Turning Glass into Art

Posted on April 7, 2010

Andy Boatman’s Blue Sage Studio
Watching Andrew Boatman blow glass is like watching a well-choreographed dancer. His movements are swift, fluid and exact. He works non-stop from the time he picks up the hot glass from a 2,000-degree furnace with a 54-inch blowpipe, until he places the finished product in a 950-degree annealher (think kiln in ceramics) to strengthen and cure.

Between the beginning and finished product, Andy, as friends call him, continually reheats the glass blob on the end of the metal blowpipe in a 2,500-degree “glory hole” for shaping. He rolls, swings, even twirls the rod like a baton along with blowing into the pipe then shaping with a wet cherrywood mold. Sparks fly. Wood smokes. Glass glows from the heat, yet Andy never stops moving the glass. Eventually, a beautiful, flared vase emerges. It is a masterpiece and one of many that line the shelves of Andy’s studio.
Andy grew up in Edmond, graduated from Memorial High School and attended UCO before discovering his love of glassblowing. It was on what was supposed to be a ski trip to Santa Fe, N.M., that his aunt encouraged him to try his hand at glassblowing. He was hooked immediately and never made it to the slopes the whole week. Andy spent the next few years learning and developing his craft in Santa Fe, then opened his own studio in Edmond in 2002.

Blue Sage Studios is an unassuming barnlike structure, nestled in the trees behind Andy’s historic, redstone home near Lake Arcadia. In this quiet setting, Andy teaches classes in glassblowing through the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (www.okcmoa.com). When asked why people might choose to learn glass blowing, Andy said, “It’s a rare art form. People are drawn to it.”

Artists especially like to learn the art of glassblowing, but other students are more traditional. “Once I had a doctor, dentist, radiologist and ice cream salesman in the same class,” said Andy, who welcomes visitors to his studio on Saturday mornings to watch the glassblowing technique.

Four students are the most a class can accommodate.

“Everyone learns from each other,” said Andy, “because only one person can work with the glass at any given time.”

However, the first class meeting takes place at the museum in Oklahoma City with a lecture and tour of the world-renowned Dale Chihuly exhibit. The remaining four classes — four hours each — are spent at Blue Sage Studios, learning the fundamentals of blown glass.

It’s a popular class and some students continue to work with the glass, seeking private lessons from Andy. Because of the nature of glass blowing, the class is limited to adults and mature teens, usually 15 and older. Students must follow all safety guidelines posted at the studio, such as wearing only closed-toe shoes and no synthetic fabrics. Safety glasses and caps are required when handling the hot glass and, to prevent accidents, students must always announce their presence when coming into a room. The furnaces and fans create so much background noise that people cannot always be heard entering a room.

One of the most frequently asked questions is whether it is hot working with the glass.
“Yes, it is,” Andy said. But he is quick to emphasize that glassblowing is safe. “You learn what is hot and just be careful,” Andy said.
Another question he gets is, “What if I suck instead of blow into the pipe? Will it harm my lungs?” Andy assures students they will not be hurt if they should accidentally suck instead of blow.

“The blowpipe is too long,” he said, demonstrating with the 54-inch length.

Though it takes time and skill to master the beautiful blown glass vessels seen at the studio, a student will actually learn to make blown glass paper weights and other small items during the initial five-week class. People also have the opportunity to take classes in “lampworking” or “beadmaking” at Blue Sage Studios, taught by Brent Hickenbotham, a student at UCO and an accomplished glassblower. Drew Ackerman and Callie Held also share the studio but do not teach classes.

Andy makes several trips to Santa Fe each year to sell merchandise and confer with his brother, who is also a glassblower there. The two of them enjoy sharing new techniques as well as exchanging ideas and information. Andy also does art festivals and shows in Oklahoma. He and Brent are preparing several hand-blown pieces, including Christmas ornaments, vases, plates, bowls and lamps, for a Fall Home Show, which will take place at the studio and in Andy’s home Dec. 3-4. They also prepare and distribute a catalogue to businesses in the Edmond and metro area who wish to purchase their products. They even do custom glass blowing for those who desire something unique.

Besides being a glassblowing instructor, Andy also teaches “computers” at Sequoyah Middle School in Edmond. He comes by this talent naturally, having a mother who taught school for many years. So by day or night, in school or in the studio, Andy Boatman is teaching someone how to succeed at a craft, whether it be computers or glass blowing. “I love teaching,” Andy said.

For more information about classes at Blue Stage Studios, contact Andrew Boatman at 473-0754 or visit www.okcmoa.com.

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