Glass art is a gas guzzler. Can Seattle stoke the flames of environmental change?
As the region embarks on the first-ever Northwest festival of glass, artists hope to make the industry more sustainable.
"When Scott Darlington opens the hatch to an arched furnace, all that emerges is a blinding stream of orange, yellow and white light. It’s like staring into the sun. Your eyes never really adjust.
Inside the massive metal-clad furnace at the center of Pratt Fine Arts Center’s glassblowing facility, a ceramic bowl holds a thousand pounds of clear, molten glass. Before its dipped into powdered pigments, the glass is kept liquid thanks to a constant temperature hovering near 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, fueled by a continuous stream of natural gas.
“It stays on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For years at a time,” says Darlington, glass studio manager at Pratt. Heating the equipment sucks up so much energy and time that there’s no use in turning it off. It burns at least 84 cubic feet of gas every hour. Next to the furnace, three reheating ovens (also called glory holes) gobble up a minimum of 100 cubic feet of gas each hour they run."