Gaffer’s Guild offers glassblowing skill to students

Amanda Hall, graduate student in art and design and member of the ISU Gaffer’s Guild Club, uses a jack to shape and create a line in a glass structure on Feb. 5 at 1334 Sweeney Hall. A perk of the club is that anyone can join even they are not a student; the only drawback is that there is a waiting list to join. Potential members must take an introductory class and pay fees that range from $90-$120, which covers supplies, except colors, for one semester.

Daniel Bush

Blowing glass is a form of art that takes practice to perfect. The glassblowing studio on campus has been used to perfect that art within the Gaffer’s Guild.

The Gaffer’s Guild is made up of ISU students and Ames residents who  learn to create unique glass objects.

“Your imagination is your limit,” said Tanner Borglum, senior in computer engineering and member of the Gaffer’s Guild. “So if you want to make a salamander sitting on a rock you can experiment, test and perfect that creation.”

Individuals make glass objects to keep for themselves and contribute to commissions that are sold at VEISHEA and Art Mart.

“The policy is ‘make one, save one,’” said Steve Martin, distinguished professor of materials science and engineering, and faculty adviser of the Gaffer’s Guild. “And the kids are really good about it.”

The club requires taking a glassblowing class before becoming a member. Most of the expenses, such as glass, colors and equipment, are paid with dues and sales.

There are some expenses that do not fall on the club itself.

“The university, bless their hearts, they provide us space, they pay our gas bill, they pay our heating bill, [and] they pay for all of our utilities,” Martin said.

Borglum said that the amount of gas burned up in an hour for the glory hole, which is a furnace used to reheat glass in between steps, could heat a house for a winter.

Maxwell Marple, senior in materials engineering and president of the Gaffer’s Guild, said that glass has a certain range of temperature where it can be shaped unlike other metals.

“It’ll behave more like a liquid with temperature,” Marple said.

The temperature which the club keeps the glory hole at is roughly 900 degrees Celsius.

They also have “standing commission,” Martin said. This is where departments of the university order objects from the guild, and they are paid commission for the pieces.

“It is hard,” Martin said. “You have to make a conscious commitment to the time.”

Borglum said he puts about 11 hours per week into the club. Although students don’t have to spend time in the studio, Borglum said it would be challenging to be consistent.

“Learning new things takes a lot of time,” Borglum said. “And then getting consistent; being able to get the control you want.”

The club requires that students come in with either a partner or a team of two.

Collin Bartels, senior in computer engineering and Borglum’s partner, shared why he enjoys being in the club.

“I would just say to be able to make anything you want,” Bartels said. “Whatever you could imagine, just try to do it. It is possible.”

To join the Gaffer’s Guild, request to join the club at their organization page. There is a waiting list of more than 450 people, but the guild strongly recommends signing up.

The students, with the help of Martin, run the guild. Members spend several hours maintaining, creating, imagining and perfecting the art of glassblowing.

“If the kids weren’t good in the studio, we couldn’t run it because it’s all volunteer and they just do such a good job of running and managing themselves,” Martin said.

The guild also does special orders for commission. To ask the club to create a glass object, contact Maxwell Marple at [email protected].