Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Ryukyu Glass Factory

I'm a day late posting these, but here's some pictures from the glass factory. It's not a large building at all and I wouldn't have guessed what it was just from looking. I think it's across from some bowling place that has cartoon characters on it, I'll have to look for that landmark when we try to find the glass factory again. Anyway, the "factory" seems to be just one big room with two walls that are open to the outside, and they have two or three large kilns? forges? whatever, big fireplaces to fire the glass. I bet that in the middle of summer this place feels like an absolute furnace.

We got to watch the glassblowers work for several minutes while they got us sorted out to make our own glass. So here's what they do--they get a glob of melted glass on the end of a long hollow pole, and then blow into the end of the pole to make a bubble, like this...

Once the bubble is the size that the glassblower wants, s/he sits it down on a table and I think they roll it to make sure it's symmetrical and to let it cool some. Then, another glassblower brings over another pole with a smaller glob of melted glass on it, presumably of a different color. The one who's making the piece will move the pole with the glob where he wants it and then touch the melted glass to the side of the bubble, then cut it off with his pliers. They go all the way around so you end up with a row of colored circles on the glass bubble. Not sure what else they do to it since around this time we got to start making our own :)

First, a glassblower will bring you a pole with a glob of melted glass on it, and they put it in a mold on the floor. Then you blow gently into the pole until the glass fills the mold.

Then you go over to this other work station and they'll help you attach a new pole to the bottom of the cup, and they detach the original pole from what is now the inside of your glass piece. The glass cools pretty quickly, so as soon as you get the pole attached to the bottom, they go put it in the fire for a few minutes to heat it back up. At this point, Lee's fell off the pole and into the fire :) so they had to make a new one for him real quick.

After the glass is reheated, you sit down on a chair with long flat arms, and you roll the pole back and forth while using a pair of tongs to shape the opening of the cup. You start out squeezing the tongs together and then gradually open them up as you roll the glass back and forth so the opening gets bigger.

Sorry Liz, this is the only picture of me on here :) I realized when I was sorting through the pictures that I'm wearing the exact same outfit I wore the day we went to Shuri Castle and Shikina-En. I do have more than one outfit, I promise!!

Here's Lee with the glassblower who helped him. We're supposed to pick up the pieces we made on the 6th, I bet ours are all funky looking :) I'll post a picture of those when we get them.

Because I'm mean and it's my blog so I get to make all the decisions, I'm going to post the pictures from the glass factory store tomorrow. You won't believe all the colors and pretty things they make with this stuff, so check back later :D


CCsMom said...

Super cool - - - I mean, smokin' hot! Wow, I bet it DOES get hot in there in the summer. I told Dad tonight that the kids don't realize that when we were there, we DIDN'T have central air -- we had WINDOW air conditioners. And we survived. It's the humidity that takes awhile to get used to -- I don't think there's anything to compare to it in the States. But it's still a really neat place -- like we've said a million times, we really enjoyed our tour there. This sure is fascinating!!! Love ya -- Mom

lizguidry said...

YAY! It's really you! It's abour darn time we get to see you enjoying yourself instead of hinding behind the camera. Try to be in FRONT of the lens more - hehe.