Glass in all its forms is fascinating. Melted sand turns into glittering forms and over time returns to become beach glass. The art and history of stained glass has nourished the spirit in cathedrals around the world. Glass beads have been used as money by indigenous peoples. Glass can be pulled into delicate wine glasses or braided into high tech, optical fiber to be buried or submerged fathoms below. I never expected to try glass blowing myself. It’s just one of the things to do inside the Corning Glass Museum or CMOG as the locals call it but the expansive complex is more like a museum of glass experiences.
Much more than cookware
Many of us relate Corning to cookware. The invention of heat durable glass dishes made the name famous but innovation is what Corning is really about. Look at your cell phone and the Gorilla Glass surface. It’s durable, scratch resistant and everywhere. The Corning campus is an innovation center at its heart and close to Cornell University. Quietly new discoveries and products are being developed there while those of us outside of the scientific sphere marvel at the art glass galleries and demos nearby.
Enter the Corning Museum of Glass
When you enter the multi-story CMOG building, you have several ways to turn. Ride the escalator down into the massive gift shop and stroll beyond into the courtyard with its cafe. Turn into the Amphitheater Hot Box where passionate, master glass blowers love nothing more than showing you how it’s been done through the ages and introduce you to their high-tech furnaces. You can wander up into the Art and Design wing or into the galleries of historic glass through the ages. Glass blowing classes have their own studio across the courtyard. That’s where I made a tumbler and glass pendant, which were cooled and wrapped for pick up the next day.
Glassblowing Demos and Experiences
The huge Amphitheater Hot Box churns with excitement throughout the day. I watched Museum Glassmakers, Chris Rochelle and Catherine Ayers explain how glass blowing is done. Then we were able to get close to the action as several other glassmakers made the process of creating filigree goblets look easy.
Next in the Class Studio, I joined a small group to create our own pieces. Working with enthusiastic Glassmakers, I learned how to roll and blow as a tumbler made of glass bits I’d chosen came to life. Later I stepped into a classroom setting where each of us had a torch and we proceeded to make pendant beads. Happily, both items made it home intact. Getting close to the process has me reeling in the realization of how long and much work goes into great glassmaking. That hot fun was a cool experience! And if you’re curious about other cool museum experiences, here’s my post about the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Museum in Milwaukee.
Watch this short video about the Corning Glass Museum
The Contemporary Art and Design Wing
The new wing is astonishing and spacious. Designed carefully over years it guides natural light through concrete baffles suspended beneath a ceiling of angled skylights. The radical design illuminates large and small pieces for the best effects, transforming them as clouds pass or night slips close. The new Contemporary Art and Design wing houses extraordinary works commissioned for the Corning Glass Museum. The pieces range from surprising, ethereal, and butterfly light to heavy masses. That’s wonderful enough but take time to examine the building and how it affects your experience.
How the new wing would feel was discussed for years before the Corning Curators even saw a drawing of the proposed extension. They looked at how glass galleries around the world felt as much as how they looked. For example, the architectural firm, Thomas Phifer and Partners, told Rob Cassetti, Senior Director of Creative Strategy and Audience Engagement, that the Corning Glass Museum needed a Zen Space. The resulting ‘Porch’ (Thomas Phifer is from the South) gives you a place to be still, to watch the shadows and light change. The slender space allows you to view the pieces from a quiet perspective instead of continually moving through to the next and the next piece or space.
The most riveting pieces I studied were the chandelier, Carrion – a massive blood red Venetian piece created by the artist, Javier Perez. He consulted with the Corning Glass Museum curators about creating a piece symbolizing the opportunistic appetites that have decimated the glass industry in Murano, Italy. How to do that with a giant chandelier? Drop it to the gallery floor and position stuffed Ravens pecking at the remains! The remnants form a moving and bittersweet beauty.
My second favorite piece, the Virtue of Blue, is a realization of Dutch artist, Jeroen Verhoeven. He was inspired by the sparkle and shine of thin, blue solar batteries. After clipping them into the shape of Butterfly wings he wrapped the small solar batteries around a huge opaque lightbulb. The delicate batteries keep the chandelier illuminated in the daylight! There are hundreds of equally touching pieces and the galleries will be rotating through their archived collections for years to come.
