Wheeling, W.Va. (WTRF)- It all begins in the glass museum studio where long-time glassmaker, Bob Allen, takes the clear crystal and adds tiny pieces of colored glass to make stunning works of art all by hand.
Allen says, “I can’t believe how many people year after year buy those Christmas ornaments and those pumpkins. I could make my living if it were just pumpkins and Christmas ornaments.”
The artisan glassmaker first gathers the glass, then he colors it.
The glass goes in the glory hole where he warms it in, the temperature reaching about 2,000 degrees.
He says, “A lot of people who come in here as visitors, don’t realize how hard it is and how hard you are working over there when you’re doing that. Especially, in the summertime, it will be over 100 degrees in here.”
Allen, who used to teach people how to blow glass, says he has never met anyone who was a natural.
He says it takes lots of practice.
He chuckles, in fact, when he thinks back to students who thought they knew it all.
According to Allen, “We get people who come in here learning and they want to blow up that pipe and they’re making all kind of noises with their mouth and everything and it just gets to the point where they have slobber running down their chins.”
Allen always keeping an open frame of mind.
He says sometimes even his creations surprise him.
He says, “You never know sometimes. I’ll tell people I’ll make a vase and next thing I do is make a bowl because it looks better as a bowl to me than a vase.”
Allen says, “If you can’t shape glass, you can’t make glass.”
He comments, “A lot of it is you just have to keep the pipe moving while you’re doing it. You have to keep that pipe rolling all of the time while you are doing it because glass is sagging, falling or something.”
Then Allen describes how he blows and shapes the glass.
He says, “That first bubble whenever I get that color and I put that up in the air I am sitting a piece of glass on a pipe and that way it blows through the center. You put pressure up that pipe if you’ve got everything right and it will kind of pop out by itself.”
Allen says he is now ready to start scoring his piece, “If you keep that piece nice and round at the top it really makes a better piece out of it. So, I just take that knife and just rub it on there and I just put a score mark around there just like if you were using a regular glasscutter and you tap the pipe and you get a vibration through the pipe. That’s how you get if off the pipe.”
Today Allen’s artwork also reaches as far south as Seagrove, North Carolina here in the United States.
But what impresses Allen the most are those who are interested in his artwork abroad.
He says, “It amazes me how far some of it has got. I’ve had people from South Africa come in and buy if off of me, Japan and Romania and different places.”
Allen doesn’t have any plans to retire at this point.
He says he appreciates people who have purchased his glass over the years.
Their support, according to Allen, has been the reason why he has been able to earn a living for the last 53 years doing what he loves.