Tucked away in the back of the craft center, students find solace manipulating one of Earth’s most hazardous elements: fire.

Animal science senior Tristan Bedoya and economics senior Jordan Woo have taken the reigns of flameworking at Cal Poly.

Flameworking refers to a type of glasswork that uses a mixture of oxygen and propane to torch and mold glass rods into specific shapes.

“We start with rods with different thicknesses and colors,” Woo said. “There’s a lot of factoring in of gravity and a ton of practice needed.”

Video by Emily Merten
 

Most commonly mistaken as glassblowing, flameworking differs in the tools and technique used. Glassblowing uses soft glass, where as flameworking uses a harder type of glass called silicate.

Woo has been practicing flameworking for the past two years, while Bedoya picked up this skill during the last year.

Having taken ceramic classes in high school, Woo was interested in taking classes at the Craft Center.

“I saw they had flameworking in the back and was instantly intrigued and signed up for a class. I’ve been doing it every day since,” Woo said.

Bedoya credits Woo with piquing his curiosity toward flameworking and establishing the initial foundation he needed to get started.

Because their previous instructors graduated, Bedoya and Woo were among the last few flameworkers at Cal Poly.

“I was the only one in here consistently and Jeremey, the last instructor, was graduating and they needed someone new so he recommended me. I got Tristan involved in it too,” Woo said.

Bedoya teaches the beginner flameworking class and Woo instructs the intermediate level, which includes different, more detailed skills.

“In the beginner classes, you learn how the glass moves and work with rods,” Bedoya said. “In the intermediate [class], we move on to imprinting drawings and go more in depth with the flameworking.”

Flameworking allows the two friends to work alongside one another while also creating distinct products.

“We always have something to gift someone,” Bedoya said. “It’s crazy to see your own progression too. I’ve given some pieces to people so long ago and they’ll still be so stoked about [it] and all I can think is ‘Damn! I want to give a better one now!’”

Bedoya and Woo are currently taking suggestions for class timings during winter quarter. You can recommend timings on the sheet posted in the back of the craft studio where the flameworkers reside.

“[The program is] six weeks, two hours [per] week with an instructor. You can be a total beginner,” Craft Center student manager and sociology senior Cassie Olovsson said. “And you get a quarter pass so you can come work on your projects outside of class and you get materials you need with the class.”

For students like Bedoya, flameworking is a way to relieve stress on campus.

“Flameworking is a really good release for me to just go and forget about my problems,” Bedoya said.

Bedoya and Woo will be selling their handmade pendants and various flamework products at the craft sale this Monday through Wednesday in the Julian A. McPhee University Union from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.