Monday, February 13, 2012

The Glass Blowing Workshop with Mart Martorell

Of all the things we did over our anniversary weekend a week ago, the glass blowing workshop with Mart Martorell was the most important and memorable. It deserves a post all on its own.

You may recall how it all started, at the Düsseldorf Christmas market last December 2011. I did my post and from that Mart and I connected to do the swap: my pictures for his teaching Astrid how to blow glass. Talk about a win-win swap! I wrote about that at my Vision and Verb post last week.

This is what his studio looks like in Laren (Gelderland), Netherlands:

Huge. Spacious. Open. Bright. Cheery. Welcoming. Inviting.

Did I mention cozy? And this was on a cold, snowy day.

And talk about a host with the most. We felt like queens for the day,
treated to koffie hour and lunch and koffie hour again...

...three hours of relaxing, eating, and...workshopping, of course.

After our first koffie break (getting acquainted with each other), we had to get the lay of the land...

...up close and personal.

Remember that up to this point we had only seen Mart's Christmas ornaments.
Now we were understanding why he is a MASTER glass blower.
In fact, he's the youngest (at age 45) of the 7 remaining Dutch master glass blowers.

We were "short of eyes!"

Interestingly, one of his biggest sellers is the baby embryo inside a glass apple.
He'll even make it pink or blue, as you wish.
(click collage to enlarge)

Okay. It was time for the workshop and we were ready!

See how spacious and inviting the front stage is, raised about 2+ feet off the floor and perfect for classroom demonstrations. At the podium (where the fire burner is) is a flat-screen TV for watching a short history of glass blowing, with which we started out.
(In the back of the studio there is another workshop area with 2 burners,
which you can see in the bottom images above.)

The best way to show you what happened next is this YouTube of Astrid and Mart becoming one in their teacher-student demonstration:

It still blows my mind!

One part of the demonstration I did NOT add to my YouTube was at the end of the workshop when Mart "played around" with the part of glass art that is not blowing but...well, dabbing and molding . I'm sure there's a word for it....

First, he showed Astrid how to make mixed-drink stirrers.
Then he made different objects on top so we could tell whose was whose. HA!
Do you see what he made for mine (top right image)? The smallest camera I now own!
And for Astrid's, a Dutch olifant. He made half of it and she made the other half:
an ear, 2 legs and the trunk, which you can see much better here.

Some have asked if we were able to keep anything after all was said and done. Are you kidding? We came home with a big box full of everything Astrid and Mart worked on that day, all carefully and tenderly wrapped up by the master.

Look what I got out of it (besides my tiniest camera)!
You fill it up with water and stick the stem in a plant to keep it watered while you're gone!
We actually have 3 of these, by the time they were done. Utilitarian art!

Thus ends the first stage of this win-win swap. We'll go back for more "official" photos once the studio is ready for the grand opening in April. It's only just begun....


  1. Oh, I can just imagine letting Spencer in there... like a bull in a china cabinet. I think I saw a glass ball with an airplane in it... that would fascinate him. I really liked the stork! Just gorgeous. Astrid has very artistic looking hands. I clicked on HERE to see the elephant! Stunning. It looks like a very special day. I'd love to see the rest. Hey! I would love to purchase something Astrid made! Seriously!

  2. I am re-living that fabulous day again. For me to be able to get a workshop glassblowing was a dream come true. Glas fascinates me since childhood. To be able to work with it, is like magic. Creating things is, I think, my alter ego. To show at the end of the day.....'see what I've made?' The thought of going back (and maybe give it a try again :D) is very appealing. This is an wonderful post, great photography and wonderful writing.
    (Thank you Margaret for your kind words, I am sorry that nothing is for sale (yet) Maybe after I am able to make some more)

  3. Margaret: Spencer would be so short of eyes, and so would you! And yes, that IS an airplane inside the ball/vase. Amazing.

    I have no question that if Astrid were able to continue this art form, she'd sell everything she made! Thank you for your vote of confidence.

    Astrid: You were like a little kid with excitement, and the thing is, it's written all over your face! I love it. I can't be happier knowing you were able to connect with Mart like this. It feels so serendipitous!

  4. Boots, I have tears, I am so touched by that whole experience for you and Astrid. The space is delicious, your photos in the YouTube slideshow are so wonderful, and it all just brought everything so close and lovely. How fun to see the glassblower in the mural behind Astrid as she blew. Wow.

