glass-working terms


Annealer: Also known as a lehr; a furnace in which a piece of glass that has been shaped slowly cools

Casting: A process in which you use a ladle to scoop hot, viscous glass from furnace into a mold

Cold work: Any work done on the glass after it has cooled down

Flamework: A glassworking process in which a propane torch is used to heat glass to high temperatures for the purpose of fusing and shaping

Frit: Powdered or crushed glass, often brightly colored

Gaffer: The lead glassblower in a team of glassblowers

Gather: A lump of molten glass, gathered together on the end of a blowpipe

Jack: A bladed tool, like a giant pair of metal tweezers that is used to shape a blown piece of glass

Marver: A metal table upon which glass is rolled and shaped

Parison: Partially finished blown glass

Punty: A small, stainless steel or iron rod that is used to create the opening in a glass jar, bottle or vase or is used to add other bits of glass to a parison