Trapped in glass: Glassblower blends art and memories
GREENWOOD, S.C. (AP) — A silvery swirl cascades into a seemingly bottomless vortex — all contained within a marble that can fit in the palm of a hand.
Glassblower Andrew Lazenby shapes the spheres himself, melting glass down until it flows and shaping it into a sphere. Lazenby and his wife, Mary, are both artists based out of Rock Hill, and sell some of their pieces at Main & Maxwell. The smooth, featureless surface of the marbles show off the swirls of color inside perfectly. Lazenby said that’s part of what’s so appealing about glassblowing — it’s a 3D work of art he crafts inside of a sphere of molten glass.
“There’s the challenge of making something perfectly round,” he said. “Then there’s the idea that you have this small volume of space to decorate something with ... How am I using heat and gravity, because those are our only tools, really, effectively?”
Lazenby demonstrated his craft Dec. 2 in front of Main & Maxwell in Uptown Greenwood. He took cylinders of clear glass, using a blowtorch to cut, melt and shape the glass into hollow spheres. A small speck of silver or gold, melted and vaporized in the heat of the blowtorch, colored some of the spheres a yellowish hue, before he shaped a hoop atop them and finished the ornament.
Hand-blown glass ornaments might be a seasonal item, but he said he has to work early and often to meet demand.
“I start making ornaments in June, to meet the demand at this point,” he said during his demonstration. “If I could only make marbles, I’d be a happy man, but ornaments pay the bills.”
He usually makes 1,000 ornaments by the holiday season, he said. He’s also started to make stemware and goblets, but his main passion is still crafting marbles.
When a friend of his made a special request, Lazenby was tasked with making a marble with a special layer of emotional value. He was asked if he could incorporate cremated remains into a marble.
“There’s a responsibility with that,” he said. “You don’t really want to mess it up.”
Since then, he’s been commissioned to make other memorial pieces, including pendants. With each, crafting it takes on an air of ceremony.
He cleans his workshop thoroughly, to ensure the remains aren’t contaminated. As he incorporates the ash into the glass, any leftover glass is kept separate and given back to the client, so all of the cremated remains are returned.
Some clients give him the remains with little instruction, while others give him pictures of their loved one, the titles of songs they loved and lengthy letters describing the person. He’s had clients come and watch him make the marble, and has had others ask to work with him while making it.
“It’s soul-satisfying, but it’s also incredibly nerve-wracking,” he said.
More information on Lazenby and his wife can be found at blue-goosestudios.com, and their pieces can be seen and bought at Main & Maxwell.