The Museum of Glass in Tacoma has an amphitheater in its hot shop. Or maybe that’s a hot shop in its amphitheater. Either way, it makes for some mesmerizing performance art, as half a dozen folks twirl, carry, blow, shape, and try to stay out of the way of molten glass on the end of a long pipe. It’s finely tuned choreography and great teamwork set to whatever raucous music the hot shop team is listening to that day.
There are two furnaces full of molten glass at 2400 degrees F., and a couple of ovens almost that hot where the pieces are rewarmed while they’re being worked on. You can feel the heat from the ovens 30 feet away, even with the gigantic ventilation system in place trying to keep things cool.
While the work itself is done on the floor of the hot shop, the ovens create a dramatic visual effect. The camera compensates for their intense light by making the rest of the area appear dark — although it’s perfectly light in real life. As a result, not only is it possible to pull some shapes out of the darkness, there’s also more detail in the bright parts of the image. I love the concentric circles of different shades of orange that you can see in this picture. (Click on the photo for a larger image and you’ll be able to see them even better.)