Joe Abbott's Weblog

Letters home to mom

The Continuing Adventures of Joe & Suz

Posted by joeabbott on March 13, 2011

While Suzy and I may be accused of doing a lot of things, most are the small, fun sort of adventures: kayaking nearby Lake Washington, visiting the farmers’ markets in many of the small communities, and enjoying the local Seattle area fairs. We’ve had some big adventures, too, but steeping in the many little opportunities available to us make the weekends fun. And so, when we got a chance to take in glassblowing yesterday we didn’t miss the chance. Even if it was the second time trying our collective hand at it.

imageFour or five years ago we had a chance to blow a glass chili pepper at Uptown Glassworks, in Renton, WA; I believe it was a Cinco de Mayo event. It was fun in that we sat in with a large group, a couple friends joined us, and it was an all-new experience. That said, my part in the “blowing a glass chili pepper” was decidedly less involved than I thought it would be. I sat on a stool, puffed once or twice into a straw that was inserted into a hookah-style tube attached to blowpipe, and a glassworker shaped the chili pepper. I got to choose the colors, too … but, again, my participation was somewhat thinner than I’d imagined.

WP_000071And if you’re wondering what I was imagining, picture a guy with leather gloves to the elbow and goggles to protect him while he peers deep into the glory hole … and that guy is me, turning out Chihuly-style glass worthy of a chandelier in a Venetian palace. Hey, if you’re going to dream, dream big!

Again, my part in the chili pepper was just a puff or two of air, but I still love those our glass chili peppers, and I hadn’t yet dipped deeply enough into the pool that is “glassblowing”.

So, my chance came again to blow glass and, while I was sure I wouldn’t enjoy the depth of experience that I was after, I would have another blown glass piece and an experience to savor. So I dove right in!

Suzy has been taken by “Groupon” … an “Internet group coupon” sort of business. While I don’t wish to shill for this venture, I have enjoyed a couple of experiences via their discounts so I feel compelled to repeat a blurb from their site:

imageGroupon negotiates huge discounts—usually 50-90% off—with popular businesses. We send the deals to thousands of subscribers in our free daily email, and we send the businesses a ton of new customers. That’s the Groupon magic.

And that’s what Groupon is. And, what it did for Suzy and me is get us back into the Uptown Glassworks glass shop for half off!

WP_000065So when we had to be there at 10 AM on Saturday, I was excited but felt I knew what was going to happen: we’d sit in on a large class, pick the colors for our glass eggs (you can either think “chickens” or “Easter” here), and puff into the hookah while a glass artist shaped away. I was partially right.

We got there a bit later than I’d wanted … it was not quite 10 when we walked through the doors. The place was empty of customers and just one fella in the back, soulfully sharing a tune with Marvin Gaye. As one or two other employees filtered out of the back, we took off our jackets, and wondered whether there was going to be a class that day.

Well, we were the class!!

When we were finally leaving a large group of “other customers” wandered in and I got the feeling that rather than having a single large class, the Uptown Glassworks folks opted instead to have several smaller groups. But, at 10 AM it was just us.

We followed one of the guys who had filtered out of the back to a small display and chose the style of glass we’d like to blow (I think we could choose from hearts, spheres, and eggs), then chose whether we wanted a base on our item (we didn’t), and were then sent over to a “color specialist”.

While they didn’t bill her thusly, it appeared to be her lot: to show customers a couple dozen pans of colored glass shards, ask them to pick two colors, and then assure them their choices were absolutely marvelous and would result in a very nice keepsake. Oh, she also helped us decide if we wanted a mottled pattern or swirled (“I always choose swirled,” she knowingly offered).

WP_000076I chose red and deep blue colors and, of course, swirled.

We were then shown a box of 2” plastic straw sections from which we each selected one and we were off!

I sat on the stool, popped my straw section into the familiar rubber tube, and before I knew it, Sean, our artist, was busy heating and rolling, and asking me to blow. Blow a bit harder. OK, stop.

And that was it.

I switched places with Suzy, grabbed my camera phone and started shooting, and lickety split, we were done. Including a wander through the large collection of glass items for sale and a bit of chatting with the clerk about future upcoming events, we were out of there in about 20 minutes!

While I didn’t get to feel what dipping the blowpipe into a pool of molten glass felt like, I didn’t get to roll the cooling glass blob on the various metal tables, or shape my egg with only a wad of damp newspapers protecting my hand, I did get back into the glass shop, I was allowed to stroll around snapping pictures, and generally be about as nosey as a guy can be while remaining in the good social graces of those around him. In short, it was great fun and I’m up for more!

I believe I’ll be able to pick up our eggs on Tuesday … I’ll post snaps when we have them!

The rest of the day was at our leisure.

We did a bit of shopping at Costco (ok, a lot of shopping if the bill has anything to say about it), we lolled about a bit (Suzy took a nap, I vanquished foes from Middle-earth and saw victory for the Free Peoples), and then went about staking out the yard for some upcoming landscaping.

Perhaps in a later post I’ll share our landscaping plans but, time to get onto other things. It’s a weekend and that means making time for fun!

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