Crusin’ to the Glassblower’s Bench

I recently sat down with Beth Bell from Clearwater, FL, who was at The Studio taking the class “Next Steps in Glassblowing” with Harry Seaman.  Beth got hooked on glass when she saw the Museum’s Hot Glass Show aboard the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship, and her journey to taking a glassblowing class at Corning has included fourteen transatlantic crossings!

What made you decide to come to The Studio to take a glassblowing class?

Well, I was on the Solstice, the first ship I was on of the Celebrity Cruises that had glassblowing.  And I went up and I watched it, and I got hooked!  I watched four hours a day, every day we were at sea.  It was a transatlantic so we had a lot of days at sea.  And that was it!  From that point, when I got home, I figured I was too old to do it, and so I decided to try something else.  But then I came back and thought, well why not? And so I did!  And I took a few classes and decided to come here to take a class.

Tell me more about the cruise

I’ve taken a lot of cruises on Celebrity.  I’ve done fourteen transatlantic cruises and I’ve taken twenty cruises overall.

Wow!

We just really like them.  But since I’ve done the Solstice, with one exception, I’ve stayed on ships with glassblowing.  So I’ve been on Solstice, Eclipse, and Equinox pretty exclusively because that’s what I do when I’m at sea – watch the glassblowing.

And how many hours would you say that you’ve watched?

Oh, well, it’s roughly four hours a day for at least eight days, so that’d be 32 hours a trip.  So, a couple hundred hours!  And to be honest, I think it’s really helped me do this, because I’ve seen them do the same thing over and over again.  I know what they’re going to do next.  And the other thing is, I’ve gotten to know some of the glassblowers, and I stay in touch with them, we email, and I’ve seen them again on ships, so that’s nice.  And all of them I know are not here right now, a couple are out on the ships, but this is the class I wanted to take.

Do you have a favorite glassblower?

I honestly think the most entertaining to watch is Annette Sheppard.  She’s just fun to listen to, and fun to watch. I’ve been on at least two cruises with her.  And Eric Goldschmidt is the other one.  I really enjoy what he makes.

Did you ever win anything?

Yes! Finally!  It took me, I think, seven cruises before I finally won something.  I was up there some days where there were only six or eight of us, and it’s raining, we’re huddled under blankets and it’s cold.  And still, the person on each side of me wins.  But I finally won, and I’ve only won once. I have bought pieces from the auction they have. I bought a very beautiful pitcher, it’s about 20 inches tall and it’s got horizontal purple on the front, and horizontal red on the back so looking through it you have a third color.  Lewis Olsen did that one.  And I’ve got a dish he made, I’ve bought four or five pieces.

After watching on the ship, what made you want to try making glass?

I’ve actually worked with glass before; I made beads for a number of years.  And it’s just, I don’t know how to describe it, because it really is that fact that you’re taking something liquid and you’re making it into something solid and you’re having to balance it on the end of a pipe while you do it.  And you’re working on it in little increments, and it goes from a blob – to a thing!  And I find that kind of fun.

What class are you taking here at The Studio?

I’m taking Next Steps in Glassblowing. It’s a little above beginner, but basically beginner glassmaking.

What kind of things are you making?

Well, we’ve been working very hard to get thin glass and to get crisp shapes.  Not just whatever you end up with, but actually making what you intend to make.  I’m trying to do a tumbler, and now I’m trying to do a tumbler with a nice lip wrap.  If I accomplish that in this class, I’ll be happy.  Although, I’ve actually made two bottles!  And I didn’t ever think I could make a bottle.  I don’t know enough to do one, and yet I did it! And on top of that, you do these bottles without an assistant, so they’re fun.

But see, at home there really isn’t anywhere I can blow glass, so when I take a business trip I’ll find a studio nearby and try to get in a few hours in different cities.  Other than classes, I don’t get to do much glassblowing.  But, I’m getting ready to go on the Eclipse again in October, so I’ll watch the glassblowing.  And then I’m coming back to the States on the Eclipse and then I fly back out to Rome and come back on the Equinox – so I’ve got two more two-week cruises to see glassblowing!

Is there anything else that you want to share?

Go on a cruise!  You need to go on a cruise with glassblowing! It’s two hours of glassblowing, so you get a lot of in-depth information, you get a lot of funny stories, and it’s really entertaining.  It’s fun, you’re sitting on top of the ship, you’ve got a lawn behind you, out as far as you can see is ocean, and they’re blowing glass!  How much better does the world get?  So, you need to go on a cruise!

Beth Bell went from watching glassblowing in the audience onboard a Celebrity Solstice cruise ship, to doing glassblowing herself in a class at The Studio.

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