GlassLab Travels to Governors Island in New York City

Corning Museum of Glass mobile hot shop GlassLab passes the Statue of Liberty

GlassLab passes the Statue of Liberty

Blow glass on an island? No problem.

The Museum’s portable glassmaking units can go almost anywhere. Last week, our Hot Glass Roadshow unit took an early morning trip on a barge from Staten Island to Governors Island, a 172-acre island in the heart of New York Harbor.

Every weekend in July, the Museum’s portable stage will host GlassLab design sessions, featuring designers from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s exhibition Graphic Design: Now in Production.

So, just how do you transport a 28-foot-long, 35,000-lb. fully equipped glassmaking studio and stage to an island off the shores of Manhattan and Brooklyn?

Mobile glassblowing hot shop GlassLab container at Millers Launch on Staten Island

The GlassLab container ready to launch

Our Hot Glass Roadshow, which was built in 2001, can be easily pulled by an 18-wheeled tractor trailer (yes, that’s our very own tractor trailer with the CMoG logo on it pulling the hotshop behind it). Our local trucking company, Dimon and Bacorn, drove the Roadshow from Corning, NY, to Millers Launch on Staten Island, where it was carefully driven onto a barge and secured.

The mobile GlassLab glassblowing hot shop is pushed by the tugboat Susan Miller

The mobile GlassLab glassblowing hot shop is pushed by the tugboat Susan Miller

Pushed by the tugboat Susan Miller, it made its way past the Staten Island ferries, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and downtown Manhattan, to the dock of beautiful Governors Island.

Corning Museum of Glass mobile hot shop GlassLab passes Manhattan in New York harbor

The GlassLab mobile hot shop making its way to Governors Island off Manhattan

From there, it was driven to the plaza of Pershing Hall on Governors Island, and our crew went to work to unpack, hook up gas and electric and finally to fire up the furnaces. The furnaces take 36-48 hours to come up to 2100° – hot enough to begin blowing glass!

This is the first time anyone has blown glass on Governors Island, and certainly our first experience loading the Roadshow and its truck on a barge and sailing through New York Harbor. This is the first of two islands we’ll be working on this summer. If you can’t make it to Governors Island, you can also find us on Nantucket Island in August.

It also is a reminder of how glassmaking came to Corning, NY. In 1868, Brooklyn Flint Glass loaded up a barge with glassmaking equipment, sailed up the Hudson River and through the canal system to relocate the company to Corning, NY, which was a developing young town. The company changed its name to Corning Flint Works, and thus began the legacy that makes the Crystal City what it is today.

It’s likely that the barge sailed past this very spot on its way to Corning (although it would not have passed the Statue of Liberty, which was not in place until 1886).

Nearly 150 years later, direct descendants of that Corning glassmaking tradition are bringing glassmaking back through New York Harbor.

The GlassLab mobile hot shop making its way to Governors Island off Manhattan

A view from the boat as GlassLab makes its way to Governors Island

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