An orange-white bulb drips like honey off the tip of a metal pipe. Steam rises as the slippered craftsman catches the hot molten glass in a wet wooden mold before returning it to the glory hole. When the temperature is right, he pulls it back out and putting his mouth on the cool end of the pipe, blows air, expanding the glass like a balloon. Experience the life of a professional glassblower at the Moser glass factory in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic.
About two hours outside of Prague, Karlovy Vary is a spa town and home to the Moser Glassworks. The heat will take your breath upon entering the factory floor. A circle path is marked with lines on the warehouse floor for visitors to walk. Be sure to stop and pay attention. Craftsmen move swiftly around visitors, transporting hot golden rods of glass. I don’t see much in the way of OSHA. Craftsmen wear slippers, crocs and shower shoes around ovens that are hotter than 2000 degrees. Only some wear gloves, and the only form of eye protection is a 3x5 translucent colored card that is held in place in front of their eyes by a mouth piece. The glassblower holds the eye protector with his mouth. When not used, it hangs around his neck. Women are the runners and take pieces ready for cooling to the annealer furnace. Craftsmen lift the hot rods with ease, having incredible upper body strength. The five or six foot pipe weighs about 20 lbs with no glass on the end, and can only be lifted from the top 15 inches--it is too hot the further down you go. Craftsmen train for three years to learn the trade, but are not considered a master until after 15 years.
Three or four artisans, work together as a team to produce each piece. The design is decided and then produced throughout the day. Each team produces about 30 pieces in one hour. By the time a piece is completed it has been handled by 30 craftsmen and women. Only 30% of what makes it to the finish line passes quality control standards. Moser is the crystal of kings and queens and the political elite. In the 20th century, it was the most collected decorative glass from people around the world. Standards are high.
The on-site gallery and museum shares the rich 160-year history with videos, and over 2000 pieces of glassware are displayed. The creation of glass is magical and the Moser Glass Factory is a must stop hot spot!
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