Do you guys ever watch the show "How It's Made?" The narration is a bit dry, but it's fascinating to see things like washing machines and crossbows being produced from start to finish in the same episode. When I stumbled upon Concord, New Hampshire-based artist Nanda Soderberg's striking gold leaf beer bottle tumblers (above) at the Museum of Art & Design a few weeks ago, I fell in love and instantly wanted to get the scoop on the process, so I asked the artist himself to walk us through the making of a batch. He also shares some of his favorite American designers and gives fantastic advice for up-and-coming artists. I find his lack of pretentiousness totally refreshing and hope you do, too. Enjoy!
"First I cut the beer bottle at the desired length using a tool that scores the glass. Then it's spun on a lazy susan and a small flame from a torch is applied to the scored line. After a few seconds, the bottle pops and breaks where the line was scored. This method of bottle cutting is called 'hot popping.'"
"After the bottle is cut, the bottom piece that will be used for the tumbler is put into a kiln and brought up to 1,050 degrees. Once it's at 1,050, the bottle can be picked up on a punti, which is a steel rod on which to gather glass."
"The bottle is rolled onto gold leaf and heated in a piece of equipment called a 'glory hole.' The glory hole is a traditional piece of glass-working equipment that's used to reheat glass when you're working on it; it makes the glass soft enough to shape. Once the leaf is fused onto the surface of the tumbler and the lip is fire-polished smooth, it goes back into the kiln where it cools down to room temperature over a period of about 12 hours. This relieves the stress in the glass, which is called 'annealing.' I make about 50 tumblers at a time."
50SOS: How do you acquire the bottles that you're using?
NS: I started off by using bottles that I had saved at home. As demand grew for the tumblers, I started buying clean empty bottles from my local home brew supply store.
50SOS: Where do you do your work?
NS: Glass blowing require significant infrastructure. I have a studio space in a mill building in New Hampshire.
50SOS: Is glass blowing something you always wanted to do?
NS: I wasn't even aware that people made glass by hand before I was 23. I started doing it in college at the University of Hawaii.
50SOS: What inspires you more than anything else?
NS: Probably my kids. I have three of them and they eat a lot of food. Daycare is expensive. I work to pay the bills. There is no glamour in glass blowing. I'm not trying to be, nor do I care about being, a hot shit artist/designer. I just want to provide for my family and this is how I know how to do it.
50SOS: Can you share a couple of American brands that you swear by?
NS: I have some Eastland boots. They're made in Maine and super comfortable. I also wear Ben Davis pants (made in San Francisco), which are comfortable and long-lasting. They're great for metal work and any kind of hard labor. All of my glass blowing hand tools are handmade in America. They're based on Italian designs that are centuries old. When a tool needs a little repair, I can send it back to the person who made it. It’s comforting knowing that the tools I'm using to make my products were made with the same standards and love that I put into the glass that they help shape.
50SOS: What advice do you have for up-and-coming designers?
NS: Know your history, and be inspired by it, but don’t copy it. Work hard and expect nothing. Never pay for publicity. Work for as many different people as you can; real life experience is worth as much as any degree.
50SOS: How do you define success?
NS: The ability to pay my bills on time and have beer in the fridge.