The Glass Pumpkin Patch is back for a third year at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
The Glass Pumpkin Patch is back for a third year at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. During the event, Oct. 11 to 13, participants make their own glass pumpkins with the guidance of one of several professional glassblowers. Here, glassblower Mike Stepanski walks us through the creation of a pumpkin. The cost is $54 for members and $60 for nonmembers. Advance registration required, and participants must be at least 16 years old. fpconservatory.org
1. Stepanski places the red-hot end of a pipe in a large furnace-which is kept at 2,100 degrees 24 hours a day-and gently spins it to collect molten glass on the end. He withdraws the pipe from the large furnace and, turning it as he moves, places it in a smaller, 2,300-degree furnace (called a glory hole) to keep it molten.
2. "The glass at 2,100 degrees is liquid, but at 1,000 degrees it's completely solid," Stepanski says. "We use the glory hole to heat the glass because it cools very quickly." Next, he rolls the molten-hot glass in small metal bowls of colored glass chips. He places the pipe back in the glory hole to melt the colored chips. The process is repeated to add a clear exterior layer, which adds mass.
3. Stepanski then lowers the glass into an aluminum mold to form pumpkin-like ridges. Using steel tongs, he gently squeezes the glass where it meets the pipe to weaken the connection. He then breaks it free using metal shears and a firm knock.
4. He repeats this process with a smaller gather of glass and different colors to create the pumpkin's stem. Stepanski attaches the stem to the top of the pumpkin while it's still molten and stretches it around a smaller pipe to curl it. Finally, he places the pumpkin in a finishing oven, which starts out at 890 degrees and very slowly cools the glass over 10 hours so it doesn't shatter.