Blown glass ornaments at Neusole Glassworks (photo: Terri Weeks)
Blown glass ornaments at Neusole Glassworks (photo: Terri Weeks)

I visited Neusole Glassworks in Forest Park with my family around Christmas time where we each made an ornament. (Other items are available to make throughout the year, as well.) Don't worry, you don't have to have any experience with glassblowing, and you don't have to do it by yourself. Neusole's skilled artists lead the process and tell you exactly what to do. They start by gathering a blob of molten glass from a crucible inside a furnace.

Neusole Glassworks (photo: Terri Weeks)
Neusole Glassworks (photo: Terri Weeks)

Then the artist starts to roll the glass to shape it. The glass inside the crucible is clear glass (even though it glows an orange color). Color is added by rolling the clear glass in a tray of colored glass particles. Participants get to help with this part.

Blowing a glass ornament at Neusole Glassworks (photo: Terri Weeks)
Blowing a glass ornament at Neusole Glassworks (photo: Terri Weeks)

During the shaping process, the glass starts to cool down. In order to keep it malleable, the artists periodically heat it up inside a glory hole (a small furnace used to keep glass malleable so that it can be worked). It takes two people to shape the glass blob into an ornament. Participants blow through the pipe while the artist uses tools to shape the piece.

We got to choose not only the color, but also the shape of our ornament. A circular ball is the most basic. Other options include a teardrop shape or a ball/teardrop combination.

Gallery at Neusole Glassworks (photo: Terri Weeks)
Gallery at Neusole Glassworks (photo: Terri Weeks)

You can't bring your pieces home with you on the same day because they need to cool down slowly in an annealing oven. They are ready for pickup in about a week. Before you leave, take some time to admire the pieces in the gallery. Some of the pieces are very affordable, while others cost more than my son's private school tuition, and therefore fit into the category of "look, but don't you dare touch that."

Neusole Glassworks (photo: Terri Weeks)
Neusole Glassworks (photo: Terri Weeks)

Neusole Glassworks offers a variety of different workshops. Alternatives to ornaments include flowers, pumpkins, and paperweights. More in-depth classes are also offered. It's also interesting to watch a demonstration during which the artists make more complicated pieces.