Giberson's first major invention
was his most important -- and lucrative. In 1968, he patented a new kind of burner head. As he tells it, necessity was the
mother of this invention: "I was using my first furnace. I had a metal burner in there. Glass furnaces heat up to about
2500 degrees sometimes, and metal melts around 2350. These burners started disintegrating and making a mess! I came up with
a ceramic burner that is impervious -- not totally impervious to heat, but you can't really melt it. I have a burner that
I've been using for almost thirty years, and that's unheard-of with a metal one."
His burner is still used in the vast majority of glass studios. Over the years, he has invented an entire line of
studio gear: kilns, burners, heating elements, annealers. In fact, it's not unreasonable to argue that Giberson's gear has
provided a foundation for the studio-art movement. His equipment is practical; it stands up to extreme conditions; and it's
designed by an artist to serve the needs of an artist.
Although he sells his own line
of studio equipment, Giberson encourages other artists to roll their own: "Absolutely. They need to learn how to weld,
how to manage iron, to be a toolmaker of sorts, and they need some rudimentary design skills." His book, The Glassblower's Companion, is full of information about building a glass studio; and he has always been generous with advice for any artist
who needs help with the process.
The inventions have given Giberson the freedom to follow his muse, and
that has been something of a loss to the art world. In recent years, as he has pursued his inquiries into ancient techniques,
he has produced very little new work.
It might seem odd that an artist would turn
away from his own art, and dedicate himself to rediscovering techniques that are thousands of years old. But to him, that
was literally a Golden Age for glass. "Over time, glass has had such a wide range of value," he explains. "In
ancient times, it was worth its weight in gold. Today, it's hardly worth anything; we throw it away." Through his research,
he is connecting to a time when glass was purely a creative medium, not an industrial product.