I'm Barbara Klein.
I'm Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. At the Smithsonian American Art Museum, you
can see a large heart-shaped sculpture made of blown glass. The deep red
colored heart is topped with a burning flame also made of glass. It is called
the "Sacred Heart of Healing" and was made by the artist Tim Tate. How did he
make this interesting glass form? Today we answer this question as we explore
the art of making glass.
Throughout history, people from cultures around the
world have been making glass. People first found and used glass made by nature.
For example, lightning can create tubes of glass when it strikes sand that has
the right combination of minerals. Glass pieces produced by lightning are
is a kind of black glass formed when the heat of a volcano melts the silica material
in sand. Ancient cultures broke off pieces of obsidian to make knives and
weapons such as arrows. The ancient Aztec civilization in current day Mexico
used obsidian for making hunting tools and jewelry. The Aztecs made extremely
sharp knives and weapons from obsidian. This is one reason experts say they
never developed the use of metal.
Glass is considered a physical state of matter. It may
look solid, but it is a liquid as well. This is because glass has the hardness
of crystal materials while also having a disordered arrangement of molecules
like a liquid.
chemical quality of glass is what makes up its color. Impurities in glass such
as iron can give it a green or brown color. Adding chemicals to the glass can
give it different color intensities and effects. For example, adding copper to
glass can make it blue, while adding tin can make it white.
is hard to say exactly when humans first started making glass. The Roman
historian Pliny said that Phoenician sailors accidentally discovered how to
make glass over three thousand years ago. The sailors landed on a beach and
started a cooking fire near some containers of the mineral natron. The next
day, they realized that the sand and natron under the fire had melted then
cooled into glass. Other experts say glass making first started four to five
thousand years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, present day Iraq and Syria.
of the earliest methods developed for making glass containers is called
core-forming. A glassmaker places a rounded piece of clay material on the end
of a long metal stick. Once the clay dries, the glassmaker dips the form in a
container of hot liquid glass until it is covered. The artist can then add a
second color of glass to make designs over the first layer of glass. Once the
glass form cools completely, it is taken off the metal stick. The clay inside
is carefully cut out to form a glass container.
Another ancient method of making glass that is still used
today is called casting. Casting involves making a clay form in which the shape
of the glass container is carved. Then, the artist puts small pieces of glass
material inside of the clay form. When it is cooked at a very high temperature,
the glass pieces melt and take the shape of the clay form. Once the solid glass
object cools, an artist uses special tools to carve an opening in the
it was another method of making glass --the blown glass method-- that changed
the glass industry of the ancient world. It was first developed in the Roman
Empire about two thousand years ago. This new technology made glass production
faster and less costly. A glass container made by casting or core-forming could
take a few days to make. With glass blowing, an artist could make many
containers in a day.
Glassblowing involves gathering hot liquid glass on the
end of a metal pipe called a blowpipe. The glass reaches a temperature of about
one thousand degrees Celsius. At this temperature, the glass is a bright orange
color. The glassblower must turn the
pipe constantly so that the thick liquid glass does not fall off the end. He or
she then blows through the pipe so that the glass expands into a rounded bubble
form. The blown piece of glass can be worked and formed to create many
different kinds of shapes. To reshape the glass, it must be continually
reheated to stay soft.
modern terms, the hot oven that the glassblower uses to quickly reheat the
glass is called a "glory hole." The artist can shape the hot glass using metal
tools such as jacks, tweezers and shears. Or, he or she can place the hot glass
on a metal table called a marver to shape the form by rolling it back and
forth. Watching an expert glassblower is an exciting experience. The artist
moves as quickly and as gracefully as a dancer.
thirteenth century Italy, the government ordered glassblowers in Venice to move
to the island of Murano. The aim was to reduce the threat of fires from the
glassmakers' furnaces. It was also useful for the glassmakers to be together so
that they could control the secrets of their trade. Each generation of
glassmaker would pass along the secrets of the trade to the next generation.
glass became famous around the world. It is still a center for glass production
today. In fact, the Murano glassblowing tradition has been a major influence on
one of the most famous American glass artists today, Dale Chihuly. Chihuly
trained in Murano in the nineteen sixties. His electrically colorful and fluid
glass works can be seen in museums around the world.
Washington Glass Studio is located near Washington, D.C., in Mount Rainier,
Maryland. This is where the artist Tim Tate works and teaches. Here he tells
about his "Sacred Heart of Healing" sculpture that we talked about earlier.
TIM TATE: "My name is Tim Tate and I am a glass
sculptor. In the Smithsonian, there is a blown glass heart with a flame coming
out of the top. The image in the flame is a hand and off of each fingertip are
different natural healing techniques. The first heart I made was when my mother
was extremely ill and after she passed away I made the heart larger. For me, it was a memory piece. For years
afterwards I made these large sacred hearts. Some of them were clear with
things inside, some were very colorful."
these hearts is not easy. Tate works with a team of glass artists at a studio
in the state of North Carolina.
Tate is also the director of the Washington Glass School. He says he loves
teaching glass skills to students because he learns so much from them. And, he
likes to work near the other glass artists in the school because they can
exchange ideas and methods.
Tate first became interested in glass by
watching glassblowers as a young child. As an adult, he developed his love of
glass making for very different reasons.
TIM TATE: "When I was just a small kid I went to Corning
Glass works and watched the glass blowers there and was really mesmerized by
that. And then, years ago when I first found out that I was HIV positive, my
initial reason for doing glass was I wanted to leave one glass vase for my
nephew and nieces to remember their uncle by. My initial reason was a sense of
"And then, I kept living and twenty-three years later, I
am in many museums around the world. I just got good at it, because I knew I
had to hurry because I was supposed to die."
Tim Tate makes glass that is meant to be sculptural. He says the message in his
work is usually about healing.
TIM TATE: "My messages in all of these is all about
healing. Either healing ourselves, or society's healing, or healing through
making art, or healing through viewing art. So, that's what my content tends to
Tate also makes sculptures that he calls reliquaries. These works are made of
clear blown glass containers with different objects inside. He has a big
collection of interesting small objects such as maps, tools, game pieces, and
dolls for putting inside the containers.
One reliquary is called
"Dice." It is filled with hundreds of small red cubes for playing games of
chance. The surface of the container is covered with writing that has been cut
into the glass. The message tells about different methods for guessing about
the future. It says that good health can sometimes be a matter of luck.
Tim Tate is also
working on a series of blown glass sculptures inside of which are small
televisions playing videos. In these detailed works, the ancient art of glass
meets the modern world of technology.
program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Barbara
Klein. You can learn about other artists
on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.