Upstate New York

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After Niagra Falls, our next stop was the Eastman House museum of photography in Rochester. Plans to go to Maine had evaporated. Everything was going to be closed for the season. Eastman house was pretty neat. It was in a beautiful old section of Rochester, with huge old stone mansions on big lots on both sides of the road. Quite a house. Much more lavish (though from a different time period) than the Plantation homes in the south. The museum has some photography stuff, but is mostly a museum of Eastmans life. Well, for the regular tourist anyway. It does have some well presented articles on the "truth" of photography that make one pause to think, but for the most part, the photography part of the musuem is quite small. There's a huge huge archive of prints, negs, slides and videos, but they are used for research purposes, it's more of a working museum in that regard.

But the tour of Eastman's life is very worthwhile anyway. Rather eccentric, but exceedingly generous, he spent lots and lots of his money on dental clinics for the poor, and schools. (Even though some of those schools later on turned to bite the hand that fed them) The house is lovely, and our tour guide was charming and humourous. (What on earth did you come here in winter for?) It did seem that not everyone liked her though, as I heard a couple of people in our group grumble and complain, and one eve left groaning that she couldn't take it anymore. Uptight midwesterners.

For christmas, the house was full of ginger bread houses. These had all been made by locals, and even some staff. Some were made by girl scouts, and primary schools, some were made by cake makers. All sorts of wonderful gingerbread. They were all up for a silent auction for a charity whose name escapes me at this time. One of the neat things was seeing how the house was set up for entertaining. They had a side door, side stairs and powder room for the ladies. The ladies would enter in here, freshen up, then go upstairs so they could make their grand entrance down the big front stairs into the foyer. Quite an arrangement. Really, a very beautiful house. It was rather dim in here, so there's not many pictures I'm afraid.

Then it was off to Syracuse, to another hostel set in an old mansion. The snow started coming down pretty hard as we got into syracuse, enough to put a few cars on the side of the road. The joy of living in upstate new york. What did we do in Syracuse? Not much. The salt museum was closed for the season :) I went out again, and immensely enjoyed the existence of a brewpub. Ahh culture. The beer wasn't all that great, but it existed at least. We had hoped to go and see ships in the St Lawrence seaway, but we could never get times to work for us.

So we drove off to Corning, to go to the glass museum. What a place. It even turned out to be their expo weekend, so not only was it free entry, but some of their workshops were cheaper too. Cool! We signed up to do some glass blowing, and also some hotglass working, and wandered over to the workshop. What a zoo! People everywhere. Kids, parents, grandparents. It seems it's quite a local tradition to come into Corning and make christmas ornaments. Everyone was extremely friendly the whole day though which was lovely. They had bowls of chocolates and candy canes lying around, and had obviously done this many times before. Had a wonderful time looking at the shop for glass workers, examining all their different sorts of tools. Which are very very expensive mind you. Quite a hobby to get into.

Glass flower making was our first stop. This was pretty neat, though they really were rushing through people. We got the less personable of the two glassworkers running the show unfortunately. Basically, this was taking a gob of molten glass, and by spinning it on the end of a rod, and then pulling it sideways and then lengthways with great big metal tweezers, you ended up with a flower type thing. Some people's flowers looked more like flowers than others :)

It's pretty neat how tied the whole art/science is to heat manipulation. The glass (and there's different sorts) behaves quite differently at each of many different temperatures. They use "scissors" to cut the worked piece off the stem, but they're not scissors like me or you would use. They look like scissors that have great big fat blades. (not wide blades, the blade edge is narrow, but the blade is very wide out behind the edge. If that makes sense) This is because they aren't trying to cut the glass. They use these things to suck heat out of the glass in a straight line, which causes the glass to stress fracture at that point. Pretty cool.

Anyway, our other workshop, making blown glass ornaments was booked solid for the time being, so we went off to go and explore the rest of the museum. This was a delight. Some absolutely beautiful works of art. Some boring normal art that just happens to be glass as well mind you, but some truly stunning works that make use of glass for glass's sake. They also had an excellent museuem of glass through the ages, which was set up for both a short tour and a long tour. Very well thought out. I liked it a lot. And more beautiful beautiful works of art. Some were even functional!

Back to the ornaments at last. This made very pretty ornaments, but we really had very little involment in their creation. We got to choose the colours, and whether we wanted a cone or a ball, but that's really about it. We got to sit down at a work bench, and blow into the blow tube as requested by the helper/real glass blower. Still pretty cool though. Glass blowing represented a critical juncture in the history of glass making. It let people turn out glass commodity products.

We made our ornaments, with more lovely helpful people, and then continued wandering the exhibits and displays, before finally watching a demo of professional glass making in a special auditorium later on. This had a camera mounted inside the glass furnace. This was really impressive. The speed with which the demonstrator turned a lump of glass into a beautiful big vase was truly impressive. And then they just junked it at the end to remelt. They can remelt any glass as long as it hasn't been coloured. Turns out that glassblowers have an extremely long apprenticeship, at over 10 years.

And all this time there was carolling and bands! This was lots of fun, and a lovely day. Highly recommended.

The next day we drove out to Auburn. Mum went to a craft show, and a quilt museum, and I sat in front of a shop and surfed the net. Maybe I did something useful too, but I doubt it.

Then it was off to New York. NEW YORK CITY!

Panelling at Eastman House

Panelling at Eastman House

The Conservatory at Eastman House

Panelling at Eastman House

Panelling at Eastman House

Conservatory detail

Panelling at Eastman House

Railings at Eastman House