Craig Sorensen, glassblower, stares into the orange-red mouth of the oven generating heat at 2,080 degrees Fahrenheit. Manipulating the self-made blow pipe, he brings the molten blob into its intended shape: a salmon. The goopy glass fights him like a live being, twitching its tail and bending its neck in the heat. Creating art glass is not a gentle process.
Craig and partner Jori Delvo are the artisans and owners of Boulder Bend Glassworks, located in Peshastin.
Jori is as lively as the hot glass, happily showing visitors around the enormous, two-story workspace and explaining their artistic passion.
“It’s a matter of three things — temperature, time and teamwork,” Jori said.
The melting oven is not your regular kitchen appliance. The cement stand’s gaping mouth that exhales dragon-hot breath is the glassblower’s best friend and tool. It’s where art is born.
“The consistency of that hot glass is like honey on a summer’s day,” Jori pointed out.
Besides the oven, making art glass may involve a torch. At 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s nearly twice as hot as the oven.
“You have 30 seconds to work a piece,” Jori explained. “Then it goes back in the oven and out again until you are done.”
The moment the glass comes out of the oven it gets a quick water bath to set the shape — hopefully. Near the oven is a workbench with all the necessary tools right to make the action quick and seamless. There is no time to hesitate; the artist has to know what they want from the beginning.
Not all pieces are done in an hour, or a day. It may take a week if colored rods are used. The rods enable the artist to liven up the glass with stripes and spots.
“The colors work differently — it takes some experimenting to figure it out,” Jori said. “Some shades are soft while others are stiff.”
Because of the time element, some help is useful in the creative process. The leader is called the gaffer and the assistant is the glass shaper.
Craig and Jori’s personal teamwork began in 2005 when they met at a Leavenworth restaurant. Craig was passing through and Jori was working at the eatery.
Craig served in the Navy, at one point as an F-14 plane captain. After re-entering civilian life, he studied glassblowing at California Polytechnic and The Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass.
“My interest in glass was him,” Jori said with a chuckle.
It took 10 years for Craig and Jori to make their vision of the glassworks a reality. It has now been open for a year and they say business is good.
Boulder Bend Glassworks is open most days 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday is their designated “hot work” day when the public can see how glass is handled and molded into art.
Walking into the large, two-story workshop can make one feel very small. The tables and tools are giant-sized, mostly, and reminiscent of medieval torture devices. The tools are self-made, with large dimensions. The precision of finished pieces involves a deft touch, but creating glass also requires a firm hand.
Many of the Boulder Bend furniture pieces are repurposed. Craig and Jori like to find uses for items large and small rather than discarding them. A bucketful of scrap glass found a new life as a bee bath, for example.
Their diverse interests create a rich palette of ideas. Craig is all about space and air while Jori’s focus is land and water. They find inspiration in nature, both in its tangible and invisible manifestations. Craig has a notebook full of ideas awaiting physical form.
The public is welcome to visit Boulder Bend Glassworks anytime during business hours to browse for gifts or to watch the magic happen. Prices for their items in stock range from $46 to $2,500. Custom orders are welcome.
On the web: boulderbendglassworks.com