Would you take us through the tools that you use in your creative process?
All the tools I use are specific to Glassblowing (in other words, I can't go to the Hardware store when I need a new tool). There are 4 basic hand tools that can be found in any Glass Studio. Tweezers, straight shears, diamond shears, and Jacks. These are hand formed from steel, and are durable enough to withstand continual use with molten glass.
You know the old adage "you need the right tool for the job"? Well, the same is true for Glassblowing. I have 3 Tweezers (various sizes), 3 Jacks (various sizes and shapes) and 2 Shears. Essentially, they all do the same thing, but some are better for particular pieces. It just takes time, and experience to understand which tool is right for the job.
Can you give us some sort of indication on the monetary outlay you've had in setting yourself up with the equipment that you have?
Well, they're expensive! But the good news is they will last a long, long, time if treated properly. My Jacks (I have 3) range from $200-$400. They were all worth the investment, especially my Dino's.
I travelled to Venice to purchase them from the maker himself 10 years ago. I wrote a nice blog entry about the experience. I bought my first pair of Jacks, tweezers, and shears over 11 years ago and I continue to use them regularly.
Maintenance of your tools must be ongoing. Is special care and/or cleaning required to keep them in optimal working order?
Glass tools are designed to withstand harsh conditions. Glass is about 2000 degrees when we work with it, so our tools have to be able to handle that type of heat. Our Jacks have to be waxed regularly, so they will work smoothly, and won't stick, or scratch the glass. We use a block of beeswax. A special perk about using the beeswax is the sweet, aroma that it creates around the work area. Other than that, maintenance is pretty minimal (thankfully!!). A green scrub pad goes a long way, and I generally only do this once or twice a year.
What sort of safety equipment is necessary when using your specialty tools? I always think a glass blower needs to be wearing big thick padded gloves ....
Glassblowing is as dangerous as you make it. Yes, it's hot, and I have been burned, and I have been cut. So, safety glasses are a necessity (and an aloe plant nearby is a good thing, too). I get by with some basic sunglasses with UV protection. When our equipment is running at full temperature, it can feel like you're staring at the sun, so eye protection is imperative.
Our hand tools get hot, too. Very hot, as a matter of fact. But as long as you KNOW they're hot, you're less likely to touch them when you shouldn't. Other than that, we don't do too much in the way of safety. Contrary to popular belief, we don't need gloves.
If you could own any kind of tools that aren't related to your own craft what would they be?
I would love a wood shop. A nice, big wood shop!