Kent State Finds Glassblowing Solutions During the Pandemic
When it comes to specialized problem solving like this, the glass community is a great resource. Ebanks received the design outline for a pneumatic foot pedal glassblowing system that hooks up to compressed air from glass alumnus Andy Bixler, BFA, ’10, who is the hotshop tech at a public-access hotshop on the West Coast. This apparatus ensures that nobody needs to remove their masks during class by providing a steady stream of air controlled by the gaffer (the person creating the glass object).
“Andy modified a more complicated system designed by The Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass to basically do the same thing. Corning’s system costs about $350 to build, ours is under $100. I had been casting around for a solution so that we could blow without removing masks and this seemed the most flexible. We also use hand pumps for our intro students, since it’s less cumbersome than having a hose semi-permanently attached to your blowpipe,” said Ebanks. He also uploaded an instructional video to YouTube so that other glass studios can create their own.
Graduate teaching assistant Katie Burkett finds that the system works as a good substitute for human breath. “I do believe it works as good as using breath, if not better in certain ways. Using the foot pedal frees up the assistant to the gaffer, so they can help with other tasks and there is less of a delay when communicating with your assistant on when you want air/them to blow,” she said.
What will hotshops look like after the pandemic? Both Ebanks and Burkett see a future where the foot pedal and/or hand pumps are used on a regular basis. “Studios where people blow glass solo will use them as being more practical than a mouth-operated blowhose. They are far more hygienic than sharing mouthpieces in public access studios or educational studios,” said Ebanks. This more hygienic practice is not only valuable during a global pandemic, it has a use during flu season or when someone in the studio feels sick so that the typical method of sanitizing blowtubes with rubbing alcohol doesn’t have to be the only option.