The History of Glass
The historical collections traverse human history and are full of rare pieces from early Egypt to the largest cut glass punch bowl in the world. Alexandra Ruggiero curates the collection which is dazzling in its scope. Cases on cases are set in chronological order. I had no idea how deeply the world has been influenced by the wonders of glass.
Over the gift shop is a meandering set of walkways through the innovations that Corning has become famous for. It offers insights into the scientific process and the people responsible for glass breakthroughs.
Visit for a long day or several and be blown away whether you’re an art connoisseur or looking for a family adventure. However, toddlers would probably be happier elsewhere! There’s lots of parking for guests with a variety of lodging and restaurants close by in the Corning Village.
Located in the Fingerlakes Region of New York, the Museum is really an experience of glass in all its forms.
Corning Museum of Glass:
- Open every day of the year – except four, Thanksgiving Day in November, December 24th and 25th, January 1
- Adults are $19.50 and children under 17 are free. There are several other discounts as well.
- Each ticket is good for two days.
- Make Your Own Glass Experiences are filled on a first come basis. No experience is necessary as enthusiastic glass experts will guide you through your chosen project. The 20 to 40-minute classes cost from $10 to $32 but check the online site for specifics and seasonal classes.
- Getting there takes a bit of planning. The closest airport to the Corning Glass Museum is in Elmira and a shuttle can take you to the town of Corning. There are busses from New York City. You can park your car or RV for free in the museum’s large main lot.
This tour was part of TBEX and made possible by CMOG.
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I need to revisit the Corning Museum – I didn’t spend near enough time to soak everything in the first time I was there! I missed the entire historic section!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to return and really explore the whole Finger Lakes region?
I’m actually the idiot that didn’t connect the Corningware brand with this! This sounds like a really cool experience though. Those chandeliers are stunning. I feel like I’m too clumsy to be allowed to walk around this place haha
Ashley, Corningware was sold off long before you were born, I think! And, nah, you wouldn’t break anything – just be breathless in awe. I know I was.
The Corning Museum of Glass has been on our list of things to do in the Finger Lakes area for a long time! We did glass-blowing classes ten years ago and had a blast, and we love Dale Chihuly’s glass art, so this museum is right up our alley. I didn’t realize that glass beads have been used as money by indigenous peoples — great intro; I love learning something new!
Thanks so much, Julianne. I hope you get to the Finger Lakes region before too long. It’s just beautiful with Corning as only one of so many things to enjoy there.
Great post, Elaine — and I love your video. It’s a great overview of everything offered at CMOG. Like you, I had much smaller expectations for what the Corning Museum of Glass would have, and truly was “blown away” by the depth of their collection and all of the demonstrations and glass blowing activities that visitors have the ability to engage with — it really is a great place.
So glad you enjoyed this, Ann. Corning is such an innovative company on every level. I just loved being there for days.
What a gorgeous place to visit. Carrion is so impressive – wow! Such a striking colour and intricate details. The chandelier is also very impressive! I’d be drawn to those pieces as well. What an awesome experience and love that you got to try it for yourself too! I’ve always been fascinated with the glass blowing process.
So glad you enjoyed this. That Carrion piece is one of the most photographed in the museum.
TBEX was so fun but I am kicking myself for not doing glass blowing and exploring CMOG more. Blowing glass has always, for as long as I can remember, wanted to make something out of glass. I loved crystal animals and glass sculptures. I think we are going to return to the area next year and use Corning as our airport. We’ll have to swing my CMOG and see what we can make. Really cool place.
I hope you do return. There may be a small, private airport but I think that the one in Elmira is the closest for the rest of us peons.
What beautiful pieces of artwork! Watching glassblowers is fascinating. I cannot imagine working with such scorchingly-hot raw material and coming up with intricate, delicate pieces of art as a result. I’ve heard great things about the Corning Museum. I hope to see it for myself someday.
Wonderful! I never thought glassblowing can be an art form! I have heard of such things in Ghent but glad to know that they are in NYC too.
Yep, I definitely relate Corning to cookware. Interesting to learn the distinction! Glassblowing is so interesting to me. I’ve only seen it done a couple of times but never participated and I would like to. I would love to see how they make filigree goblets, wow! I love creative forms of art and this is definitely one of them! I love the Virtue of Blue and hello at the Tiffany punchbowl!
