The life of a Glassybaby
(Image: Joshua Lewis / Seattle Refined)

The life of a Glassybaby

If you look around your house, you probably have at least two of them on your mantle or as centerpieces in your kitchen. And when people ask you why you like them so much, you usually say "They're handmade here in Seattle, and each glassybaby is one of a kind!"

Which is all true, but do you really know what it takes to make one of the beloved candle holders? We took a look at the life of a glassybaby (before it hits your bedside table). 

Each day in the Madrona glass studio, a new color list is posted. It can have as many as 15 colors on it at a time.

These colors come as colors bars - concentrated colored glass rods. Early each morning, the selected color bars are loaded into a mini oven to get pre-heated to a temperature of 1010 degrees F. 

The beginning of a glassybaby's life is in the hands of the Color Dropper. This person heats up the color bar in a small furnace they call the Glory Hole (internal temperature of 2100 degrees). They use an extended handle to maneuver the rod without getting too close to the furnace.

After being heated, the rod is passed on to the Overlayer, who is in charge of making the "start". They gather a bubble of glass at the end of a stainless steel rod (called a blowpipe), and then apply a portion of the heated color bar on tip of the bubble. They push it over the bubble to completely cover it, and it begins to resemble a large cotton swab.

This is the part of the process that makes each candle holder so different. Depending on how much color the Overlayer takes from the color bar, and how thinly they smooth it over the bubble, the glassybaby made from the same color bar can end up coming out completely different. 

The Overlayer hands off the "start" to the Mold Blower, who shapes and cools it using a tool called a block. These look like large wooden spoons, and are stored in water to prevent them from burning. After molding, the glass is dropped in the mold and starts to look like an actual glassybaby. 

Finally - it is handed off to the Trimmer. They transfer the molded glass onto a small solid steel rod, and removes the excess glass from the top. This makes all the candle holders the right thickness and height. 

While it's still hot, the glassybaby stamp is applied and it's loaded into the oven where it takes 14 hours to cool down from 915 degrees to room temperature. 

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