A Lesson Before Lunch

This scene occurs between Spring Cleaning and Girls Only?


Xanadu Weyr - Glass Workshop

With sandy beaches, significant forests and sizable mines available either immediately within the Weyr or within easy transport distance, Xanadu Weyr is a prime location for serious glasswork, and the glass workshop in the craft complex reflects that abundance. This vast building, which shares a wall with the apprentice dorms but is otherwise freestanding, is one of the larger structures in the complex. This shop is state of the art, with every new technical advance developed at the Fort or Landing craft halls in use here. The shop is usually busy day and night as crafters take advantage of the strong lighting provided by heat-resistant light fixtures and many windows, most made within this very room or in joint work with other crafters at the Weyr.

The south wall, which adjoins the apprentice dorms, and the north wall are both lined with kilns and glass forges for the glasscrafters to do their work. The eastern portion of the room seems to be devoted to teaching, as a number of mobile diagram boards have been erected there and desks are arranged in semicircles around each. The central portion of the room serves as the production area, with barrels of sand and various additives arrayed beside several long tables and charts. Finally, the west wall is made up almost entirely of cabinets and storage shelves.

Since K'ael's last visit to the glass shops to speak with Moria, things have changed quite a bit. All of the craft implements have been shifted to the opposite side of the hall, which is where Moria is now. She's over by one of the forges with an apprentice, with a blowing rod on the counter beside them. The apprentice, a young man, looks fairly nervous, and frequently bobs his head to whatever Moria is saying. For her part, the journeywoman is looking very stern as she addresses the apprentice.

K'ael slips into the glass shop, he's carrying a bag with him. It's got lunch in it, as promised. There's a bit of a blink at the shop though. What was going on here? But there will be time to ask later, as he spots Moria. He's wearing his rider garb and his knot, looking somewhat official and not like it was a social call. At least then Moria might be… more receptive to him, or something. He lingers behind the apprentice, watching the journeywoman for now.

Moria glances over to K'ael as he comes over behind the apprentice. She smiles briefly before she tells the apprentice, "Two months before you gets to work independently again. Until then, you are working under master Erdwin. Now go." The apprentice nods and, ducking his head again, slips away from the counter, very careful to not bump anyone or anything. Moria smiles to K'ael again, leaning back against the counter. "Hello, K'ael. All set for a lesson on making glass?"

K'ael smiles to her and then watches the apprentice head off. "Hello… Working under Erdwin is a punishment? He a stickler?" He holds up the bag then. "Lunch, as promised. Should we take the lesson before or afterwards? I was thinking before… unless you're hungry now?" He looks around at the equipment. "Well… I suppose I'm ready. Will you make me work with Erdwin if I do a poor job?" He chuckles a bit.

Moria shakes her head. "He's firm, but not mean. The lad broke some fairly expensive glass during the spring move, and he's not allowed to work unsupervised until Erdwin clears him," she explains. "Do you mind if we eat after? Some of the glass mixing process can smell less than good, depending on your ingredients, and I'd rather not have a full stomach."

K'ael nods to the glasscrafter. "Ah. Tsk tsk. Best to nip it in the bud though, I suppose." He sets the bag of food aside for the time being. "Sure, that sounds fine. I doubt anyone would take too kindly to us being sick all over the floor in here anyways." He chuckles a bit. "So… uh… where do we start?"

Moria nods her agreement. "If nothing else, they'd make us clean it up, and that's never fun," she responds, wrinkling her nose in distaste. She then waves a hand at the counter. "Pull up a seat. I'll grab a couple things and be right back." Suiting action to words, she moves toward a nearby desk.

K'ael nods and chuckles. "No, it's not. I haven't had to clean anything like that up since I last went drinking with Cenlia." There's a nod to the journeywoman and the bronzer pulls up a seat like he's told. He was expecting to be blowing through a tube near fire! Apparently there was some prep-work involved though.

Moria returns quickly, settling a couple of charts and a jar full of something powdery onto the table. "Before actually handling hot glass, I want to be sure you know a little bit about what glass is, and how it behaves. That way, you are less likely to be surprised by something when handling the glass, and thus, less likely to be hurt. And believe me, you do /not/ want to come into contact with molten glass. It hurts."

K'ael peers at the items she sets down. "Alright… Isn't glass just sand? Weathered down rock or the like? I guess it makes sense to learn about it though… for when it is hot. I don't really want to get burned, no. I like the healers here, but not that much. So… what do I need to know?"

Moria's lips twitch, like she wants to smile, but is trying very hard to remain the detached teacher here. "Glass is actually more than just sand. Sand is a necessary part, but there are other components. In general, sand is mixed with an alkali material, such as ash, red-lead, or sea-salt. We use salt and ash a lot for low-grade glass, and red-lead with niter to make high-end glass. The sand and the alkali are ground to fine bits, and heated to create a substance we call frit. That's what is in the jar."

