The advent season (the four weeks before Christmas) always puts me in a mood to participate in festive activities. My standard routine includes: Christmas cookie baking, attending a holiday performance, and trips to see giant Christmas trees and holiday light displays. This year however, I decided to add two new adventures to the repertoire.
For my first new adventure, I headed to Slow Burn Glass in Richmond, California to try my hand at the art of glass blowing.
My goal was to create a finished product, that at least resembled one of these professionally made Christmas tree ornaments, by the end of the one-hour class.
My first stop was at the giant, glowing furnace that was heated to 2000 degrees and filled with melted glass.
I grabbed my heated blowpipe and timidly dipped it into the furnace to scoop up some liquid glass. Once the gob of glass was on the tip of the blowpipe, I constantly turned the pipe so the liquid would not drip and so it would also form a round shape. I then took the orb that had begun to form and dipped it in crushed, colored glass, coating the entire ball in first red, and then white flecks. Back and forth I went from the colored glass station to the glory hole. (No, I did not come up with that name. A glory hole is the name of the hot chamber used to reheat the glass in order to make it malleable again.)
After my ornament was sufficiently coated in colored glass, I placed it into a rounded, wooden, mold to shape and smooth it. From there, I blew into the tube that attached to the blowpipe, and gently inflated the glass while the instructor continued rolling the blowpipe to shape my ornament.
When it reached the correct shape and size, I took a giant pair of tweezers (called jacks) and pinched the ball at the top, without pinching hard enough to separate it from the pipe. I then took it to a table and tapped the blowpipe gently. The vibrations from the tap caused the ball to come away from the blowpipe and drop into the fire blanket.
After the instructor added a small loop to hang the ornament, I left it overnight in a temperature-controlled annealing oven so it wouldn't cool too rapidly and crack.
And here is my handiwork hanging on the tree. I don't consider myself particularly artistic so, I was a bit tentative about trying this at first but, I really enjoyed it. I am looking forward to returning to the studio to take more classes in the new year.
My second new adventure of the 2022 advent season was...
A Trip Inside a Dicken's Novel
I never thought it possible to visit London during the holidays, through Charles Dicken's eyes. I was able to do just that this year however, and all it took was a short trip to the Cow Palace in Daly City, to attend the Dicken's Christmas Fair. This massive holiday party has been a Bay Area tradition for over 50 years. Somehow, a 140,000 square foot arena, five minutes from San Francisco, is completely transformed into Victorian London at Christmastime.
Smells of roasting chestnuts and cinnamon followed me as I strolled up and down the lamp-lit streets, as did hundreds of actors dressed in Victorian costumes, many of whom interacted with me in full character. Some characters were historical and others were straight from the pages of Dicken's novels.
There was no shortage of dioramas to transport me to a wintry, twilight evening on London streets or,
... pubs offering up champagne, wine, and spirits.
There were many charming shops selling goods made by artisans and...
... a variety of educational classes to sit in on. (This one happened to be about ferns.)
There was also fun to be had playing games,
and enjoying live entertainment.
Yorkshire Pudding with Roast Beef
And the food stalls and confectionaries everywhere offered up English treats like the one above. The fair was a wonderful way to spend the day celebrating the Christmas season, close to home and yet thousands of miles away.