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Zen And The Art Of Glass Blowing

In Illinois, a glass blower tells the story of why he chose the profession

In a small shop on a busy street in River Grove, Pete Rivers is dancing a mesmerizing ballet around a torch spitting a 2-foot-long, 3000-degree flame.

Rivers is a glassblower. Today, he’s making a bubbler, but he didn’t know that when all he had in front of him was a half-dozen rods of borosilicate glass. Blowing glass is like meditating, Rivers said. Clear your head, let your hands go where they go, and the piece will come together if you let it.

For as much as blowing glass is about being in the moment, it’s equally about thinking ahead. Everything he’ll be working with has to be heated to 1000 degrees in a special oven just so it won’t shatter when he brings it to the flame. When he’s spinning colors into intricate designs onto a piece—today he’s doing something called a “wig-wag”—he has to anticipate what they will look like when he blows the glass out.


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