Hidden talents: Glassblowing by David Jantz

Isaiah Friesen

Contributing Writer

iwfriesen@goshen.edu

David Jantz, a junior, spent his Saturday sharing his glassblowing talents at the Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale.

“It was a really cool opportunity,” Jantz said. “And I made over $300 for the sale.”

Jantz spent around 20 hours preparing pieces for the sale, and then eight hours at the sale making pieces as a demonstration, some of which he made according to individual request.

Jantz’s father, Jonathan, taught both David and his sister Maria, a recent GC graduate, how to glassblow, despite his day job as a pediatrician.

“It’s kind of a family thing,” David said. “For a lot of years my dad did glassblowing at the MCC sale in Hutchinson, Kansas.”

Dr. Jantz first encountered glassblowing in middle school, then had little to do with it for a number of years until he took it up again during his two years of voluntary service in Oregon.

“My dad had an opportunity to do a tour with a glassblower up and down the West Coast, and got to see a lot of different glassblowing styles,” Jantz explained. “He basically got a college education in glassblowing, completely on accident.”

Jantz had a similar relationship with glassblowing, only recently becoming reacquainted with and serious about the art form.

Jantz said, “I wasn’t very serious about glassblowing until the summer after my freshman year of college. I was living at home, and that summer I would spend a couple of hours every day working on glassblowing. At that point I was thinking maybe I could start up a glass website, have that be some kind of career someday. So that was when I got a lot better at it.”

After glassblowing every day during the summer, Jantz needed an outlet while back at Goshen College.

“I had the opportunity to set up glassblowing at GC through John Mishler, the sculpture professor,” Jantz said. “He let me set up all my equipment in the sculpture lab. I’m really grateful to him for allowing me to do that, because that’s really been what’s allowed me to keep exploring and growing in glassblowing.”

Jantz now spends four to five hours a week in the sculpture lab, honing his skills. And that’s in addition to his biochemistry major, which some would say is a far cry from this artistic leaning. However, the scientific nature of glassblowing appeals to Jantz.

“Technically it’s called flameworking, or lampworking,” Jantz explains. “The history of [flameworking] is that people would use lamps with propane or kerosene or whatever fuel they had on hand. Nowadays, I have a propane tank and an oxygen tank and rods of borosilicate glass, which is the same kind of glass that you would use in chemistry test tubes and beakers, and a torch that’s similar to a Bunsen burner. So it’s very chemistry-related in origin.”

Glass rods are held in the flame, where their viscosity can be manipulated into various shapes due to the change in physicality of the glass.

Jantz has been exploring his art in the shapes and forms he can make. “Animal models are probably my most typical thing to make. There are a lot of things out there that I’d like to explore, like bead-making, or working with tubes to repair chemistry equipment, or making candle holders. Mostly I just do artistic pieces that you would put on display—like dogs, seahorses, different kinds of fish, elephants, birds, stuff like that,” he said.

Jantz said it’s possible that he could make glassblowing into some kind of career in the future, but he’d rather keep it as more of a hobby.

“If I had to do artistic pieces to make money, it would take some of the joy out of the craft for me, because I’d be catering to other people’s desires rather than my own.”

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1 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    November 27, 2019

    David: You sound so much like your Dad. He just thoroughly enjoyed glass blowing. He started with a small torch of some kind he found in a catalog and truly did amazing work with it. I hope he still has time to work with this hobby. He did a manger scene for me which is beautiful. Grandma J

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