Glass blowers use a blowpipe to shape glassware from globs of molten glass. They produce anything from unique ornaments and tableware to scientific equipment.
Glass is one of the most versatile materials available to man and is made from the cheapest materials on earth - sand. Although glass makers have been making glass since cradle of civilisation, it was not until the late 15th century that they began to produce, amongst others, better lenses for spectacles, the first microscopes and scientific equipment.
Roughly, the development of glass making and blowing took place as follows:
- 3000 BC - early glass making was discovered when someone lit a fire on a place where the sea used to be and the soda and silica in the
- sand melted to form droplets of glass
- 300 BC - mould pressing was introduced by pouring molten glass into a lower mould and an upper mould was then pressed into it, thus shaping the glass
- 1st century BC - the invention of the blowpipe and glass blowing began
- 12th century - stained glass was first used
- 14th century - crown glass - flat window glass - was first used
- 15th century - clear glass, which was not really very transparent
- 17th century - plate glass
- 1675 - flint glass leading to the discovery of glass known as lead crystal
- 1884 - Jena glass containing boron silicate - now known as Pyrex
- 1909 - safety glass
- 1918 - sheet glass
- 1952 - float glass
Many new types of glass, such as laminated glass, heat resin glass and glass fabrics, were developed. Some glass blowers shape and attach hot glass to other objects forming pedestals and handles.
Glass is in everyday use and the trend is becoming increasingly apparent that people enjoy owning glass objects of beauty, whether it is a tiny elephant blown by a glass blower in an open-air market, or a magnificent glass sculpture.
There are endless opportunities in this career and even people who are not very artistic but enjoy working with glass, could work at glass instrument making for scientific apparatus, or work in the glass blowing industry.
The two main areas within the glass industry are:
- the manufacture of flat (float) glass, mainly for the building industry
- the manufacture of glass products, mainly domestic and scientific glassware.
Glass workers operate and control machines to make molten glass, and press or blow it into moulds to form or shape glassware products, for example bottles, jars and drinking glasses, as well as insulation and fibreglass products.
Glass workers may perform the following tasks: process raw chemical and glass materials; handle glass fibres to form a continuous length and then produce a usable customer product. They check conditions such as temperatures, pressures and gas compositions by adjusting valves on furnaces to regulate the temperature of molten glass according to production specifications and setting screws, air valves, turntable rates and the timing of plungers in glass pressing machines.
They also need to identify, correct where possible, or report breakdowns in the processing equipment, as well as oil and clean the machines. They undertake quality assurance activities and prepare written operational records. Finished products are checked for faults, the faulty items are separated out and good products packaged for distribution.
Glass workers may specialise as melt operators, glass machine attendants, glass makers or glass handlers. With experience and sometimes further training, it is possible to become a team leader, supervisor, sales representative, estimator or technical specialist.
How to Enter
Schooling & School Subjects
Grade 9 is the minimum level of schooling required
What to Study
Certificate in Art - TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) Colleges. A correspondence course can be followed through Technisa.
In-service training may be provided under the supervision of an experienced glass blower.
- manufacturers of glass utensils
- glass blowing industries
- manufacturing and packaging industries
- glass merchants and glass processors
- self-employment, with enough experience, initiative and capital, can start own business
- try to get part-time or holiday work with a glass manufacturer
- speak to glass blowers about this type of work