The student news site of De Smet Jesuit High School

The Mirror

The student news site of De Smet Jesuit High School

The Mirror

The student news site of De Smet Jesuit High School

The Mirror

Breathing life into glass

Physics teacher uses science to fuel her artistic hobby
Emma Braun
Emma Braun prepares to blow in a starter bubble for a glass project in Colorado.

Going over to the furnace she feels the heat blast her in her face as she sticks her punti, a long metal rod, into the furnace and grabs a glob of piping hot melted glass. Remembering to always be rotating the punti, she walks the piece back to her workbench to shape it into whatever she pleases.

“It’s like pottery, but everything’s on fire and sideways.”

ASC Physics teacher Emma Braun has been glass-blowing since she was a junior in college at the Colorado School of Mines, almost five years ago. When Braun was in college, the School of Mines funded a glass shop. They said that if you try it out you will receive extra credit, so Braun tried it and kept going after that, developing a hobby that still stays with her to this day.

“I like making and creating things,” Braun said. “But then there’s also this element of you have to think scientifically about it. And I’m a very science-minded person.”

Glassblowing starts by taking glass which is thought of as a solid but it gets melted down, it becomes a liquid and you can shape it at high temperatures. You get it to these high temperatures through a 2400-degree furnace that melts it down. Then you take it back to the workbench and work it with tweezers and different tools to shape it into whatever you want.

“It’s not forgiving at all,” Braun said. “You cry a little bit.”

Emma Braun practices making a cup at a glass blowing shop in Colorado. (Emma Braun)

One challenge is that if you let the piece get too cold while working, it can snap off because of the weight and shatter and there goes hours worth of work. It forces you to go back to the drawing board and rethink your entire piece. 

Another is that it is hard to pick up and do because glass takes two full days to melt. The equipment is also very expensive.

“You’re on your own you’re going to try and fail and break a lot of glass,” Braun said. “But it’s a lot of trial and error, it’s the big kicker in glassblowing.” 

There are a few glass-blowing shops that offer intro classes in downtown St. Louis. They show you what it is like and even let you make something like an ornament.

Her final dream is to build her own glass building studio in her garage which she can work out of. But for the near future, Braun plans on going back to Colorado. She sees lots of different options as she has an engineering degree and teaching experience. She sees glassblowing as a high priority upon returning to Colorado. She wants to get back in contact with the shops she used to work at and get back into it. 

“I like doing engineering stuff,” Braun said. “But I also like teaching so there is a lot out there.”

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Andrew Dolan
Andrew Dolan, Features Editor

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