Tuesday tools of trade

This week we are jumping back on the jumbo and headed back to the US to meet up with Suzanne of tannerglass in Cranston, Rhode Island. Suzanne makes unique handblown and handsculpted solid glass creations and we're about to find out about the tools she uses.

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.

Glory hole

open furnace

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!


Star of the East said...

Very inspiring interview!

paula said...

i love that the tools are so few and so small/large! great look into another artists world. thank you!

SewnNatural said...

thank you for this post. glass blowing has always intrigued me - i enjoyed learning more about it and seeing your tools... your work is incredible!

Tanner Glass said...

A big thanks to the AG Team for this feature! I loved the opportunity to talk about my glass tools!
I should clarify that "Dino" is the name of the tool maker. But, because I have a few Jacks (the name of the tool), I refer to them by his name.
Thanks again!

Annette F Tait said...

amazing article and fascinating!
I'm always fascinated by other artists' tools of their trades.
thank you!
I read Suzanne's story on her blog - well worth a read!

Waterrose said...

I have always admired people who work with/blow glass. It's such a beautiful art. I use to visit a studio in Ohio where the artist made the most incredible marbles..thanks for letting us take a peek into your world!

WolfeWoman said...

I admire your deep appreciation of your tools, and how you traveled to the tool maker to get them. I see that type of dedication in your work, too- meticulous and stunning!

kathiroussel said...

i just love seeing your studio suzanne, with the fiery furnace blazing and the tools laid out and ready.. it's always so exciting and inspiring to see an artist at work--or to get a sense of what their work environment is like. great interview!
cheers to glass making!


Michelle said...

I am impressed!!!

betsy bensen said...

sounds and looks fascinating. Your vases are just lovely, and the ornaments are jewel-like!

Sigmosaics said...

I am in awe Suzanne - glassblowing has always fascinated me and learning about your tools makes me want to go and watch a glassblower in action again! You have such beautiful and creative work.

Humble apologies for calling your Jacks Dino's .. I just adore your dedication though!

Liz (made in lowell) said...

Your glass tools have so much character! I love that they will last for years and years. I am always impressed by those who play with fire, great post!

Victoria Webb said...

I've always loved (and collected) blown glass. The belted & squares vase is one of my favorites-
And it's wonderful to see tools of the trade and hear a little about glassblowing.

That 'glory hole' would intimidate the heck out of me...
Thanks to Kerrin and Suzanne for a wonderful interview!

Tanner Glass said...

Thanks everyone for the kind comments about my work. You all are so talented, and I look forward to learning more about all of you!

Kendra Zvonik said...

great feature! love your work, suzanne!
i'm married to a glassblower, so i can totally appreciate how much the tools cost and how specialized the equipment is. i know my husband would be so jealous that you were able to go to italy to buy your tools direct! that's a romantic glass story. love it!

IKABAGS said...

Beautiful work , great future !