Luke Jerram Day 4


Today we visited Luke at his Spike Island studio in Bristol. We drew up into the ground floor loading bay, and entered his Batcave. Like a cabinet of wonders, all kinds of objects, prototypes and references were gathered together, on the floor and on the shelves that lined the room. There was a water slide, like the one used for his ‘park and slide’ installation; some glass objects from Washington; parts of the ‘Maya’ face (pixelated girl project), along with glimpses of Luke’s past projects and hundreds of ideas for future projects that he keeps on a spreadsheet. Exhausted, having just returned from Singapore, Luke watched as we unveiled some ‘figure in a blanket’ fired glass test pieces.

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Figure in a Blanket
Luke liked the initial test in clear glass, which had run over the edges and even pulled a hole into a section where the cloth was folded under and it had become too hot. These were set onto a light box, and it was agreed that the firing temperature was good and that the fabric should cover the whole kiln shelf, right to the edge.  This will allow more excess to flow onto the blanket footing and Helga can round off the corners with a glass cutter. Before Luke’s next visit we’ll do some more mock leg tests, perhaps with thicker glass (6mm), but we will have to think about how heavy the final figure will be.

Back to our samples and a green glass sample was not so well received, but was a great comparison for Luke to appreciate the quality of the clear glass. Luke is also not too concerned about thin patches, which is good as this is more likely if we are to go to higher temperatures to pick up more texture from the material.  The texture of the weave, the relief of stitching and the folds of the fabric all lend significant qualities to the work, and when we thought collectively of using Perspex as a substitute material, we all realised just how significant the material of glass was.

Luke’s idea is to place these glass versions of blanketed figures in lit doorways in cities to represent the ghostly figures of the homeless, and suggest their invisibility and fragility.  Watch this space!


The American Flag …Size Matters.
Our investigations using the high temperature material has given Luke another idea, and we move on to discuss a rendition in glass of the American flag. The work will involve creating a transparent glass flag that will have the impression, in relief, of the American flag. The form should also appear to have movement, as if the cloth were hanging. It could made by slumping into a mould and we talked about the various techniques we could use to fix the flag (for taking a cast) such as hanging and spraying with a hardener. We also looked at how we might pick up the relief detail of this iconic design, such as stitching directly into the high temperature blanket, or obtaining a flag with relief stitching. Luke also wants the flag pieces to be commercial and saleable …internationally. Of course actual flags are fairly large, and glass versions that size would be difficult to transport, so the plan is to produce, smaller, A3 size pieces. While the work itself is potentially a beautiful piece of hanging art, the commercial aspect is undeniable ironic. We will source a flag or flags to begin testing on our next session.


Musical Blues
Luke was pleased to see his harmonica, encased in its thick surround of glass, although the metal had melted a fair bit, and had lost significant detail of its former musical self. Brass has a tendency to blacken and dull, although this was bright in places.  More experimenting is needed to extract some decent results from this, maybe cleaning, sandblasting the metal and ensuring the carbon is extracted. The mummified harmonica is shelved for now, but a shelf in the batcave is not insignificant, it is an evocative paperweight with a memory Luke’s youth.

Continuing with the musical theme we looked at the encased trumpet. This was so exciting in its hot molten form. Unfortunately here the process most definitely exceeded the product as although one could find some exciting parts in the extensive cracking that radiated out into interesting optical effects, overall the piece felt unresolved. Perhaps we’ll try a reheat in the kiln to see how much stress is produced a second time around and with a different process.

We’re back in the studio at the Hub for Luke Day 5 next week…


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