News

House of Glass

Friday, February 24, 2012

By ALEXANDRA CHURCHILL

Staff Writer

The Grebus home in Brookline glitters and glows with the creations of their artistan craft. During the week, Gary works as a software engineer and Colleen works as a nurse practitioner. But during their off-time on the weekends, the couple torches, molds and blows glass into colorful creations of art.

Gary Grebus first got involved with glasswork about six years ago.

“My wife was into making glass beads, so she convinced me to take a class,” he said. “I really enjoyed it and we’ve been doing it ever since.”

After mastering their craft in art classes, it quickly developed from a side hobby on the weekends to a passion for the couple. The Grebuses work in all different crafts of glass art, from stain glass ornaments to blown mugs and vases to tiny glass beads. Shortly thereafter, they started renting studio space on the weekends to improve their artisan skills.

Gary describes glassblowing as a careful artistic technique involving multiple tools and at least three furnaces that melt the glass into a molten pool at more than 2,100 degrees. This molten glass is inflated into a bubble with the aid of a blowpipe and molded into a desired shape.

“I like it because it’s making beautiful things,” he said. “And sometimes it’s challenging – the glass is hot liquid and it’s moving. You only have so much time to work with it before it hardens and cools.”

He described it as team effort with wife Colleen.

“It’s almost a sport, dealing with this hot mass of glass,” he said.

Glassblowing involves three furnaces. The first, which contains a crucible of molten glass, is simply referred to as the furnace. The second is called the glory hole, used to reheat the glass. The final furnace is called the lehr, or annealer, and is used to slowly cool the glass over a period of a few hours to a few days, depending on the size of the piece. This keeps the glass from cracking due to thermal stress and annealing is usually done between 700 and 900 degrees.

The tip of the blowpipe is first preheated, then dipped into the molten glass in the furnace. The molten glass is gathered on to the blowpipe and then shaped using several tools including a blowpipe, punty, marver, blocks, jacks and tweezers. When molten glass is pulled from the furnace, Gary said it “sometimes takes a life of it’s own.”

The bench is a glassblower’s workstation, where Gary can sit and work with his handheld tools to shape and decorate the glass into the final art piece.

While Colleen enjoys crafting glass beads and trinkets for jewelry to be sold at craft shows, Gary enjoys molding bottles, cups, and bowls. The innumerable pieces they’ve crafted including glass-blown Christmas tree ornaments, Halloween pumpkins, and perfume bottles, have been given to friends as gifts or sold. Many of them decorate their home.

“It’s different from my day job,” Gary said, which he described as “analytic and not very hands-on.”

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