Penland Glassblowing Studio, May 2018

First, gather myself,
let the fears and distractions fall away,
so when my hands touch the rod,
all I feel is steel.
Check the glow of the heated end.
Steps to the furnace are sure and relaxed.
Brief smile and eye contact with my door buddy,
then square up my feet and center my weight.
“Open,” I say,
and bright orange heat hits my face,
grateful for the safety glasses.
Revolutions begin as rod touches sill,
braces against doorway wall.
Door closes a little.
Slide in to seek the reflection,
then angle down to the surface,
piercing the liquid just enough
to form the moile I need
to underpin all future steps.
Faster turning gathers more glass,
then slow a bit as I begin to exit.
Let the rod settle towards horizontal,
eyes searching for tails or trails.
Withdraw rod to bring the bubble towards the sill,
slide left hand down, door widens a little,
and I pull the rod out, keeping it level,
slightly down as I walk away.
Now my eyes can finally see
its shape and the gather line.
I begin to work it
and am surprised, again,
at how fast the orange fades
and hardness creeps in.


Blaise Kielar received Honorable Mention in the 2022 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize for an excerpt from his memoir in progress, "Be Heard: The Quiet Kid Who Started the World’s Loudest Violin Shop." He opened Chapel Hill’s first violin shop in 1978 and retired from a music retail career by transitioning Electric Violin Shop into the first worker-owned co-op music store in the United States. He plays jazz violin and clarinet in several bands and leads the Bulltown Strutters, Durham’s community New Orleans brass band.