Create a Halloween Keepsake with Make-It-Now Workshops

Whether you’re an experienced artist or a creative novice, the Pittsburgh Glass Center’s workshops offer a way for participants of any skill level to get into the art of glassblowing.

photos by Nathan J. Shaulis

There’s only one thing scarier than a jack-o-lantern on Halloween — a rotten jack-o-lantern. The Pittsburgh Glass center has a solution to avoid a stinky situation with a keepsake that can last a lifetime.

Now through Nov. 17, The Pittsburgh Glass Center — a nonprofit school, gallery and glass studio in Garfield — is offering 15-minute “Make-It-Now” workshops where anyone of any skill level can create their own blown-glass pumpkins.

“It’s a real quick experience. Our artists give you a ton of assistance, and the pumpkins in the end always turn out beautifully,” says Paige Ilkhanipour, marketing director at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. “It gives you a chance to blow glass, and you get to really experience what that’s like.”

Experienced glass artists work alongside participants throughout the process. They begin by gathering molten glass out of a 2,200 degree furnace. The liquified mass, which is about the consistency of honey, is constantly rotated on one end of a hollow, steel blowpipe. The artist has a workshop participant blow air into the opposite end — which, to the surprise of many, is easy.

“A lot of people think that it takes a lot of lung strength to blow glass, and it doesn’t, as long as the glass is still hot and molten,” says Ilkhanipour. “In the Make-t-ow experiences, we set it up in a way that … it’s a quick, try-it experience.”

A series of tools and wooden blocks are used to keep the molten bubble round. Color is added by dipping the ball into crushed colored glass, which is the consistency of coarse salt or sugar. Participants are able to choose any color they like to create a pumpkin unique to them.

The artists reheat the mound to melt the colored shards into the existing glass. More air is added to attain a symmetrical shape about the size of a baseball. Then, the bubble — now starting to resemble a pumpkin — is knocked off the pipe, and an extra piece of glass is added on top as a stem.

The only downside is that patience is required — workshop participants aren’t able to take their pumpkins home with them on the same day. The pumpkins sit in an annealer overnight, which slowly brings the glass down to room temperature. This helps strengthen the glass and prevent against shattering.

The Make-It-Now workshops are quick — but the Pittsburgh Glass Center also offers a variety of longer workshops and classes for ages 14 and up.

“The artists are really great at keeping everybody safe and trying to find a way to give everybody an opportunity to try something,” says Ilkhanipour. “It’s really exciting to introduce new people in the community to glass and see people get so excited about it.”

Make-It-Now pumpkin workshops run from Oct. 26 to Nov. 17. Registration is $40 per person. To find out more about Make-It-Now workshops at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, visit here.

Categories: Nest