  5. Ruth: Your tears touch ME, dear sister. Thank you. And yes, all of it is a Gift much bigger than ourselves. Sometimes Life is just like that!

  6. incredible experience for you both. how mind blogging such a talent can be. thanks for sharing these and the photos of his works you captured are truly delightful. i don't know if i could afford anything, but probably one of the tiny figurines. does he have an online store or something?

  7. PC: You would love his place, Maria, and the prices seem very reasonable to me. Above in the text is a link to his own website where you can find a link to Producten (products), like at this link:
    The embryo in the glass apple, for instance, is €35, which seems perfect for what you're getting. But then, I'm not sure about the shipping, etc. I'll look into that over the next weeks while working with him. Thank you.

  8. wow! It's like a kid in a candy store.. OR at least that is what I thought of if I were going to be there.. How much fun!!! I've always dreamt of doing something like that and then taking home everything..

    Love the camera and the watering plant holder. I need one! :)

  9. You know what catches my attention? How absolutely pristine the entire environment is. It never had occurred to me, but of course - a glass blower has to worry about dush and debris in the same way that a varnisher does. He has the great advantage of being able to keep better control of things. Looking at your photos makes me want to clean house.

    The glass,of course, is beautiful, and the whole experience is amazing. I'm so glad you were able to have such an opportunity - and to share it with all of us!

  10. ET: We felt like kids, too, in that "store" of goodies, Jen. Thanks.

    SA: I noticed the same thing, clean everything was. I certainly wouldn't want the job of dusting in that place...unless it paid well! HA!

    Thanks for enjoying this experience with us. I just HAD to share it, of course. :)

  11. You know how crazy I am about glass art, so you can imagine how I enjoyed every bit of this post. I love the relaxed pace with ample koffie hours, which I'm sure is essential for the final products. How else could one conjure up the whimsy of a teensy camera, the green bromfiets with the sidecar, the ooievaar with baby, and the reindeer in perfectly natural poses? All marvelous!

    The YouTube clip is great. I love the mural in the background. It reminds me of Diego Rivera's murals.

    Believe it or not, I have a glass swizzle stick collection that I began collecting on my first trip to Mexico back in nineteen-forgotten. They each have a different animal except for the tulips my Mom brought back from Amsterdam one year. They are so fun to use for parties, plus it's easier for everyone to keep track of their drinks.

  12. DB: I LOVE the idea of those swizzle sticks, Diana. I knew there had to be a name for them. HA! Yes, I knew you'd be enamored over all this glass. You'd be in heaven there in Mart's shop! Thank you for commenting.

  13. Beautiful art! It looks like a wonderful day to be sure. :)

  14. Now that's what I call a studio! The whole experience looks just awesome!

  15. Tim: It was a bit like heaven on earth! Thanks.

    WS: You and Larry would totally love the whole thing, Susan. Awesome is a good word. Thanks. :)

  16. what a lovely experience! I've always wanted to learn how to blow glass. How wonderful it must have been to learn from a true master.

    I spent several minutes looking at all the details of your photos and the video.

  17. Mad: Thank you, dear lady. Astrid was the same way, always wanting to see how it was done. I think she's still pinching herself! :)

  18. Oh boy... the new test (two words with tricky appearance) to prove I'm not a robot is very difficult... I tried three times before I think I have one that will pass when I get done writing my rave review of this post.

    Meanwhile, my FAVORITE images this time around are the tiny deer (reindeer?) and the 9 image collage under that one. The video is absolutely fabulous... so many images went into the making of that! It just blows my mind!!! (as it does yours according to your post) and the dabbing and molding collage is another one that is truly marvelous. IF you weren't retired, you could definitely have a career as a photo-journalist!

    And Astrid's talent at catching on so quickly is just marvelous as well. I am so impressed! I will go comment on her drink stirrer post on Shutterchance shortly. (I think I still remember my login... HA!)

  19. Victoria: You always build me up so well, Lady, and make me smile. :) Thank you. I always love finding out which images you like the most. And to think we get to go back and be more "official."

  20. That must have been so great, what a place, full of treasures and so interesting pieces. I love that airplane the most but I can understand people buying the embryo glass as congratulations to new parents. There are several objects I could enjoy having....

    Ha ha, what a concentration in the video - it must have been so fun to try it! Is she thinking of continuing to learn it?

  21. LCT: It really was a marvelous day in every way. We do have to go back to take some more pictures, once the shop is ready for the Open House. Maybe Astrid will get another lesson? Well see. :)