by Susan Donahue
When Laura Aspenwall took a glass blowing class in 1996 at the Pacific Northwest College of arts in Portland, Oregon, it was like a light bulb went off in her mind. After working as a technical writer for about fifteen years, she was bored and began to explore various art processes. She did drawing and ceramics for about six years, but it was glassblowing that capture her. She liked it because it was immediate, technical, and dangerous. With glassblowing you know you are successful immediately because the object is either on the floor, ruined, or in the annealing box slowly cooling down. No middle ground.
She took classes to become competent. Competence in glassblowing is defined as being able to create glass objects on one’s own. But glassblowing is not a solitary activity. Unless the glassblower is creating very simple objects, an assistant is necessary. Laura became an assistant to various of her instructors.
By the time Laura moved to the Methow Valley in 2002, she, with the help of her husband, built a glassblowing studio of her own.
Laura creates mostly functional pieces, but the larger, more elaborate ones–vases and plates, for example, are more like art pieces because they are usually used for display. She prefers the challenge of the technique involved in “pulling cane” meaning that she creates thin rods of color to embed in the clear bubble that she blows at the end of the rod. She likes this method because it is difficult. She can dice the cane to make a mosaic or to create a lace effect.
Laura sells to people who like hand-made things and does special orders in requested colors for wedding gifts, etc. She is a member of the Winthrop Gallery where her glass is always on sale. She also sells at the Farmer’s Market in Twisp during the summer.
Her future plans are to continue to find inspiration. She can use her studio from October to March, but in the summer it is simply too hot to work in the hot studio. During the summer, she analyzes what to do in the blowing season–how to refill her stock–what to experiment with next. She sketches shapes and designs. In the fall, when the outside temperatures drop, she heats up her studio and gets to work. Glassblowing, its difficulty and danger, never ceases to attract and challenger her. She has no thoughts about stopping.