Craftspeople from all over the country are coming to Moon Marble's annual Marble Crazy convention to demonstrate the nearly forgotten art of the molded-glass orb. Visitors can witness the two prominent marble-making methods at six demonstration areas. In "lamp working," for example, artists use a mix of oxygen and propane to torch rods of colored glass until they become malleable enough to twist, then they roll the colorful molten blob into a mold, which goes into the kiln. Others prefer to melt down hard Pyrex glass in the face-baking heat of a furnace, from which they draw scalding dollops of semifluid glass to fashion into perfect spheres.
"Most people don't realize what goes into making a single marble," says Brian Heikes, house artist at Moon Marble. He explains that a single marble -- nothing too fancy, just your average swirl -- takes at least 20 minutes of torching, twisting and rolling, depending on the method and the type of glass.
Heikes compares marbles to bell-bottoms, pointing out that, if those heinous pants can become popular again, anything can happen.
"They don't have batteries, and they don't plug in," he says of the antiquated toys, "but they are one-of-a-kind art pieces, and those usually aren't this much fun."