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Makin’ Glass

As a child, I had once inserted house keys into a power outlet, as I wrote in Electrical Outlets. When I was a bit older, I had upped the ante and was being hit with a stick on my butt for blowing a fuse, the first and only time I received that kind of punishment. I don’t recall any real serious pain, only humiliation at being a little too old to be whooped.

This time, I was trying to make glass. It was another failed experiment. I had found instructions on building a arc furnace using carbon rods from dry cell batteries, a clay flowerpot as a crucible, and a train transformer as a power source. Unfortunately, I knew nothing of the proper power requirements, and my only result was a blown fuse and a bruised butt.

The fact that common sand could be melted in a homemade arc furnace to make glass was nothing less than amazing to me. It still is. Later in life, I built a stained glass Tiffany-styled lamp from a kit. However, I never did venture into glass making, forming, or blowing.
I love glass. I respect plastic, which I work with every day in the manufacture of products. However, glass is virtually antithetical to plastic which, in spite of all the remarkable manmade resins, remains a metaphor for all things cheap. Everything about glass is extraordinary – its amorphous non-crystalline structure, its ability to refract, reflect, and transmit light, its chemical resistance, cleanability, and its tremendous versatility.

Last night, after a very good meal on Indian row in the East Village, a friend and I happened upon a mecca for colored glass. A brand new shop, Mosaic Lamps at 208 East 6th Street, features an array of handblown glass lamps decorated with mosaics. The lamps are imported from Turkey, where centuries of tradition go into the making of these beautiful works. I met the owner, Melissa Benovic, who with her boyfriend Ilker Arslan, were inspired by the grand bazaar in Istanbul where Ilker once worked.

To my surprise, although these lamps are common in Turkey, they are virtually non-existent in New York City, until the opening of Mosaic Lamps. I wish them the best of luck. I’m pleased to see that somewhere in Istanbul, rather than blow fuses, someone is good at Makin’ Glass :)

8 Responses to Makin’ Glass

  1. Leslie Gold says:

    As soon as I saw these photos I thought of my 2 wonderful trips to the (enormous) Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, and am so pleased to read that these lamps are here in NYC.
    Have you been to the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY? It’s freakin fabulous, and if you are at all fascinated by glass, a visit to this excellent museum of history, live glassmaking, and superior exhibits for adults and kids…is a MUST!!!

  2. Hi Brian–

    Yes, you ought to find your way to the Corning glass museum (if it is still there.) I’ll have to check. Many years ago, I saw them blow glass there, for a high-end glass company now defunct. (I’m trying to remember the name.) They used to have a shop on Fifth Ave. where they sold what they made at the glass museum.

    When I was a child there was a company a block away from my house where they blew glass for scientific use – beakers, test tubes, etc. On warm days they worked with the doors open to the street (with appropriate barricades to entrance by us kids) where we could watch the process. The burners seemed to be gas fired with a large blue flame that glowed orange when the glass was being worked. Rows of men worked, each with their own burner.

    Years later I tried it once in a studio out on Long Island.

    Just lately, David has been telling me that he wants to take up glass blowing. A few years ago, there was a studio in Brooklyn where they taught it. It was about a block off the end of the Gowanus Canal in an arts-oriented neighborhood. They have open studio days in that area a few times a year and that is when I found the place. But as I can’t get around the way I used to, I haven’t been out there in a while and I don’t know if they still do it.

    Should you be bitten by the bug, and you discover any classes, could you please post it? Thanks,

    –Mary

    P.S.: The name of the glass company is/was Steuben glass.

  3. Gtreat photos!

  4. BTW – They are great photos. Unfortunately I could not get the large one all on the screen at once. With the dark lines between them, I did not get the full effect of the composition as they melded together. With a little concentration, I managed to see them better. Yes, GREAT PHOTOS!

  5. Jaime Batista says:

    Outstanding photos of some very artistic work…I’m not much for glitz but I would probably have to buy one just to appreciate the art and skill involved in the making of such a piece..I would like to think that each one is made by hand?? Maybe??

  6. Nice lamps, but I have a feeling they look better the way they’re photographed. One, by itself, is probably not as remarkable.

  7. Brian Dubé says:

    Leslie – I thought of you when I saw these and surmised you were familiar with the marketplace and the lamps.

    Mary – A trip to Corning sounds awesome. It’s now on my to do list.

    Jaime – The foundations of the lamps are hand blown and the mosaics hand applied. The store owner assured me that the process has a long history and the artisans quite skilled and adept at producing these.

    shmnyc – perhaps, but there is a lot of detail even in one lamp. of course, the effect of an entire store of them is quite impressive.

  8. To the person who left the previous comment, shmnyc, it looks to me like a piece of art. How beautiful a piece must be that stands alone, big or small. It’s easy to appreciate the beauty these lamps have to offer. I bet even a little one would look great in my house!


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