Glassblower

The Job and What's Involved

Glass BlowingGlassblowing is a technique for shaping glass. Until the 19th century, all glass was made by hand, using a blowpipe. Today much glassmaking is automated, but some items are still created the traditional way.

In this process the glassblower:

  • Heats the glass to high temperatures in a furnace.
  • Gathers molten glass on the end of a hollow pipe.
  • Creates an even shape on the end of the blowpipe, using a mould.
  • Reheats the glass and starts to blow it into shape.
  • Rotates the pipe constantly, to prevent imperfections.
  • Finishes the item using tongs, palette knives and other tools.

Some glassblowers carry out the entire process, while others work as part of a team, focusing on specific tasks.

Glassblowers may create:

  • Scientific items, such as electronic components.
  • Laboratory equipment, including test tubes.
  • Decorative art.

The work is carried out in factories, studios or workshops. The environment can be hot and noisy. Glassblowers may need to stand for long periods. They wear protective clothing and goggles.

Salaries range from around £10,300 a year to £25,000 or more.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Employers include:

  • Specialist scientific manufacturers.
  • Companies producing handmade lead crystal glassware.
  • Small craft studios.
  • Some universities and hospitals, where specialist glass equipment is custom made.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements. GCSE's or equivalent in subjects such as science, art, design and technology may be useful. Apprenticeships in glassblowing may be available.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

Courses in three-dimensional design or glass-related subjects are available at several colleges and universities.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

New entrants are trained on the job. They may work towards vocational qualifications such as NVQ's in glass processing.

The British Society of Scientific Glassblowers offers specialist qualifications.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Glassblowers need:

  • Good hand-to-eye coordination.
  • To be adept at working with their hands.
  • Patience.
  • Accuracy and an eye for detail.
  • Creative flair.
  • Physical fitness.
  • Good communication skills.
  • To work well in a team.
  • A good sense of shape and colour, for craft glassblowing.

Your Long Term Prospects

In some firms it may be possible to advance to supervisory or management roles.

Skilled glassblowers may set up their own studio or workshop.

Some glassblowers move into related areas, such as glass engineering or design.

Get Further Information

British Glass, 9 Churchill Way,
Chapeltown, Sheffield S35 2PY
Tel: 0114 290 1850
Website: www.britglass.org.uk

British Society of Scientific Glassblowers
Website: www.bssg.co.uk

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