The traditional method of glass blowing requires the artist to mix sand, soda ash and limestone together in a formula. The artist then heats the mixture in a metal crucible. The temperature is the same as molten lava from a volcano, approximately 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Once this is done, a hollow tube is inserted into the molten glass. This is called the gather as the artist is gathering glass onto the end of the tube.
Once the glass has been gathered, the artist must smooth the glass evenly on the outside of the tube. This is done so that, when the blowing begins, the air pocket created will be in the center of the glass. A metal table is used for this crucial step of the glass blowing. The metal must be strong enough to withstand the temperature of the molten glass without deforming. If the table surface is warped by the heat, the glass will not be even and the blowing process will be severely affected.
Now is the time to begin the blowing process. Traditionally this is done by blowing gently into the hollow tube to inflate the center of the glass at the other end. Today, machines can assist those artists who need a bit of help. There are bellows and electric blowers that can be used. Many artists prefer to blow glass in the traditional manner because it takes fine control to get exactly the correct amount of air flow so the glass will inflate properly.
Once the process of blowing has begun, shaping the piece is the next step. This is still done in the traditional manner and the artist has many tools to help in this phase of the process. This is also the time when color is introduced into the glass. An artist can leave the glass clear, or the artist may choose to add one or many colors to achieve the desired look of the final product. The glass is then worked with a variety of tools to shape it. During this phase the glass is heated at regular intervals to keep it pliable. Once the artist has the desired colors and shapes, the glass is allowed to cool slowly.