Last night was class #2 of my 6 part series on glass blowing. It is already very apparent that this process is one that you can pick up relatively quickly, but in order to be good at it, you need to practice at least weekly.
At this point we've been taught the different parts of the shop and tools - Furnace, Glory Hole, Pipe Warmer, Bench, Punty, Blow Pipe, Marver, Jacks, Tweezers, Blocks, etc.
I've been taught how to gather glass out of the furnace on a punty - the solid metal stick about 4.5' long. Some have foam grips, some don't. Some are longer than others. It is better if you gather glass fast - you get more on your punty this way. The process for gathering is thus - Get a partner to operate the door of the furnace for you. Have them crack the door open, insert your punty at an angle, while resting on the furnace's interior shelf, until the shadow of it touches the end, make 3 full rotations of the punty, gathering glass on it like twirling cotton candy onto a stick. Level out the punty, still resting on the shelf, and give it three more twirls. Pull the punty and glob of molten glass out of the furnace, and rotate, always rotate, to keep the glass centered on the stick. From here you take it over to a short stainless steal table and "marve" it - roll it back and forth gently at first and then with increasing pressure to force the glass out into a rounded ended cylinder.
We made paperweights with bubbles using this gathering as a base, tweezing out air pockets and then gathering over it. I'm finding that "blocking" - the process of using large water-soaked hardwood spoon-looking contraptions to be the most difficult. You have to keep your punty or blowpipe rolling on the bench, and press up with the block with as much force or more than you are pressing down on the punty/pipe and rolling at the same time.
The last thing we did last night was to make weighted spheres - We gathered over a blow pipe, blew out a starter bubble, gathered over it, and then in a series of marving, marving at a 45* angle, heating, and blowing, we made basically glass bubbles.
Blowing glass take a tremendous amount of lung. Not just capacity, but the ability to force it out hard enough to break into the glass and get that starter bubble going. Also, glass blowing is kind of a team sport - at least in the beginning, you really do need friends to help you with the furnace door, blowing at the bench, and shielding your arm while using the Jack to incise a breaking off line for your piece.