K'ael peers at Moria, trying to follow along as best as he can. "Okay… so glass is sand and some other stuff… This alkali stuff. Alright…" He picks up the jar to look at the powder. "Frit. Right. And this is what gets melted down to make the glass, then?" He turns the jar to watch the way the powder moves.

Moria nods, tapping the jar as he looks at it. "The sand and alkali blend to make the frit, and the frit in turn can be turned into glass." She actually does smile now, leaning against the counter again. "Frit is where glass blowing starts. We heat it in the forge in a crucible, and start working it when it reaches and even consistency."

Yes, K'ael is a farmboy. But he's not dumb! You couldn't be dumb and be an effective weyrleader, after all. Or so he likes to think. "I see. How do you tell when it's even then? By looking at it, or how it moves or something? How hot does it have to get usually? Do you put it right in the flames, or just hover it over? Maybe it would be easier if you showed me so I don't question you to death." He grins to her.

Moria laughs at his rapid fire questions. "It's a visual thing - the molten glass takes on a certain tone when it is ready. That's usually around two thousand degrees. Which is cooler than the sand mixture when making frit." She takes the jar, walks over to the forge and dumps the jar into a metal bin. "I have a batch of glass ready for working, but I'll put this in to heat for the next crafter."

K'ael grins and nods to her. "Heh, alright. That all gets pretty hot. We get gloves or something, right? I'm not clumsy or anything, I'm just you know. A beginner. Or are you going to do all the blowing? I might mess it up and waste the glass or something. Is it reusable?" There's a nod about the frit, and he gets up to follow her.

Moria slides the tin into the first section of the forge, which is labeled with a metal plate 'furnace'. "We don't touch the glass ever, and need the grip of our skin on the rob when blowing," she explains as she uses tongs to pull another tin out of the furnace, bringing it into the heated area at the front of the forge. "This is glass, molten in a crucible, ready to be gathered, shaped and blown." She glances back to him, lips twitching again. "And yes, it can be reused. We call it cullet."

K'ael nods to her. "I wouldn't think you would… but is there ever like… risk of splash or sparks or something? Why do you need to touch the rod?" K'ael is trying hard to focus on the task at hand, though it was tempting to make comments about gripping rods and blowing of course. He peers at the glass. "Okay… so how do we do this, then?"

Moria lifts a rod, which is metal on the end near her but clay at the far end, neatly linked together. "Unless you are very, very clumsy, or make a major mistake, the only risk you have with blowing glass is the glass bubble at the end bursting, which is why glasscrafters wear long sleeves, vests, and goggles. There's an overcoat at my desk you can wear if you actually want to try blowing glass today, but I'd recommend some breath exercises first so you don't accidentally inhale, or exhale heavily, when using the rod." She pauses, twirling the rod. "We use rods to insert air into the glass, causing it to expand and harden around the air pocket. With careful reheating and gathering, you can make very large, smooth orbs. Which is what the apprentice broke!"

K'ael nods to her. "Er… How often does that happen? Like at first, I mean. I'm sure you hardly ever burst your bubble." Even if she might burst the bubble of hopeful bronzers. "I.. er… maybe next time. This time I'll just watch. Maybe you can teach me some exercises to practice or something in the meantime." He blinks, then chuckles at her. "I see. Is it time for blowing now?"

Moria shrugs slightly, dipping the end of the rod into the molten glass and slowly turning to coat the clay at the end of the tube. "Generally, apprentices practice breathing for several weeks before trying their first blowing. If they pay attention to their instructor, they usually only have one or two bursts every few months as they try larger projects. It's a fairly smooth learning curve." Lifting the rod out of the crucible, she smiles. "I'll show you a few exercises. And yes, it is time for blowing now." Keeping the rod over the crucible, she raises the metal end to her lips.

K'ael watches her intently. This was the neat part! He was interested in all the knowledge, but really this was what he came to see really. "I see. That sounds pretty intense then. Maybe I can practice breathing on my rounds or something." He grins to her, stepping back to allow her to work. "If I make you laugh while you're working do I get sent to master Erwin next time?"

Moria rolls her eyes at K'ael question, placing one hand on the section of rod just past the opening, thumb toward her mouth. "Please, don't. Laughing means inhaling, which means glass in the mouth, and if you're unlucky, lungs." Ouch much? Taking a slow breath, she places her lips on the opening and carefully puffs a mouthful of air into the rod. Immediately, she slides her thumb over the opening and pulls her mouth back. Without uncovering the opening, she carefully turns the rod as the glass at the end begins to expand.

K'ael blinks at her. "Ooookay then. I'm just going to sit here and be quiet." Yes. Glass in the lungs doesn't sound pleasant. He watches her work. What was she doing with her thumb? "Wow. I don't know if I'm coordinated enough to do all of that. My orb would probably end up looking like a lumpy tuber, I think. Yours looks nice and pretty though."

