Posts Tagged ‘Holdman Studios’


Glass flowers made by AAI students at Holdman Studios.

During the 2016 fall semester at American Academy of Innovation, I started out in a bare science classroom without any lab stations or sinks. This was a challenge, but also an opportunity as I got the chance to design my own lab. Once I had finished the design and the architects rendered their version of it and the bids came back, it was late October. By the time the cabinet makers were ready to install, it was the week before Thanksgiving. I moved everything into the center of the room and covered it all with a large green tarp for the duration of the construction. I moved my classes into the school library for three weeks.


Glass flowers made by students at AAI. Mine is the red one with blue edges at the bottom right.

Since my STEAM it Up class couldn’t build sculptures or do tie dyed shirts or other such projects in the library, we took the three weeks to learn video filming techniques. I also set up a tour of a local glass studio. We researched the processes of glass blowing and the students wrote up a basic script and filmed the narration.


First step: Gathering molten glass onto the puntil rod from the crucible.

Now I have done this before, as reported previously. I took a group of students from Mountainland Applied Technology College to Holdman Studios in 2009 to document the processes of glass blowing and stained glass artistry. The blown glass video was edited into a short description of the process which can be found here on YouTube (https://youtu.be/0TyDqZCGkpI ) and on my video page in this blog.


Step 2: The molten glass is shaped on a metal shelf next to the crucible.

This time I wanted to get additional footage and give my new students a fun experience, so I set up a class for them to learn how to make glass flowers. These are simpler because they only involve stretching the glass, not blowing, so each student who wanted to pay the fee could make their own.


Step 3: The glass is rolled in colored cullet or frit to produce the interior stem color.

We traveled down to Thanksgiving Point to Holdman Studios on November 30, 2016. We signed up and chose our colors. I set up some video cameras to record the process and explanation. A puntil rod is used and not a blowpipe since no blowing is needed.

Here are the steps for making a glass flower: A pre-heated puntil rod is used to gather the molten glass from the crucible, where it is shaped into a cone on a metal shelf.


Step 4: The first gather is balanced by rolling it at the rolling station.

Colored cullet or frit is added to the molten glass by rolling it through the frit on the marver table. The rod is rolled to get the glass to the desired balance. A second layer of glass is gathered at the crucible and a second color added at the marver table. The first color will be the interior or stem of the flower, the second will be the outside edge or petals of the flower.


Step 5: A second layer of molten glass is added and shaped, then rolled in a second color of cullet to create the flower petal color.

The student at the rolling station then uses forceps to pull out the molten glass into a flower shape. If the student is too cautious or takes too long (like me) the glass may cool too much to be pulled and must be reheated in the glory hole.


Step 6: A flat paddle is used to flatten the molten glass agains the puntil rod, to allow for a hollow stem in the flower. I am wearing gloves and a fireproof sleeve to prevent my arm from getting burned. The glass is very hot.


Step 7: The student begins to pull out flower petals from the molten glass.

Once the flower shape is done, the flower is pulled out along the axis of the puntil rod to form a stem, which is either kept straight or twisted up depending on what the student wants. The glass is scored and knocked off the puntil, then fire polished with a blowtorch and placed in an annealing oven for 24 hours to gradually cool down.


Step 8: Working quickly around the flower, the student continues to pull out the glass to make the flower larger. It feels like pulling taffy.

Six students and two adults, including myself, made flowers. They turned out very well. I had to return two days later to pick them up, and the colors were amazing as seen in these photos. Mine is the flower with a red stem with blue petals, which I gave to my wife as a Christmas present. The process was tricky but fun. I had to wear gloves and a fireproof sleeve to prevent my arm hairs from singing. The glass felt like pulling taffy. I highly recommend that you try this out if you get a chance.


Step 9: If the glass begins to cool (as mine did because I took too much time to pull it), the piece must be re-heated in the glory hole.

We got some good photos and video, even though lighting conditions in the studio are challenging (there is a strong backlight). Audio is also a problem as the glory hole and fans are noisy. But I can hear the explanations well enough to at least transcribe the footage, and record new narration over the top when I finally edit all of this together into a longer video.


Step 10: Once the flower shape is done, the flower is pulled away from the puntil along its axis to create a stem for the flower. The first color of cullet becomes the stem color.

