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Marble City Glassworks to participate in ARTxtravaganza

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On March 7, 8 and 9, 2014, The Webb School of Knoxville will host ARTxtravaganza once again. Matt Salley owner and artist at Marble City Glassworks will participate in this popular local art show. He is very excited to be part of this show and sale.

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Back in November, 2013, I actually went with a friend to Matt's studio for a glass blowing class in which we each made our own hand blown glass ornament.

To me, glass is beautiful and mysterious and sensuous and I have always been fascinated by it. One of my neighbors collects glass art by Richard Jolley and I enjoy looking at the pieces. I am especially fond of blue glass (Cobalt). When I saw in the Knoxville newspaper that a local artist was going to show people how to form a Christmas ornament, I was so excited. My friend, MA, was eager for the experience and so we booked our appointment.

Marble City Glassworks is owned and managed by Matt Salley who, at one point, apprenticed with Richard Jolley. He is friendly, open and very safety conscious. He is also very talented. His art glass is stunning and he has done work for the University of Tennessee.

We signed in and picked the colors for our ornaments, I chose red and blue with bits of white and MA chose lime and amber. MA and I watched as the group ahead of us worked on their ornaments. Then, it was our turn.

I went first. Now, if I use the wrong terms, that is my fault. I got too excited to take good notes. Matt first used a long rod to pull some molten glass from the furnace. The furnace is kept 24/7 at 2100 degrees Farenheit. Then, using my pre-selected colors, Matt rolled the molten glass in the blue fritt, which is ground glass. These granules can be ground as fine as the artist desires.

After working the molten glass a bit, he stuck it in the Glassblower's Glory Hole, which stays at about 1000 degrees. This keeps the glass hot enough to work and so that it doesn't crack while it is being worked.

Matt worked the glass and talked to the student (me) about the shape. I chose a globe. Some people choose the teardrop or a reverse teardrop. Matt rolled the glass in the red fritt and, finally, the small bits of white fritt. After a quick trip to the glory hole again, a hose is attached and it is time for me to blow the ornament into existence.

At first, nothing happens. I felt like I was going to blow my brains out. And then, it starts to blow up very quickly and.....fail. My ornament went pear shaped and out of control. No worries. We set my mistake aside and started again. The mistake will be melted down and reused.

The second time was even better. The ornament looked beautiful. Matt cut the ornament off of the pole and got a bit more molten glass out of the furnace to form the loop to hang the ornament on the tree. Now, the ornament goes into the annealer. The annealer controls the cooling process. Over several days, Matt will slowly lower the temperature, which tempers the glass.

Next, it was MA's turn and, she did it perfectly the first time. As Matt was working the glass, we could already tell how beautiful the colors in her ornament would turn out.

While we were watching the little boy after us watch his ornament form, his grandmother told us that they were doing the glassblowing so that his breath would be captured in the ornament forever! Oh, my. Then, we got out of there before we both cried.

A week later, MA and I headed over to the Foothills Fine Crafts Show down by the Knoxville Zoo to pick up our ornaments. Matt was there and doing demonstrations. He had done a special cobalt blue ornament for the Guild and I had to have one of those also.

Matt does different classes at different times of the year. My advice would be to like his Facebook page or go to the business website to find out when they are available. He also does individual and group lessons.

Make sure to visit Matt at ARTxtravaganza

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