I would not have chosen this experience given a choice but after reading your post, it seems like it might be quite an intriguing one. To learn how to blow glass and create your own little piece after that sounds pretty exciting. Also, I’d love to know how much beautiful chandeliers are made.
Wow, I love this, especially the museum pieces like Carrion and the recovered Tiffany punch bowl. Pinned.
Okay, I have a confession. The Corning Museum of Glass has actually been on my bucket list! I collect milk glass and currently have a fascination with all things glass. I would love to make something in the studio and learn glass blowing. What an incredibly fun and educational attraction!
Oh my god – glassblowing is one of the top things of my experience list. I missed the chance in Okinawa a few years ago and I have never heard of the Corning Glass museum before. I also love that they have an art section!
What a cool glass museum… I’ve been to two others, in the Pacific Northwest, and it sounds like they are similar. I, too, was amazed at how glass has been used throughout history, and equally amazed at the skill and patience it requires to create beautiful objects out of glass. I toured the Chihuly Glass Exhibit in Seattle and they had a portable oven set up with volunteers teaching glass blowing techniques. At the Tacoma Glass Museum, they had a huge working glass oven and lab with incredible demonstrations. I’d love to see the Corning Museum, too!
Glassblowing is quite a beautiful skill. I’ve seen one glass blower in France it is impressive how one can create amazing shapes with glass. It’s a little “too hot” for comfort, personally. That’s awesome that you go the opportunity to create a couple of unique pieces. Love your video and your experience at Corning Glass Museum. This is my kind of museum. Great article!
Woah the ‘dropped’ chandelier is pretty amazing, what an interesting installation! I’ve always wanted to visit this place, looks like everyone has a blast who works there and who visits!
I took a glass blowing class when I lived in Texas and it was truly one of the most mesmerizing things I have ever done. It is truly much harder than it looks and you have to pay attention so closely to each and every turn, detail and temperature. I really love to see that this art is not completely lost to us, and hope people continue to participate in it for centuries to come.
Great post, Elaine! I didn’t know that New York is home to the Corning Glass Museum. It looks amazing. I’ve been to one glass blowing place (somewhere in Europe) and really enjoyed it. But it was not a museum.
What artisans can do with glass never cease to amaze me. I’ve had the chance to blow my own too and totally loved it. Such a great experience. The prices for doing that at the Corning Museum are very reasonable. In the Pacific Northwest, they are 2 to 3 times that much! I’d love to check out the museum next time in that part of the country.
This was certainly an interesting post. I’ve always wondered about the art of glass blowing. It certainly. Is labour-intensive which creatiins are astounding. All these years 9f putting those corning ware pieces. Into the oven and I never thought anymore 9f it.
Thanks so much for sharing.
Corning is a name that has been very close to us from school days. Corning was the brand of test tubes that we used for Chemistry practicals and knew from that time itself that Corning glass was heat resistant. The Corning Glass Museum sounds really fascinating. Have always been intrigued how glass which seems so brittle can be shaped into such wondrous shapes. The chandeliers look lovely, would love to visit the Corning Glass Museum some day.
That looks super fun. I would love the opportunity to try my hand at glass blowing. I’m sure it wouldn’t end well, but I’ve always been fascinated when I’ve witnessed a demonstration. It makes for a fun addition to the Corning Glass Museum experience.
What a fascinating place to tour! My favorite is the deep red colored glass. So beautiful!
The Make your own Glass thing sounds so cool — I’ve always been fascinated by glass blowing and would love to give it a shot! Do you have to pay admission to the museum even if you only want to do that part?
Elaine, your intro to the post is so beautifully written, and it really captures the importance of glass in ways we either don’t notice or take for granted on a daily basis. I so wish I had found time during TBEX to explore more of the Corning Museum of Glass or to do a glass-blowing activity. However, I totally shopped in the amazing gift shop, and I’ll be sure to visit again.
Thank you for the kind words. I do try. Hope you return to Corning. Namaste.
That Virtue of Blue chandelier is amazing. So stunning with all of those butterflies on it! I bet your tumbler is the perfect souvenir because you can use it for a drink and remember back to this trip!