If you want to schedule your own lessons to learn to make glass flowers or even blow your own Christmas ornaments, here is the link to the Holdman Studios page:



Step 11: If the student desires, the puntil rod can be rolled to twist up the stem.


Step 12: The glass is scored with forceps, knocked off the puntil rod, then placed on fireproof cloth and fire polished with a blowtorch, as I am doing here. The flower is then placed in the annealing oven (at left) to slowly cool down over 24 hours.


Some of the students at American Academy of Innovation who made glass flowers at Holdman Studios.


Displays of glass at Holdman Studios. In addition to classes for making glass flowers, the staff also holds classes for traditional glass blowing including making Christmas ornaments.

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    This has been a busy week for me here at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. On Tuesday, June 23 I presented The Elements Unearthed project at a Brown Bag Lunch here. It’s pretty informal; people bring their lunches and eat while the speaker presents. I had 20 people attend, which was very nice. I would have been happy with five!. After a couple of technology glitches  I switched to Plan B and everything went well. In addition to talking about the purpose of the project (which is to document the history, uses, sources, mining, refining, and hazards of the chemical elements and industrial materials through student-created podcasts (whew!)), I showed some short samples of the student videos created this last semester for glass blowing and synthetic diamonds. I also showed some animations with narration of a podcast episode I’m working on this summer on the history of atomic theory. You saw a sample image on the last post of Aristote’s hylomorphism. That’s just one frame of a whole animation. But just so that you can have a sneak peak at what will be posted to iTunes and YouTube by the end of August, here is the first video clip of the students’ work:

This is a clip edited and narrated by Alex Anderson, who also took the photos of the rejects at the end of the clip. Videotaping was done by Sam Comstock, Megan Parish, and Bernardo Martinez. My only contribution was some final tweaking of the video color balance and lighting to match up the two cameras and smooth up some transitions; otherwise, the editing is all Alex’s work.  This is a representative sample of the kind of work you’ll see when these episodes are finally posted. I’ll post the samples for Synthetic Diamonds and Aristotle/Empedocles next time.

    Here is the PDF version of my presentation, sans video clips:   Elements_Unearthed_Presentation_6-23-09

    After my presentation, Ron Brashear, the Director of the Beckman Center here at CHF, took me out to lunch. As we talked, I was surprised to find that we knew some of the same people. He had worked at the Huntington Library in California, researching Edwin Hubble’s letters and personal papers. As part of his research, he visited Mt. Wilson Observatory where Hubble did most of his work. I’ve been up there several times with the NASA Explorer School workshops that I did for JPL, and so we’ve both met some of the astronomers and docents at Mt. Wilson and we’ve both visited the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ. It is a small world, as they say.

Intersecting Bubbles

Intersecting Bubbles

    I find, however, that as I have these opportunities to work in the science education and science history fields, that I increasingly meet the same people, or at least find that we have the same aquaintances. Academic and scientific circles become increasingly rarefied and specialized, but sometimes they intersect in interesting ways. One of the great privileges of my life has been to meet some of the best minds in several scientific disciplines, including space exploration, astronomy, and now science history. I’m not going to drop names here, but when comparing them to so-called “celebrities” I’ve met, the scientists are the truly great ones, the ones we should be holding up as heroes. My fellowship here at CHF has already helped me to make contact with some of these personal heroes and to at least intersect their circles, and that may be the best part of all for a science groupie like me.

    The other activity I’ve worked on is a Preliminary Proposal for an Informal Science Education grant from the National Science Foundation, which was due yesterday at 5:00. After writing with blazing speed (I hope it makes sense), I wrestled with NSF’s Fastlane submission system and finally hit the submit button a few minutes after 5:00, only to realize that I forgot to justify one of my budget entries – to provide stipends for time and equipment to the mentor teachers/schools of the participating teams. Hopefully that won’t be enough to kill it.  I am submitting the Summary Page and the Project Description here for your evaluation. I would appreciate any feedback you can give.



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   This is a report on our progress toward completing the student podcast episodes for this year. Right now, three episodes are underway and a fourth is pending. Students in my Media Design classes at Mountainland Applied Technology College have researched, planned, videotaped, and are now editing the following topics: The Art and Science of Blown Glass; Illuminating History: The Story of Stained Glass; and The History and Process of Synthetic Diamonds. Our fourth project will be about the history and properties of clay pottery.

