A glass act: Local finds burgeoning business, art career in glass-blowing

Molten Momma’s Hot Shop, glassblowing hot shop

Avaialble for: private events, workshops, tours

Contact 360-808-3075

On the web: www.facebook.com/moltenmommashotshop

The best laid plans sometimes end up in pieces, on a pile on the floor.

That hasn’t deterred Megan Schmidlkofer … not in the least.

About three weeks ago Schmidlkofer opened Molten Momma’s Hot Shop, a glassblowing shop on her family’s property, where she and husband David raise five children (and goats and chickens, etc.).

Glass ornaments of varying shades and patterns line the walls here in the shop — where the balmy air inside during a session of glass-blowing belies the chilly temperatures outside — but the detritus on the stone floor below or the jumbled patchwork of errant glass filling containers speak to the rather delicate nature of the art.

“You have to love the process,” Schmidlkofer says. “The longer you try (you get better), but then you try different things. It still could end up in a pile on the floor.”

Schmidlkofer caught the glass-blowing spark when as a teenager she discovered Dale Chihuly’s seminal work at an exhibit at the Portland Art Museum.

”I fell instantly in love with the sculptures that his team created,” Schmidlkofer writes on her Molten Momma’s facebook page. “From that moment on I bought glass pieces anywhere I travelled and dreamed of someday making my own.”

Schmidlkofer took a class in the art in Seattle and looked (to no avail) for classes on the Olympic Peninsula, but then she and David started a family and she put her glass dreams — temporarily — on the shelf.

The couple spent two years in Hawaii and will mark two years back on the mainland in April.

About a year ago, Sequim glass-blower Wes Fetch offered up classes and Schmidlkofer jumped, learning the ins and outs a couple of times per week.

When Fetch decided to give up the business, Schmidlkofer gladly bought his equipment.

“I do a lot of these,” Schmidlkofer says, pointing to ornaments lining the wall of her shop.

She says she get ideas from online sources like Pinterest and Chihuly art.

“Sometimes, I’ll say I want to do these colors or this shape. At first, (I wanted to make) anything that keeps shape.”

The process

For pieces like ornaments, Schmidlkofer starts with — you guessed it — glass, held on the end of a blow pipe. At one time she’ll have about 120 pounds worth held inside a furnace that’s fired up to about 2,100 degrees farenheight.

Schmidlkofer then rolls the melted glass to shape, and then rolls it in frit — colored bits of granulated glass she purchases in Seattle — for any combination of designs.

The outcome — including how the colors mix together, isn’t entirely predictable, Schmidlkofer says.

After heating the glass (with frit), Schmidlkofer rolls the glass into a cosnisten shape, then blows air into the glass while rolling it to keep the original shape; otherwise, the hot glass’ shape would distort.

While she often has help from David in the process, she also has a tube that links to the back end of the blow rod so she can make pieces like the ornaments on her own.

“Generally, glass-blowing is a team sport,” Schmidlkofer says. That even includes some of the couple’s five children, each of whom — 11-year-old David Jr., 10-year-old Isaiah, 8-year-old Chloe, 4-year-old Max and 2-year-old Emmy — have helps with the blow tube.

The rods carrying the weight are heavy she says, but notes, “as I get strength I can do bigger ones. I’m used to carrying kids on my hip.”

As more air passes through, the spherical bubble begins to take shape with the help of a set of what looks like overgrown tweezers (they are called tweezers). Schmidlkofer clips off the spherical glass piece onto a cloth. For a finishing touch, she adds a bit of hot glass to the top, closing off the bubble and adding a kind of loop on top.

Then, it’s into a kiln for 12 hours.

“Otherwise it would just shatter,” she says.

“It’s touch-and-go (but) with time you get better,” David says.

Next steps

Ornaments were a popular item for Molten Momma’s online opening — with many different shades and Christmas colors, they are designed to hang year-round — but Schmidlkofer says she prefers a challenge and that she’s working on more shaped, bowl-like creations.

The goal with Molten Momma’s is to host classes on how glass-blowing art happens inside the Schmidlkofer’s “hot shop” — “invite people to experience the craziness,” she says — but there are no set plans just yet for any kind of retail opening.

She may add some lavender-themed art prior to the annual Lavender Weekend in July, but Schmidlkofer says she’s still exploring opportunities — perhaps even combining tours with her parents’ Happy Valley Alpaca Ranch tours next door.

Whatever comes, Schmidlkofer says, she more than likely she will be in her “hot shop” five days a week for the foreseeable future, enduring the heat.

“If you love the process (the heat doesn’t bother you),” she says. “Yes, I am in love with the process.”

See www.facebook.com/moltenmommashotshop/ or call 360-808-3075 for more information.

With husband David providing assistance, Megan Schmidlkofer trims off some glass from a piece she works on in her shop in Happy Valley.

With husband David providing assistance, Megan Schmidlkofer trims off some glass from a piece she works on in her shop in Happy Valley.

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