The MIT Glass Lab held its annual Great Glass Pumpkin Patch on Saturday, with two thousand blown-glass pumpkins spread out for sale on the Kresge oval. The sale was held from 10am to 3pm, and when I stopped by at 10:30 the field was already swarmed. The director of the lab said that this was a light year because of the rain — some years, people start lining up at 7am to get first crack at the pumpkins. A lot of people also brought laundry baskets or fruit pallets so that they could pick multiple pumpkins and then decide on their favorites later; fortunately most people kept their pumpkin-hoarding moderate, and were good about putting back the ones they’d decided against.
The members of the lab work year-round to make all two thousand pumpkins — there’s a PDF description of the process here — and the pumpkin sale is the main source of funding for the lab each year. The pumpkins ranged from $20 for the smallest ones all the way up to $2,000 for one incredibly elaborate not-quite-millefiori pumpkin, but the majority were in the slightly more reasonable $70-$110 range.I didn’t buy a pumpkin for myself this year, since I’m hoping to join the lab and help make them, but they were so, so tempting. My favorite was the ghost pumpkin, which was the only one made of frosted glass. I love that because it’s white-on-white, it skews way more towards “art piece” than “Halloween decoration”; no one would raise an eyebrow if you had it on display in March.Even though I chose my favorite pretty quickly, I really enjoyed walking around and seeing the artistry that went into all of the pumpkins. There was a huge variety of color combinations and patterns, from purple-polka-dotted to clear-with-a-green-stem to ornate striping to one pumpkin that looked like one of Monet’s lily paintings, another that reminded me vividly of Starry Night, and one that looked like a Wyland painting.
The most expensive pumpkins were of course the most elaborate and most time-consuming to make, because they were tiled or unusually detailed in some way. Three had the MIT logo on them, one was…well, I wish I knew what the process was, but the pumpkin had an orange base with green leaves and lizards in bas-relief. It was both stunning and stunningly expensive. Other pumpkins were striped with very intricate caning, and a few looked like someone had painted on them with the end of a glass rod.There were also a few scattered gourds and squashes in the mix; I imagine they were from when the glass artists needed a break from the last fifty pumpkins.It was great to see the talents of the faculty and students in the lab, and to see the huge community interest in an MIT tradition that isn’t quite as science-and-engineering focused (although the lab is based in Course 3, Materials Science. So they work it in somewhere!)On top of that, glassblowing’s a very hands-on art, and I’m oddly happy that the reaction to having the Glass Lab at MIT has been “that’s awesome, where can I sign up?” instead of “don’t we have robots for that?”
It’s a bit of the old world at a high-tech school, and I’m incredibly glad it’s here.