Specialties

Preface

This is a list of logical specialties within the Glasscraft, both working with glass and pottery. This list explains what apprentices in that specialty are taught. It can be assumed that journeymen and masters are tasked with the production of saleable items and training apprentices in both their specialty and in general studies, along with developing new techniques and uses for glass and pottery products.

Apprentices may elect a specialty at any time, but are subject to the approval of the masters of that specialty. In role-play terms, this means that characteristics that make a character unsuitable for a specialty will prevent them from being accepted to that role. An example: a character with attention issues is unlikely to be accepted into the Glasscraft, due to the high risks of injury if attention wanders. Similarly, characters with physical disadvantages that limit their upper body strength or dexterity may be barred from the Craft due to the demands of glasswork and pottery.

Apprentices must select a specialty prior to being advanced to journeyman rank. Once promoted to journeyman, the specialty cannot be changed – this is because the journeyman exams are tailored to the chosen specialty of the apprentice involved, and retraining to another specialty would take years and delay advancement to mastery. However, any apprentice who enjoys multiple facets of the craft may take a general studies specialty. Such apprentices (and later journeymen and masters) are usually teachers of the basics of the craft, rather than producers of final products.


Glass and Pottery

General Studies

Crafters who have chosen to not specialize in a single area are considered general studies crafters - they should know the basics of both glasswork and pottery and be able to provide apprentice-level instruction in all core techniques of both areas. This is more difficult than it sounds, as they must have a good understanding of glass molding, blowing, coloring and etching, as well as pottery throwing, molding, glazing and firing. These are the primary teachers of new apprentices and the teachers of students who are not crafters. They usually do not make many pieces that are intended for sale – rather, they draw a stipend from the Glasscraft instead of relying on product sales for petty cash.


General Glasswork/Pottery

Crafters may elect a general studies specialty that focuses specifically on either glasswork or pottery. Like general studies crafters, these crafters must be able to provide instruction at the apprentice level in all basic techniques in their chosen area and are primarily teachers, rather than producers of goods.


Glasswork Specialties

Glass Making

Crafters who specialize in glass making are focusing on actually creating glass for other crafters to use in making products. They learn the ways different sands impact the glass made from it, what types of alkali material impact color and behavior of glass, and how to create glass blends suited for different types of work. They also learn how different coloring agents react to each type of glass, so they can make recommendations to their fellow crafters as to which type of glass to use for their projects. Crafters with this specialty also learn how to break down cullet for reuse.

All apprentices learn the basics of glass making, since they have to be able to make glass for themselves and their mentor if they are posted somewhere without a full shop available. Most apprentices know how to make at least two kinds of glass with different ratios of sand and other components, and how to adjust mixtures during the blending process to correct for color and viscosity variance. Crafters who specialize in glass making are taught the full list of sands and alkalies available on Pern and which can be blended to create specific results.


Glass Production Methods (Molding and Blowing)

All glass apprentices begin their production training with molded glass, since it is less likely to break or cause injury than glass blowing. Once crafters show they have steady hands and good concentration, they may be taught glass blowing if they are interested in that technique.

Glass Molding

Molded glass is the most common form of glass present on Pern. The glass used for mirrors, windows and computer screens are all molded forms of glass, as well as glass dishes like plates and bowls. Molded glass is formed by laying sheet glass over a metal or ceramic form and placing it in the kiln, which is heated enough to make the glass soft, but not so warm as to melt it, which causes the glass to settle against the shape of the mold. Another form of glass molding involves 'pressing' glass - sandwiching it between two molds, to create a texture or shape in the surface of the glass, or even to make a smooth surface if it is rippled or has bubbles present.

Glass molding is less hazardous than glass blowing, but certainly still has its risks. Kiln explosions (where the kiln itself blows up), while rare, can be deadly, and pieces of glass with bubbles in them can explode in the kiln if they are heated beyond the ability of the glass to handle the expansion of the air bubble.

Specialists in glass molding design and create quality pieces of molded glass, like the aforementioned mirrors and computer screens. Mirrors and windows may be made by any level of crafter, but those made by journeymen and masters are smoother, thinner and have fewer air bubbles. In general, apprentice mirrors and windows draw a much lower price than those made by their superiors, but are still usable.

Glass Blowing

This specialty focuses on blowing glass, versus molding it. Specialists must develop extreme breath control and have high concentration in order to avoid injuring themselves. Failure to properly maintain breath support can lead to injury, up to and including death due to inhalation of molten glass. Apprentices who choose to follow this path are closely monitored, and usually delayed in promotion to journeyman status until they have been working as a glassblower for several turns. This is to ensure that they have displayed a consistent level of attention to detail and breath control before finalizing their specialty.

Crafters with this specialty produce the majority of the finer blown glass in use – light bulbs are a prime example of this, as they must be smooth and thin to allow even light, and are very difficult to form without bubbling or breaking the glass. They also develop skill at forming statuettes - a technique that requires use of both a blowing rod and tongs between gathers to manipulate the edges of the hot glass, and is very difficult and time consuming as the glass must be frequently reheated to remain fluid enough to be manipulated. Some other items made by glass blowing include wine glasses and goblets, and glass beads.


Staining/Coloring Glass

Both of these specialties focus on creating colored glass, but apply the concept in two different ways. Stained glass is formed by adding coloring agent to the mixture when making the glass. Coloring glass takes small pieces of stained glass and melds them with uncolored glass. The former are most commonly used in purely decorative items (though you might have the occasional stained glass window), and the latter is more common as a way to color functional items, like dishes and decorative bowls/vases.

