With the help of over-sized tweezers, a wooden paddle and a 2,000 degree furnace, Nikolaj Christensen and his coworkers at East Falls Glassworks are able to turn molten glass into a masterpiece.
Nikolaj Christensen is the director and head glassblower at the East Falls Glassworks. Christensen’s passion for glassblowing began in 2001 when taking an elective at Washington University in St. Louis. Eventually, this small interest evolved into a studio that seeks out to teach the area of Philadelphia how to properly create their own, beautiful glass. An interest became a hobby that then flourished into a life rooted into the glassblowing industry for the EFGW team.
The overarching goal of the studio is to act as a teaching facility, offering glassblowing classes, studio rentals and work for sale from local artists. This studio provides a safe space for those who have seen glass blowing from afar but never had the chance to fulfill that curiosity. East Falls Glassworks is here to let anyone come in, learn all about the trade and maybe even give it a shot themselves.
The studio has seen the neighborhood of East Falls develop since opening in 2006. Christensen and his crew originally settled their business in the East Falls area because it was easy to find industrial space that was ideal for a glass shop. By picking a remote area, they were able to construct East Falls Glassworks into exactly what they envisioned.
“It’s great to see people moving out into the neighborhood,” Christensen said. “We can act as a unique attraction or even be a reason why people want to move into the neighborhood. It’s really awesome when people come in here to see it for the first time. They’re filled with amazement or wonder. It kind of reminds you that it’s not just a job. It’s unique and you have to be passionate about it.”
Aside from day to day appointments, the studio has had plenty of chances to work with the community. East Falls Glassworks has had partnerships with the Main Line Art Center and several schools within the area. Furthermore, the studio offers 6 week summer camps where the children will learn the basic shapes and types of glass.
In the future, the East Falls Glassworks team wants to continue taking what they do outside of the studio. To do this, they get a scaled down furnace, put it on the back of a pickup truck and take it out for the world to see. In the past, they have taken the furnace to art festivals, business openings and many other events around the area to show everyone what glassblowing is like. This began last year but Christensen said he would love to see it expand.
“Glassblowing is really addictive because it holds so much potential,” Christensen explained. “It seems like a very short set of operations because it only takes a short time to describe the basic process of how to blow a piece of glass. It seems so simple but you really have to invest yourself. As you get better, you open the doors to what’s possible. You’re only bound by the limits of material in your imagination.”
-Text, video and images by Breanna Perez.