   On Feb. 11, a team of students traveled to Thanksgiving Point near Alpine, Utah to tour Holdman Studios, a glass blowing and stained glass studio ran by Tom and Trevor Holdman. Our subject matter expert on blown glass, Gay Wyn Quance, had previously come to our school where we interviewed her on the history and processes of glass blowing where we could guarantee good lighting and audio. At Holdman Studios, we set up our cameras, lights, and mics and videotaped Gay Wyn giving two separate demonstrations of the process of blowing a glass plate. We used two cameras and a wireless lapel mike system to ensure good video and audio. We also took several hundred excellent photos of the process (see our previous post). Afterward, we videotaped Trevor and his assistant, Keith, creating a large green with white striped glass platter. We have since captured all the video and audio to Final Cut Studio on our Mac Pro computers, written transcripts word for word, and assembled them all with narration into a draft script of the episode. Today we recorded the narration, and tomorrow we will capture the narration and begin the editing process.

Green art glass for stained glass windows

Green art glass for stained glass windows

   For the stained glass project, another group of students travelled to Thanksgiving Point again on Feb. 26 to videotape Josh Lewis demonstrating the processes of making stained glass windows, from a demonstration of the basic cutting and assembly process through creating the original cartoons, painting on the glass, using sandblasting to engrave the glass, and finally how glass is slumped or molded. Again we had two video cameras and a digital still camera and two mics and we recorded some excellent footage and audio. We have since captured all of this to our system, written the transcripts, and are now writing the final rough draft of the script.

Partially assembled stained glass window

Partially assembled stained glass window

   We contacted Novatek, a company in south Provo that makes Polycrystalline Diamond (PCD) for oil well drill bits. The president of the company is David Hall, son of H. Tracy Hall, who invented the processes of synthetic diamond at General Electric in 1954. After leaving GE for a professorship at Brigham Young University, he continued to invent new processes including the tetrahedral and cubic presses still used today. He formed Megadiamond, a company that has since been sold to Smith International, and then formed Novatek. Our Subject Matter Expert is Francis Leaney. On Friday, March 13 a group of students from my morning class traveled to Novatek where we interviewed Mr. Leaney on the history of synthetic diamonds, the processes of making them, and their uses now and in the future. We took a detailed tour of the plant using three cameras, as well as the museum that houses many of Dr. Hall’s original inventions including samples of the very first synthetic diamonds. That footage has now been captured and the transcripts are being written, which is a slow process.

Tetrahedral press for synthetic diamond making

Tetrahedral press for synthetic diamond making

   Meanwhile, I have been busy traveling to teacher conferences in Utah to present this project and enlist the aid of colleagues to form teams of their own to document the chemistry in their own towns. The Utah State Office of Education has given its support of this project by offering continuing education credits for teachers who go through the training. My initial grant application to the National Science Foundation was turned down, unfortunately, but the reviews were detailed and quite encouraging, They want me to develop more partnerships to help ensure the success of this project and to come up with a more concrete evaluation plan at the end. However, the idea itself they feel is worthy and they encourage me to reapply. My next move will be to start building these partnerships and to send out a mailer to all the science and technology teachers in Utah to describe this project and ask for teams to volunteer. The conference presentations went well and their are some interested teachers already, but now is the time to reach out to the rest of the state. Here is a .pdf version of the presentation I gave to Utah teachers at the Utah Science Teachers Association and the Utah Coalition of Educational Technology conferences this last month:

elements_unearthed_presentation (.pdf format)

Display of the history of synthetic diamonds at Novatek

Display of the history of synthetic diamonds at Novatek

   We should have the draft versions of the episodes done (or a director’s cut) by the end of April. By mid May we’ll have the final versions edited, compressed, and uploaded to this blog. I’m also working on new versions of the episoded created last year; these have not yet been posted because they still need some editing and improving to shorten and tighten the stories. Altogether, by the end of May, we’ll have the four episodes from this year, three from last year, and the introductory episode I created this last fall for the NSF grant. We look forward to having this first Phase of the project completed by the end of May, ready to move into Phase II with my trip to the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia this summer.

   Now that the various issues regarding this project at MATC have been resolved, I will be able to start posting on a more regular (weekly) basis and keep you up to date on each project. Next week: How you can get involved.

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