Local glassblower shares her passion

In a hot studio in Toughkenamon, Rachael Calderin leans towards a fiery furnace as she heats the glass on the end of her pipe to the right temperature for blowing air into the molten glass. Two customers stand by to participate in creating their own unique glass ornament at WGK Glass Art’s event – “Design Your Own Spring Ornament.”

“Glassmaking is much more involved than I thought – it’s more exciting,” said Stacey Barchola of Lincoln University. “I thought we’d just be decorating, but we got to actually blow the glass.”

With Calderin’s encouragement, Barchola and her friend Melissa Minka of Avondale pick colors for their ornaments.  In addition to blowing the glass until it expands to the right size, they handle the pontil – a solid rod used tipped with glass that is heated to form the ornament’s stem. The ornaments combine both glass blowing and hot sculpting techniques.

The event is a gift from Minka to celebrate Barchola’s birthday together with an experiential occasion. The glass blowing workshops includes instructions, hands-on work making the ornament as well as custom ornaments to take home.

The shop features a wide array of creations made in the shop, including ones that merge glass blowing, hot sculpting and hot torch work.

“Rachael has such talent as a teacher,” said WGK Owner Thomas von Koch. He owns the farm on Newark Road where the studio is located. In addition to Calderin’s glass blowing and sculpturing, the studio has hot torch workers that create an array of work ranging from fanciful animals like dragons to elegant hummingbirds. He shows the large table outfitted with orifices for use by future students learning hot torch work. “Right now we only have one hot torch worker, but as I hire others, we can start having those events, too.”

“The studio was in a four-car garage located in a mansion on Eakins Oval,” said Calderin about her introduction to glass blowing at Tyler School of Art and Architecture in Philadelphia. “There was music playing and people there, I fell in love with it.”

The relationship soon became a love-hate one as she learned to go slow and steady to build her skills. In school, her focus had been more conceptual and focused on larger installations. In addition to her own creations, which are sold at the WGK Glass Art shop, her passion for teaching led her to found Burning Branch Studio as a non-profit dedicated to helping recovering addicts learn, grow and heal through the arts.

“This one is made from cuttings, I call it seaweed,” said Calderin as she displayed an intricate intricately woven bowl of glass.

“I work with local addiction recovery houses teaching constructive criticism,” said Calderin, as she openly shares her own recovery journey. The skills she learned and now teaches build interpersonal communication skills which are transferable to home and work settings. “Recovery was like coming out of a gray fog and learning how to articulate words when I didn’t know half of what I was feeling. In my workshops, we work on expressing thoughts and feelings.”

Look for future events at facebook.comwgkglassartinc or stop into their store at 1255 Newark Road in Toughkenamon Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays by appointment. Information about Calderin’s non-profit work, which this year benefits Jonathan House in West Chester, is available at burningbranchstudio.com.

 

 

About Karen Myers

Karen Myers lives in Pocopson Township and has written for several local publications. A strong supporter of our community, Karen has served on several non-profit boards, such as Pocopson Elementary PTO, The United Way of Southern Chester County, Chester County Art Association and Tick Tock Early Learning Center. She received her M.B.A. from the University of Delaware and worked in marketing and operations with a focus on banking.

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