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Butte class teaches ancient art of glassblowing - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Butte class teaches ancient art of glassblowing

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BUTTE - This has to be the hottest class in Butte -- literally.

Adult education students in a glassblowing class at Butte High School have been working with furnaces and molten glass to create art.

River Newman, an art teacher at East Middle School, started this class two years ago after getting a grant from the Montana Arts Council.

“We can build a glassblowing studio in Butte. No other school in the state has one and very few schools in the country have one, so why don’t we put on in Butte? Now my art program kind of pushes the boundaries of everything you can do so the glass was a great avenue to do that,” Newman said. 

River has been a glassblower for 10 years and enjoys the physicality of the craft.

“It’s a very kind of an athletic art form, which is interesting. You’re constantly on your feet, you’re constantly moving, you have to judge how hot the glass is by how fast it’s dripping off the pipe when it’s in the furnace,” Newman explained.

“You blow based on how much resistance you’re getting from the glass, the cooler it gets you get more resistance, the hotter it is you have less resistance, and so that’s kind of the dance with a fire that goes on when you’re blowing glass," Newman added.

“It’s an amazing class, it’s a lot of fun, it takes you right out of your comfort zone, allows you to explore things you don’t normally get to experience," student Sam DeBree said.

This is a craft that involves a lot of heat, these ovens burn at about 2,000 degrees and even here on a cold winter day, this room is over 100 degrees.

“You kind of have to be addicted, I think, to burning things if you’re a little kid like I was who like to set fires and like to play with firecrackers and you kind of get addicted to it when you first try it and you keep wanted to see how far you can push the medium and I think a lot of it is because of the energy that it takes to deal with this kind of heat,” Newman said.

And in the heat of the moment, some amazing work gets created. The class is $170 for a 10-week course and free for high school students. People can register for adult education classes at the Webster-Garfield School in Butte.  

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