Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wineglass Marathon: The Glass Medallion

After searching for the Top Marathons in the United States, we settled on one of Runner’s World Top Choices. The category was Speediest. After running through the 5 Boroughs for the last couple of years, a change of pace (should say faster pace) and venue was a welcome idea.

While the Title of Speediest was the initially inviting for our legs, we also get to enjoy a special glass flute and a split of sparkling white wine. However, the final decision to press the enter key was cast in stone or should I say, “cast in glass.” When we saw a picture of the unique hand made glass medallion they would eventually drape over our necks at the end of the race on Market Street in Corning, New York.

It seems appropriate that glass would be the material of choice for the medallion, considering Corning is world renowned for its glass making. In fact we enjoy the benefits of working on the internet because of the fiber optics that Corning, Inc. created and the amazing artwork found through out this scenic Finger Lakes small town located in Western New York.

With a little more internet searching and wandering around the website, it looked like we could actually go visit the place where they make the medallions for the race. After rummaging through the goody bags, we found a flyer for the Hand-On Glass Hot Glass Studio.

The next morning, we met up with Ray and Frances and made an appointment for a visit and make our own glass souvenirs. Ray is my brother-in-law who happened to take up marathon running after I did my first one in New York City in 2008. This sub 4:00 marathoner gets more excited that I do running a race. I hope I can catch up to his speed one day.

I entered 124 Crystal Lane, Corning, NY into the GPS and drove the short distance. When the voice came over the speaker to make a right, I hesitated because the street looked very residential. I was figuring that the studio would be located in a massive industrial stronghold with other manufacturing plants. The course correction immediately followed to the next street over and I finally make it the back way of the one way street called.

We parked next 3 cars other cars in the front of what looked to be about a 7000 square foot painted white facility. Our appointment wasn’t for another 15 minutes so we waited inside the SUV. Being a little impatient, I headed to the double doors and went inside to explore.

The studio had an open floor plan with at least 20 foot ceilings. On the left wall had a 15 foot display showing off glass products and artwork for sale, which included ornaments, paper weights and pen holders of all different colors and sizes. To the right of the display was an angled 10 foot wide counter with a smiling person manning the single register. The counter was angled to allow your flow to eventually move to where the action was to the right.

Shifting right, my eyes were drawn to the annealing oven cabinets which kept the artwork at a cozy 1200 degrees to slowly reduce the heat from the glass item. This process is necessary so that the items does not crack because of the drastic change in temperature that it once held from one of the 4 glory holes located just further right. Here the glory hole furnace contains the molten glass at 2400 degrees.

Above the furnaces hung a massive hood, to control the airflow from the exhaust and heat emanating from the furnaces. In addition, the fire suppressant system was actively on. Since it takes so long to start and stop the furnaces, they keep them running 24/7.

Everyone eventually walked into the studio, and we decided on the creations we were going to make. Next to the register were the current sun catcher choices and a seasonal glass pumpkin that we can create for our class.

We waited as the group before us finished their creations and filed past us. We made our choices. Irene and I pick a few sun catchers and a small pumpkin.

It was a fairly simple process for the sun catchers. An assistant pulled some molten glass out of the glory hole furnace and place a blob of it on the a steel surface. We pressed down on to the blog with our graphite cast and pressed our shape into it, and a hole punch finished it off so we can hang it. That is how our medallion was made in a similar fashion. I believe the artist created 4000 this year.

For the glass blown pumpkins, the owner Rodi Rovner came out to assist. While we helped make the blob in to a hollow glass sphere, Rodi placed it in a mold, added the mixed broken bit of glass, and a curly stem.

All of our works of art were placed in the annealing ovens to slowly cool down, and ready to be picked up after our race!

While Runner’s World boasts that every runner would clock a personal best, I guess I wasn’t on that list! Long story short, my wife was not expecting me to run in this race since; I was doing the Steamtown Marathon the following week. So I surprised her and ran 26.2 miles, and most importantly we got to share a unique event that is capped with a unique prize at the end.

We walked into the studio after our race to show off our medallion that Rodi created, and we asked her to autograph it. She pulled out a high-speed etching gun and wrote her name. I was really surprised that no one has ever asked her to sign the medallions before. We were the first ones. Now that was cool.

So if you are planning on running the Wineglass Marathon up in Corning, New York. Definitely go visit Hands-on Glass and see how your medallion was made!

1 comment: