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MIT Glass Lab Showcases Wares for the Season

Pumpkins in Glass

MIT Glass Lab Showcases Wares for the Season

By Ruby Lam

How much do you know about MIT? Do you know that MIT has a glass lab? Do you know what it does?

For the third year in a row, the MIT Glass Lab held its annual fundraiser, the Glass Pumpkin Patch, this weekend. On Friday afternoon, many students and other members of the community stopped by the Kresge Oval to appreciate the amazing creations from the MIT Glass Lab.

“Most of these items are from our students and staff at the lab,” said Director of the Glass Lab at MIT Peter B. Houk. “We are here to promote glass art to MIT and the community. We have more than 1,200 items here. Most of the creations we sell here range from $20 to over $200. ... Some are really affordable.”

The Glass Lab offers regular classes for members of the MIT community. “We have classes at all levels: beginners, intermediate and advanced. Approximately 35 people take classes in the Glass Lab every semester,” Houk said. “The beginners’ class usually starts with learning to make paper weights and drinking glasses.”

In addition to classes, Glass Lab experts also are occasionally involved with projects on campus. Creating the lighting fixtures at Simmons Hall is one such project.

As a business student, I was very curious about how the different products are priced. It seems that size does matter, but that’s certainly not the only criterion. Ones that involve a mixture of canes, or long ribbons of color that can be cut and inserted into the glass, were also amongst the pricier selections.

“If you look at the body of the pumpkins and find very well defined ribs, those are the more expensive ones,” Houk said. He also showed me the creation of which he is most proud. “I used an old Venetian technique to create these color twists and patterns. I cut out different color canes, infused them into the mold, and turn it very quickly when I pulled it out from the oven.”

This exquisite creation is one of the most expensive items for sale at the fair, priced at $350.

Some of the smaller pumpkins I found were priced around $20 to $25, quite affordable for a student’s budget.

One of the most interesting one I found was a zucchini shaped creation. “Canes of different colors were cut and infused in [the glassware] before pulling it out of the oven,” Houk explained.

On Friday afternoon, the glass art was only on display and to be sold later in the weekend. “We did this because we want to give [the community] an opportunity ... to appreciate the creations.” Houk said. “Last year, we sold out within half an hour. We only had 20 pumpkins left at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, one hour after the sale opened!”

Last year’s success thus provoked the change in policy this year. Still, would-be buyers were advised to line up early in the morning in order to get what they wanted.

Sure enough, the pumpkins were sold out within two and a half hours after sales opened, said Glass Laboratory faculty advisor Michael J. Cima. “This was definitely more amazing than last year,” he said. Cima also mentioned that there were over 200 people waiting in line at the start. “One gentleman showed up at 8:30 a.m. with a big basket,” he said.

As of press time, members of the lab are still trying to calculate the amount of funds raised, though Cima says it will be “substantial.”

Handling next year’s pumpkin sale is still a challenge for the managers. “I don’t think we’re going to make more pumpkins ... and turn it into a pumpkin-making business,” Cima said. “These people are working as volunteers. We’d burn people out if we made much more.”

Brian Loux contributed to the reporting of this story.