Glassblowing Workshop at Piedmont Arts

Kristina Weldin, art teacher and Bassett High School, creates a glass tree sculpture with the help of Ryan Gothrup.

Students get hands on experience in glassblowing
at Piedmont Arts workshop

Alyssa Hopkins of Martinsville High
School works on a glass flower.
Local students received a first-hand lesson in glassblowing at Piedmont Arts on Friday.

Six art students and two teachers from area schools, including Martinsville High School, Magna Vista High School and Bassett High School, took part in the daylong, hands-on workshop led by Richmond-based glass artist Ryan Gothrup.

Gothrup began the day by showing students the tools used to craft glass objects and teaching the basics of handling glass. He then showed students how to collect or ‘gather’ glass on the end of a metal rod in preparation for working it into an object.

Holding the rod inside a furnace, Gothrup heated the tip of the rod until it began to glow. He then placed the rod into a larger furnace that had been heated to 2,100 degrees and filled with molten glass. By continuously rolling the rod in his hands, Gothrup gathered glass on its end, then removed it from the furnace. 

Bre Ferguson of Bassett High School creates
a glass nautilus sculpture.
“When it comes out, the glass is hot,” said Gothrup. “But it cools off quickly. You have to always be doing something to it, then heating it back up.”

He then moved to a workbench where he used tools to form the glass into an abstract shape. 

“Just pull on the glass to get the feel of it,” Gothrup instructed students. “And always turn your rod or the glass will drip off the end.”

Following Gothrup’s instructions, each student tackled two practice pieces of their own, before moving on to making glass flowers. Made by pinching the hot glass with large tweezers to create the shape of petals, Gothrup coached the students through the process.

“Pinch and pull. Just little pulls,” said Gothrup helping a student work a piece of glass. “Pull too much on one side and it’s going to be a funky flower.”

Each student made two glass flowers, then created a free form sculpture of their own design.

Students and teachers who participated in the glassblowing workshop with Ryan Gothrup.

Of her experience participating in the glassblowing workshop, Alyssa Hopkins, a senior at Martinsville High School said“It was really interesting and exciting to learn new things.” Her classmate Leah Lavender agreed, adding, “It was a great experience.”

“We are so excited that we could bring Ryan to Martinsville to teach this amazing class,” said Director of Exhibitions Heidi Pinkston, who also participated in the workshop. “Glassblowing is a hot and sometimes difficult process, but it is unbelievable what you can make with a little creativity and effort.”

Piedmont Arts received assistance from Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ Paul Mellon Endowment to help fund the workshop. 

“Piedmont Arts has been a Statewide Partner of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for many years,” said Director of Programs Barbara Parker. “It is really nice to have a partnership with our state art museum and to have their support for educational programs like this. It’s truly an honor to be able to share the talents of artists like Ryan with our local students and community.”

Kids enjoy crafting tissue paper luminaries
at Piedmont Arts' Family Day.
 Gothrup also participated in a free Family Day held at the museum on Saturday. Over 150 visitors attended the event, where they watched Gothrup create one-of-a-kind works in glass, from small cups to large sculptures.

The museum’s Family Day also featured glass crafts led by Studio 107 artist Lynn Berry, who showed children how to make glass bead picture frames; a tissue paper luminary craft; and cupcake decorating, using cupcakes and sugar glass from Uptown Sweets.

The Family Day was made possible by event sponsors River Community Bank, N.A. and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Both the glassblowing workshop and family day were held in conjunction with Piedmont Arts’ current exhibits, which all feature works in glass.

Guests can view the exhibits Fired Up! Works from Chrysler Museum of Art Glass StudioUnbreakable and Local Glass at the museum through October 3. Exhibit admission is always free.


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