Jerome glass blower: An entertainer and historian
JEROME -- When artist Tracy Weisel is not actually blowing glass, he’s talking.
Sure, he has been blowing glass and selling glass wine goblets, beer steins, vases, hummingbird feeders, window hangings and life-sized glass pumpkins and pears for decades in Jerome.
But Weisel is just as much of entertainer and historian, as he is an artist.
As tourists walk in to Weisel’s studio on Dec. 19 to watch the glass blower at work, he never stopped talking to the room full of interested observers.
They sat in folding chairs while getting a crash course in glass blowing and the local fun facts.
The walls around the glass blower’s studio are collapsing along with years of Jerome’s mining history, but it’s still one of the most striking examples of Jerome’s fragile past.
The building is in downtown Jerome on a dirt road just yards away from the former Cuban Queen Bordello building which collapsed several years ago after a century of wear, tear and debauchery.
Weisel’s guests carefully maneuvered by glass vegetables, cups and ornaments hanging on the wall as they squeezed into their seats for the glass blowing demonstration.
Before people arrived, he explained that he was a member of the Jerome Historic Society and was the sergeant of arms as he picked up a toy gun to prove his point.
Weisel can’t say how many people visit his shop during a busy weekend, but that is understandable as he concentrates on a dripping piece of melting glass on the end of a four-foot rod.
He never stops talking to the audience though, and he never stops turning and staring at the red-hot glass at the end of the rod, which is a tube.
After he melts the glass numerous times in several furnaces of different temperatures, he blows through the rod and expands the glass into the vase.
Chopping the vase off in one whack, he carefully placed it into a box to cool down.
There are many steps of glass blowing in between, and Weisel explained each one.
“I let people come and watch me all the time.” Weisel said of his glass blowing demonstrations. “I like people to really learn about glass blowing.”
Weisel said he took a glassblowing class at Yavapai College in 1992, and after two semesters, he built the studio in Jerome and has been making “mistakes” ever since.
“That’s how you learn this skill,” he said.
“You don’t learn it by doing anything, but making mistakes.”
“The smartest way for young people to approach it is always apprentice,” he said. The Melting Point studio in Sedona has really good teachers and a really good studio.
But Weisel said he works alone.
Other than his four gas-fired furnaces for glass – each at 2,100 degrees, 2,300 degrees, 1,200 degrees, 960 degrees Fahrenheit - or a “thousand dollar utility bill every month.”
Weisel built his semi-outdoor studio in an old Jerome grocery store at 220 First Ave. in the early ‘90s. But he had other stores in Jerome where he was making pottery in the ‘80s.
He also fires a clay kiln when he goes home for the day to make clay plates, mugs and other items he sells at the studio.
“I also talk about the town,” Weisel said of his demonstrations. “I want them to know about that building. I want them to know about the JC Pennies.”
As he prepares to melt and blow a new piece of glass art on Dec. 19, Weisel was asked what he was creating.
“I never tell anyone ahead of time,” he responded. This is because if he makes a mistake, he can make it something else.