It's peep season at the Industrial Arts Center. The glass-blowing studio in Gulfport is offering peepmaking workshops the entire month of April. Students learn the basics of glassmaking and go home with a springtime souvenir they helped create. Here's a step-by-step look at how to make the solid glass peeps from studio "peep master" Elise Paulter. — Susan Thurston [email protected]
1 Paulter uses a steel rod called a punty to retrieve molten glass from the furnace, kept at a toasty 2,000 degrees. The glass starts out as powdered batch and becomes the consistency of honey when heated. Word of caution: The furnace is so hot that standing too close to the open door can singe your hair. Paulter said her sister, who also is a glass blower, has very short bangs.
2 Like their counterpart marshmallow chicks, these peeps come in every spring color. You can also make them multicolored. Paulter takes the glass glob from the furnace to the marver table, where she rolls it into crushed-up colored glass called frit. Then she puts it in a second oven, the "glory hole," to melt the color into the clear glass.
3 Here's where the glob becomes art. Paulter forms the peep by spinning it into shape using a mitt of wet, folded-up newspapers and large tweezer-like jacks to define the head and body. As the glass starts to harden, she puts it back in the "glory hole" for a few seconds to make it more pliable.
4 Using diamond shears, she pulls the softened glass to form the beak and tail. Then she pokes two holes for the eyes and takes a propane torch to meld two dots of black stringer — a piece of stretched out glass that looks like wire. She scores a groove along the base of the peep and taps it off the punty as it starts to cool.
5 The solid peep goes into an annealer to cool down overnight. They use the word "cool" loosely, because the starting temperature is about 800 degrees, double the temperature for baking a frozen pizza. Wait too long to put your peep in the annealer, and it will crack, split or, worse, explode.
6 Voila! The finished peep looks adorable in an Easter basket and doubles as a paper weight or custom keepsake the rest of the year. It's calorie-free and won't make your dentist squawk. And, even though plenty of peeps like their chicks stale, these have no expiration date.