NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – To be an artist at UrbanGlass, you can’t be afraid of a little danger.
“There is a certain sort of daredevil mentality. There has to be a comfort with hot things,” said director of development Rachel Feinberg.
“These people are so comfortable with the material that they’re quite intimate with it. They get quite close to the very hot material. It can be a little surprising,” she said.
UrbanGlass is the largest non-profit artist glass studio in the United States.
“UrbanGlass was founded in 1977 in Lower Manhattan. We moved into this building 25 years ago, so we’ve been doing this for a while,” Feinberg said.
The facility includes a retail space showcasing artists’ works and a designated area for rotating art exhibitions.
“We have workspace for professional artists, but we also have a huge variety of classes for students of all ages and skill levels. We start with students as young as nine,” she said.
The 17,000-square-foot studio space welcomes artists working with glass, gases, and very high temperatures.
Glass becomes malleable when melted in a heated metal drum.
“It’s about 2,000°F in the furnace,” she said. “It comes out of the furnace the consistency of honey.”
Artists at UrbanGlass create everything from jewelry to glowing sculptures.
“Josh Raiffe is a glassblower working on a series of solid sculptures that he adds neon to, which is a fairly nontraditional approach to neon,” Feinberg said.
Susan Schulman co-owns Mazel Tov Glass, a company that creates hand-blown glass to be stepped on in the Jewish wedding ritual. The shards are returned to the company to be repurposed—they are incorporated into a new vase for the couple to commemorate the ceremony.
Roxann Slate, glass artist and jewelry fabricator, works at UrbanGlass five days per week.
“Both my parents are glass artists, so I’ve been around glass for a long time,” she said. “I’m 31, so we’re going on like 21 years of melting things.”
Glassblowing is both an art and a science.
“A lot of the chemistry and science you learn just through practice and through experimenting,” Raiffe said.
His projects depend on tungsten, a metal with special properties.
“Its melting point is in the 6,000°s, so you can get it really, really hot and drive it through glass, whereas with most metals, you can’t do that,” he said.
The art form is not for everyone.
“You have to get your hands dirty. You have to be okay with sweating a lot,” Raiffe said.
But those drawn to it become part of a close-knit group.
“The glass community is really tight,” Raiffe said. “And it’s because of the nature of the activity. We all work in teams, and we become friends.”
Glassblowers can connect over shared passion and a shared lifestyle.
“We’re all in the same boat. We all have to pay so much rent,” Slate said.
647 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217
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