During our trip through the Mad River Valley, we visited the Salt and Sand Studios in Warren. We had such an amazing time, I wanted to write more about our experience.
Spencer welcomed us into his studio in the morning before the day became too hot to be in close proximity to a furnace. If it is 80 degrees outside, it is 110 degrees in the studio. For that reason, the studio closes down for the summer.
When I told my 5 and 7 year old boys that they would be working with molten glass, fire and blow torches, their eyes lit up. They had to wear safety glasses and be very careful to listen and follow directions. That is not normally their strong suit, but I think they could tell the seriousness of what would happen if they didn’t.
Although the studio can be a dangerous place for children, I was never worried because Spencer and his assistant were so careful and patient with them. They walked them through each bit of the process. It was like a combination of an art class and a science lesson in one.
Spencer showed the boys how glass would shatter if it was cooled down too quickly. When they put a practice piece on the ground and Andrew asked how hot it was, Spencer put a piece of paper on top of it and it burst into flames. As long as it didn’t have color in it, any broken glass could be put back into the oven to be recycled into something else.
The boys decided they wanted to make a paper weight and a Christmas ornament. I love collecting ornaments on our travels because we can reminisce about all of our memories while we decorate the tree.
The boys watched in awe as Spencer took a gather of molten glass out of the furnace. They had to keep in constant motion to find the form that they wanted and if the glass went below 1000 degrees, it was too cool to work with and had to go back to the oven.
Spencer and Johno helped the boys handle the equipment which is heavy and becomes hot very quickly. They were constantly dipping their tools in buckets of water and it would sizzle as it cooled.
They made cuts in the glass with giant metal shears before rolling it on a tray of tiny bits of colored broken glass. That was then heated up in a smaller oven before rolling it which is how they get the swirls of color into it. A block, which looks like a big wooden spoon, is then used to help form the shape that they are looking for.
After the boys finished their paper weights, Spencer and Johno did a glassblowing demonstration for us. Andrew got to blow down the pipe to expand the glass and it was nothing short of mind blowing (pun intended) to watch them transform the molten glass into a vase.
When they were done, it went into a 900 degree oven to COOL OFF. Glass has to be slowly cooled otherwise it will shatter.
We picked up our creations the following day and they have not put them down since. Harry’s paper weight looks like a galaxy with all of the colors swirled through it.
At my kids ages, it’s hard to find an activity that they will sit through. It was a joy for me just to watch them working in the studio because they were so into it. They love art projects and seemed to like the added element of danger.
Salt and Sand Studios offers kids camps and after-school programs. Spencer is wonderfully kind and patient which made him a great teacher. They also have a beautiful on-site yoga studio.
For more ideas on what to do in the Mad River Valley with kids, click here.