Today Jenson and I visited The Glass Hub; an independent glass school in Wiltshire running glass courses and masterclasses in glass blowing, casting and kiln forming.
Poor Wren got lumped off to nursery, which she wasn't impressed by but it was the right choice: a carefree three year old around 1000 degrees of burning liquid glass is not a good combo, even by my relaxed standards. Jenson looked pretty smug sat in the back of the car as he took pleasure in watching Wren's protests fall on deaf ears. I felt a bit mean.
I had arranged for us to go to Tewkesbury Library in the morning for a book reading and a show and tell. However, on our way there Jenson was looking less than keen. This home ed thing is meant to be fun for him. He's shy and I should have known he wouldn't have enjoyed standing up in front of a bunch of strangers to talk about his Lego book, which ironically he chose. So we didn't go and instead turned around and headed back down the M5 to Wiltshire.
I had booked Jenson on to a Christmas bauble glass blowing course. It was the only class I could find that was suitable for beginners. It didn't say suitable for 5 year old beginners but I hedged my bets. Turns out we were fine, although everyone did think it was me that was there to blow glass! They were far more excited when I said it was for Jenson, which got Jenson even more excited than he already was!
We had arrived prompt and so spent a good 45 minutes watching others show us how it was done. Jenson was enthralled. The flames and the fire had him completely captivated! His little eyes popped! He's well into the word cool at the moment, and this was pretty cool by his standards!
I should say the staff were fantastic. They didn't mind one bit us being in the studio and generally getting in the way as we desperately tried to peer inside the furnace! Eventually it was his turn and again, the staff were ever so helpful and friendly. They made Jenson feel very at ease and also in charge of what he was doing: he was a glass blower, and a good one by all accounts.
He was helped into protective sleeves and gloves then popped on a pair of safety goggles. First job was to choose the colour of his Christmas bauble. I don't know the technical terms for everything that happened next as I was busy being impressed and taking a few snapshots but here goes!
Amy chose one of the iron rods that had been heating up nicely. The tip was scorching hot!
Jenson was asked to blow down the end of the rod, I didn't ask why!
Next Amy put the rod into the furnace, which is where the liquid glass was. They said I could pick Jenson up so he could look inside. He was absolutely fascinated!
More blowing followed, bless him! For a little lad he needed a lot of puff, but to be fair to him and the staff he didn't get any help. He did it all on his own.
Next was the decorating. A couple of members of staff guided and assisted Jenson with the rod, which was loaded with 1000 degrees of burning liquid glass. Cool or what! They rolled the rod in the first colour which is what would give the bauble its orange base coat and then the yellow would be the spots that Jenson had said he wanted to create.
The rod went back in the furnace for another coat of glass; I believe there were two coats needed. Meanwhile, Jenson was asked to sit down and take hold of a plastic hammer. The rod was brought over to him and Amy helped to roll it, cooling the tip down in the water soaked hammer as she went.
More blowing was required and he showed a lot of puff with the help and encouragement from everybody!
Hot, hot, hot!!!
Feeling pretty good about himself.
Next was the shaping. In order to detach the bauble from the rod and therefore create that lovely round shape, a pair of very long prongs were needed, and yes, more blowing!
Once formed, the bauble needed to be fiercely heated up again in order to make the loop from which it would be hung from the Christmas tree. Fair to say Jenson's eyes lit up at the sight of the blow torch!!!! It was so cool to watch.
Amy shows great skill here as she manipulates the liquid glass, joining it to the bauble and then shaping it into a loop.
Finally, the bauble was placed in the kiln, which helps to cool it down very slowly so as to avoid cracking. We get the finished item next week in the post! Will post a pic when it arrives, hopefully in one piece!
Driving back Jenson was extremely tired, to the point that he didn't even want to go the park for an ice cream! It has only just occurred to me now as I write this that perhaps it was because he really was all puffed out! However, I think it was a hit. I asked Jenson if he had enjoyed himself and he asked if he could do it all again!
Updated Monday 12th December:
Here is the finished bauble! It arrived in one piece and looks fab! One very happy boy!