Moria snorts, since it is safe to do so with the rod away from her lips. "I've been doing this for almost ten years. I've had a lot of practice." She dips the slightly bulging glass into the crucible again, turning to gather more liquid glass against what she already has on the rod. "I wasn't nearly this smooth at sealing the rod when I started, nor at turning it to prevent a wobbly shape. The wobbly shape is easy to fix, though. I just don't have the tools on hand - I wasn't planning to do anything spectacular for the first lesson."

K'ael grins to her. "Heh, I guess so. Ten turns ago I was still running around in the fields picking grapes with my brothers. I wasn't ever that good at anything to warrant a craft." Which is probably why he's so interested in other people's. "Are you going to finish that, or let it melt back into… uh what was it… the reused glass stuff?"

Moria shakes her head slightly. "My parents are crafters, and were very encouraging of all of us," as in her siblings, "to pick a craft quickly and get settled in. While my siblings went with the family crafts, I was fascinated by glasswork, and made sure I could go to Landing at the first opportunity." She glances at the crucible, lifting the rod back out. "I'm adding glass - gathering - so I can continue adding air. I don't want the shell to get too thin or it will break. The heat lets the new layer adhere to the old, and when I blow, they will stretch together."

K'ael nods to her. "My parents were… farmers. Well, my father was. My mother was actually weyrbred. Most of my brothers are farmers, too. Except R'miel. He left home was I was a kid to 'find himself' or whatever. And came back five years later with a dragon. After that I decided I was going to leave the hold to be closer to the dragons, so when I was old enough I went to Telgar, then to Ista." He nods to her. "And you just keep doing it over and over again to make it bigger then, I take it. Until it's the size you want… do you let it cool all the way down on the rod?"

Moria listens as she continues to twirl the rod, making sure the glass is smoothly disbursed. "There's nothing wrong with that. And look where being farmbred got you! Bronze rider, Wingleader, even a Weyrleader for a time. I'd say you did fairly well for yourself." She shakes her head at his question. "When I have reached the size and thickness I want, I will use a tool to help separate the glass from the rod without breaking it, and then place it in the annealing oven. However, I think I'll just demonstrate a bit further on this piece before cooling it for cullet. There isn't anything I particularly want to make right now, that would be short enough a process to show in a single lesson."

K'ael chuckles. "I guess so. I don't think I'd consider any of that skill though. You have a talent. Something no one can take from you. Not that anyone can take Azaeth from me, but you get what I'm saying." He nods, watching the spinning glass bulb. "Ah, alright. Do you ever make custom orders? It's tempting to commission you for something, but I'm not sure what. Maybe a vase for my mother or something similar." He scratches his chin.

Moria shrugs, taking a moment to puff another bit of air into the rod before she answers, letting the glass expand while she speaks. "I have one /kind/ of talent, but you obviously have a talent for leadership, or you wouldn't have any of those things - dragon or the ranks you've held. I just have a talent that is easier to see the results of." She nods then. "I do take commissions, though depending on the type of item you want I might recommend someone else - certain projects are better suited to other forms of glasswork, like molding. I worked with my friend Tresha on an order from the Weyrwoman for Lady Ryeira's wedding gift."

K'ael shrugs. "I guess, maybe. The age old question of if the dragon chooses the man or makes the man. Would you stand if you had the opportunity?" The bronzer nods to her about the commissions. "Mm. So what kind of glasswork do you specialize in? I guess I don't know the difference between them. Would a vase be molding, then?"

Moria echoes the shrug, carefully lowering the edge of the glass to roll along the clean, shiny steel that frames the forge, shaping the glass to a more orb-like shape rather than oblong. "I don't think a dragon can make something out of nothing. It has to be there in the first place. They might enhance or reduce something, but how could they create something new?" She shrugs again with the motion of the shaping. "I really don't know if I would stand. I've never been asked, and I don't imagine I will be at this point - I've been at Xanadu for over a year and seen several clutches on the sands in that time." She pauses before answering the last question. "It depends on the size of vase, and what kind of style. Some can be molded, but usually they are blown. I generally focus on smaller blown objects, like lightbulbs and wine glasses. And beads. I sometimes do larger things, but we have some masters who really specialize in those large objects who are much better than I am."

K'ael nods to the journeywoman. "I suppose you're right. I guess I just never saw myself as much of a leader. That was more Ram and Azrael's deal. Maybe being the youngest warped my self perception or something." He chuckles a bit, then shrugs to her. "Some people don't get asked until they're older." The bronzer seems to consider her response a bit. "Well… I'd have to think on it. It would be more personal to me if you made it than if some master I've never met did. We about ready for lunch?"

Moria laughs, shaking her head at K'ael remarks. "Well, according to a mindhealer I once knew, everyone has warped self perceptions, so you should be just fine," she assures him. Once the glass has cooled enough to be relatively firm, she lifts a tool and deftly separates it from the rod, before slipping on a glove and dropping the form into a cullet barrel. "Do that. In the mean time, yes, lunch sounds wonderful. Just let me finish cleaning this up, and you can bombard me with more questions over… whatever you brought." She suits action to words and finishes stowing things away before letting K'ael lead the way to somewhere cooler to eat.

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