Stained Glass

Crafters with this specialty learn how to blend coloring agents to frit to create stained glass – glass that is itself colored – and how to use the resultant glass in projects, such as windows, glass pictures, and lamp shades. They are also responsible for creating rods of stained glass for other crafters to use in projects where they need to color glass.

Colored Glass

Apprentices learn how to melt stained glass from rods onto other glass objects to add a variety of colors to their projects. They initially learn just how to add round pools of color, but if they have the skills for it, can learn to blend the colored glass into the surrounding glass to create a more natural look. These techniques are also used to repair damaged glassware (such as wine glasses with stems snapped off) when a few drops of heated glass may form a good seal between the separated parts.


Glass Etching

Glass etching involves the application of etching acids to glass to create a silvery, slightly textured appearance to glass. It is most commonly used to personalize items like wine glasses and plates. Crafters with this specialty are taught the appropriate acids to use and in what concentration, as well as length of exposure necessary to achieve the desired appearance.


Glass Painting

The same principals apply to painting on glass as painting on other surfaces, however, only certain types of paints adhere well to glass, and glass painters specialize in mixing those paints in addition to the actual artistic side of the process. Crafters learn how to create the paints, apply them to various forms of glass, and what treatments can be used on painted glass to maintain a clean surface without damage to the applied paints. Different techniques may be needed to apply paint to different types of glass depending on what the glass will be used for – glass used for lamp shades use a paint with high temperature tolerances when compared to glass used for a window or vase. Many of these crafters possess the artistic skill necessary to create fine paintings on glass surfaces.


Pottery

Glasscrafters who specialize in pottery are called potters. Unlike glasswork, pottery is restricted to the use of available forms of clay found in deposits across Pern. As such, there is no specialty involved in clay production. Also unlike glass, clay, once fired, cannot be re-used, so potters are encouraged to not waste clay where possible.

Pottery is not considered saleable until after it has been fired. In order to be fired, it must first dry thoroughly so that expansion of water molecules in the clay does not cause breaking, or worse, explosion. Pieces may be glazed before firing, depending on the specifics of the project.


Pottery Production

Pottery can be made through two main processes: throwing (shaping clay with the assistance of a pottery wheel) and molding (shaping clay without using a pottery wheel). A pottery wheel, using in throwing, spins the clay as it is being worked and applies kinetic force to the clay, which allows different techniques to be used than in molding.

Thrown Pottery

Thrown pottery is a form of pottery where the potter places a segment of clay on a pottery wheel and starts the wheel spinning before making any adjustments to the clay on the wheel. The force generated against the clay from the spinning allows a crafter to manipulate the clay into taller forms without having to hold up the sides by hand. Commonly thrown products include bowls and vases, especially those with thin sides. Clay being thrown is usually kept at a higher moisture level than that used in molding because of the flexibility needed to work it on a wheel.

Apprentices with the thrown pottery specialty learn how to manipulate a pottery wheel without having clay fly everywhere. They learn the physics behind the forces involved in pottery throwing, and the right levels of moisture necessary to manipulate thrown clay. They learn how to make simple bowls and how to prevent collapse of a finished product when transitioning from wheel to drying shelf.

Molded Pottery

Clay can be manipulated by hand to form various shapes, ranging from simple plates and bowls to artful statuary. Clay used for molding can be easy to manipulate, or very difficult, depending on the consistency of the clay, how elastic it is, and the moisture content. The most common problem with molded clay is the presence of air bubbles in a piece, which can explode during the firing process. Crafters learn how to identify what type of clay best suits their project, how to identify air bubbles, and the many techniques of pottery manipulation to create various molded (sometimes called sculpted) items.


Pottery Painting/Glazing

Glazes are used in pottery for a variety of reasons. In general, pottery is glazed to create a smooth finish and seal over the surface of the clay. However, glazes can also be used for decoration, with stunning results. Glazes are applied before a piece of pottery is fired, or before the final firing in the case of a piece that has to be fired multiple times.

Pottery paints are applied to finished pieces to decorate or personalize a piece of pottery. Pottery paints are handled in much the same manner as glass paints. Paints are /never/ used on pottery that is to be heated after painting. Instead, glazes are used in those situations. Paint may be applied over a base glaze, or applied directly to the clay. Apprentices learn to blend the components for different glaze and paint colors, and how to apply them to pottery to achieve various textures and effects. They also learn how temperature variance affects glazes in the firing process, and what glazes can be used to create a smooth backdrop for painting.



Definitions:

Cullet: Broken or reject glass can be melted down for re-use. It is called cullet prior to recycling.

Frit: When the sand/alkali mixture that makes glass is first heated (to about 2400 degrees F), the product is called frit. Frit is then adjusted as necessary for color variance. Once cooled to about 2000 degrees F, it reaches the appropriate consistency for glass blowing. If cooled to full hardness, frit can be ground and stored. Ground frit is heated in long metal trays that have been chemically treated to form sheets of glass, which may then be cut into rods or sections as needed for various glassmaking projects.

Gathers: In glass blowing, the act of adding glass to the form already being worked on the blowing rod is called ‘gathering’. Most pieces require multiple gathers to acquire enough glass to be workable. Glass must be reheated between gathers to maintain an even temperature, or it may shatter when the crafter next attempts to gather glass.


The GlassCraft is an area on PernWorld MUSH, an online roleplay environment. PernWorld exists with permission from Anne McCaffrey and poses no challenge or threat to her works. Dragonriders of Pern, 1968, 1998 is copyrighted and trademarked by Anne McCaffrey.