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baby two-step
March 03, 2014

Just one look at the newest glassybaby—'hercules', 'master of the universe', and 'grace'—and your eye will stay fixed on their texture. Like the beauty of an early morning fog over water, you may even wait a moment longer to see their gorgeous colors lift. Luckily, those colors are there to stay, because a new, two-step process that involves a mysterious reduction flame makes them so unique.

Many of us have seen the glassblowing process firsthand: there’s the dancing, dangerous flame; the skilled glassblower working as part of a team who collectively respect and command that flame; the shape-shifting glass, molded, cut, and cooled; the warmth of the entire process—it’s enough to put you in a state of awe. It’s easy to be overwhelmed at the complexity of the glassblower’s artful process. But when comparing that process to something we all do—cooking—we find clarity.  

I cook with onions a lot, to the point that I think about onions perhaps too much. I think the sweet onion, when sautéed, when caramelized, when roasted, is the perfect addition to nearly any dish. I put sweet onions in my omelets, in my homemade hummus, in my stir-fry, in just about anything that could use a sweet crunch. And yet, we know an onion does not start off sweet—it takes some effort, it takes patience, and it may even take a tear or two to unlock its most delicious taste. It’s a process—preparing an onion—and it is one that I do almost daily.

So with an onion, just as with a glassybaby, you work with a flame, you change the shape of its original state and mold it to your desire, using spices with an onion and color dyes with a glassybaby. The purpose of each process is for enjoyment, though to be sure, that enjoyment is different between the two of them: tasting a cooked onion, and watching the art unfold in front of you as a flame burns within a glassybaby.

The parallel here is a bit of a stretch, yes, but it helps me understand the glassybaby process, and helped me understand the reduction flame. Similar to an onion, I learned that a glassybaby has layers. Most have three, but the two-step process is to achieve the fourth, and trickiest layer that makes these two-step process glassybaby so unique. A special, reduction flame is needed when this final layer is applied so that the final colors—in this case gold and silver—gets unlocked from the glass and are drawn out to the surface. Reduction is the second step, and takes all of the glassblower’s skill and patience.

 Those glassblowers truly are skilled craftsmen and women. I think I will stick to my sweet onions, and leave the difficult art to them! Cheers to the glassblower, for enriching my life with art, and for helping donate nearly two million dollars to charity!

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