A Shiny Adventure in Glass

The Corning Museum of Glass was recommended to us by a friend or two and after Kimmer read about the place, we decided it was definitely making the list. So, we set out early today and drove down the east coast of scenic Lake Owasco to the town of Corning, New York and took the convenient shuttle bus from the parking lot to the museum.

Entrance to the museum was $14 each, but I was most interested in one of their make your own glass classes – specifically the Christmas ornament class. Unfortunately, the earliest available slot was 4 p.m., and since it was only 11 a.m., we didn’t want to commit to staying that late. So we opted for the museum only, and we were not disappointed.

We got our map began exploring with the modern glass art exhibit. Some of the exhibits were mind blowing including Lino Tagliapietra’s Endeavor. The piece is an installation of 18 beautiful sculptures suspended by thin, hardly noticeable cables over a stark white base. The pieces, meant to look like the gondolas of Tagliapietra’s youth, cast interesting water blurred shadows onto the base. Tagliapietra is widely considered the best glassblower in the world (and perhaps history).

We then made our way around the glass demonstrations, of which there were many. Designed primarily for children, the presenters never talk down to visitors and make them see why they find each of the topics interesting and fun.  Here’s a breakdown of a few we saw.

First up was a 15-minute presentation on Glass Breaking. Intended to express the importance of integrity in the glass-making process and illustrate the purpose of various glass types, it holds your attention through the shattering of many tiny pieces of glass.

Then we made our way to the Hot Glass demonstration. The process of molding glass is centuries old and is still used today by glass artists and many of the world’s finest glass makers to create interesting individual pieces of art. The long theater is home to a couple glass making ovens and equipment, and the 30-minute presentation (projected onto large screens above the artists) followed a glass maker as he made a blue and white scalloped bowl. The glass making started immediately with a knowledgeable assistant narrating each and every step.

Our last demonstration of the day was all about optical glass. This session was much more technical than the others, illustrating some of the basic principles of the optical glass that now transfers a great percentage of most telephone conversations, high-def cable TV and high speed Internet. Pretty cool.

Finally, we explored the historic glass making techniques and artifacts recovered from many different time periods. It is interesting to know that glass making has been a staple of human culture since 3500 BC – or for more than 5,000 years!

This glass museum was very educational and extremely fun. The many live demonstrations kept your attention and you learned a thing or two. If you are ever near the town of Corning, you should stop by. For more information click here.