Blowing Glass with Circle 6 Studio's John Longo and Juston Daniels

Categories: DIY, Visual Art
Kholood Eid
Juston Daniels shaping glass with his torch at Circle 6 Studios last Friday.
In an environment where glory holes, fire torches, and 2,000-degree furnaces are part of a day's work, Circle 6 Studios owner John Longo and glass blower Juston Daniels endure the (indoor) heat in pursuit of perfecting their artwork.

Their studio's at the end of a dirt driveway behind a modest-looking home on Virginia Avenue. Through the front door, the ventilation system hums in the background, glass pieces hang the wall and shelves, and the two men turn glass-covered rods in glory hole.

"Dirty men made up all the terminology for glass blowers," joked Longo. "You do all your work in the glory hole.  While you're making a jackline, it's called 'jacking.'"

A common phrase overheard in a glass blowing studio? "Paddle my bottom while I jack this."

And then insert into glory hole ... and repeat.

Kholood Eid
Juston Daniels and John Longo taking glass out of the furnace at Circle 6 Studios last Friday.
Longo moved to Phoenix in 1978 from Pittsburg and has been blowing glass for about 6 years. Daniels, originally from Boulder, Colorado, has been doing it for 10.

Kholood Eid
Juston Daniels smoothing out his glass.
​During most of July and August, the studio is closed for maintenance. By September they both say they're "jonesing pretty bad" to return to work, so they open back up, usually with First Friday kicking off the new season.

"Yeah, this is generally a winter sport," says Longo.

The session begins with the initial gather, where the molded glass is placed in a furnace. The blow pipe allows a "starter bubble," which will eventually help the artists manipulate and shape the molten glass. 

The two artists start by chilling select areas of the glass, and when the starter bubble is ready, they twist and blend color and texture into the molten glass.

After repeat trips to the furnace, the glass is eventually transferred to a puntee (or another pipe), with a lip (the rim of the glass) finalized on the piece.

The shape is then reworked before placing the glass to cool, which can take anywhere from 6 hours to 5 days, depending on the piece.

Kholood Eid
Juston Daniels blowing glass.
Daniels' piece (pictured above) took 9 hours in a 940-degree case for the annealing (a process meant to cool the glass in order to harden and stabilize its form) to take effect.

Glass blowing, says Longo, is about patience and a high tolerance for pain: "We get burned a lot," he says.

Kholood Eid
Juston Daniels and John Longo working the glory hole.

But for Longo and Daniels, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Kholood Eid
Juston Daniels tweaking the texture of his glass.

​"[Glass] is the first medium I've ever encountered that I couldn't conquer," says Longo. "Glass has a mind of its own. The change in the weather can effect how it behaves, the colors you use. You can spend a lifetime on one thing -- paper weights, vases, whatever -- and still never master all the tricks to that one little sliver of the medium."

Patience is not only a virtue but a necessity when it comes to glass blowing. To Longo, failed attempts are inevitable.

"You have to enjoy the process. If you're only about making things, it can be extremely frustrating," says Longo. "We enjoy the making of it more than the thing you get when you're done."

"I'll blow glass all day long," says Daniels. "Anything that your mind can think of, you can make it. It's just figuring out the process to get there." 

Kholood Eid
Juston Daniels adds the lip to his piece.

​Workshops for all levels are offered at Circle 6 Studio. Prices vary depending on the number of people in the class. 

Visiting artists who pass through town will also hold workshops at the space. Check out their website for more information on upcoming sessions.

Kholood Eid
Juston Daniels's finished product.

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