Another really cold day, we went to The Glass Hub early to light the fire and try to warm up the barn before picking up Luke from the train station. On the journey back to the studio the conversation with Luke centred on how likely it was that the large piece of glass would survive the ordeal of firing in Yate. KT reckoned on an optimistic 20% chance, Helga less! Luke cogitated on the various probabilities, and then accepted that the sheer enormity/risk/cost/uncertainty of the piece was highly stacked against success!. Welcome to the world of glass. Yet, throughout this residency, he has continually surprised us with his apparent knowledge of glass, be it through research, and also a fair bit of experience in the past. Mostly, Luke seems to have a great logical and practical brain, that he can apply to almost any material or process. Not always having to be the maker, allows him a calm sense of perspective. He has an amazing ability of somehow getting everything done and although never shy of getting his hands dirty, he can make more decisions and get things moving without being bogged down by tedious manual labour.
So we got straight into looking at leg moulds, flag moulds, textures, glass movements, and ways to hang the flags etc. We also discussed the question of size, with the practical issues of shipping etc. arising, as they should with any large scale glass project. Another concern of having a product that needs to be reproduced for an ‘edition’, is creating a mould that will not deteriorate.
For the body mould, the high temperature blanket would last a good few sessions, although it does have a shelf life and is weakening after a few firings. But the refractory mould underneath will never be able to be removed, not in one piece anyhow due to its sheer size…this sad thought of it arriving on a stretcher, and leaving in rubble sacks is a reality, and an important consideration for production costs. A practical solution would be to have a slip cast, ceramic mould made, at least for the flags project. We will discuss this with resident ceramic artist on the farm, Sasha Wardell.
Helga had cast another flag up and slumped glass onto it at a fairly high firing, which seemed hot, but we were really keen to get all details of the stitching picked up. Not quite happy with the grainy surface, she cut holes in a new piece and set the kiln to ramp up to ten degrees more but with less of a soak time, to see if we can get more detail, and less ‘grain’. The grain is from both the flag cotton texture, and the separation of the flag with its colloidal hardener, causing slight “damage” when separating the material from the mould as the flag is pulled off.
We go on to discuss how will these flags be lit? Or hung? How will sandblasting affect the shine? Luke dislikes the plastic look of the top surface, so after a quick blast test on either side of a sample, he makes the decision to sandblast the top side of glass. Whilst we are blasting and cutting and drilling, Luke finds blocks and jugs and objects with which he can set up a “still life” with and drape the high temperature blanket over, to slump glass. This idea is to create a hidden, “disguised”, rather ghostly form of slumped glass. The cloth is too heavy though, and disguises too much, so the objects are carefully painted with batt wash to allow for separation when laying the glass straight over the objects instead. So, as the kilns are switched on, we have one flag going up, and another kiln with two pieces of glass, one round and one square, slumping over everyday objects.
Luke then continues with his sandblasting “termite” project, as he blasts holes in things, but thinks about needing to capture more movement in the glass objects. So we search for the boxed up charity shop glass we collected for previous sessions, and load it up in a kiln on a quick heat cycle, for distortion in the hotshop. It’s ready after a quick late lunch by the fire. And so as Helga is preparing yet another flag mould (the small starts and stripes, polyester and possibly not absorbent enough to harden), we start to work next door.
One by one we pick up and flash, heat and distort, stretching and moving the charity shop glass as if blown by a very hot wind. I attach some waste glass to a punty iron, pick up each object (i.e. a crystal cut decanter), and after a long flash in the glory, Luke arms himself with tweezers and tools and proceeds to play with the glass, pulling and tweeking to really see how the glass moves. Once these have cooled, he will blast holes in them, and see if they present an effect he sees potential in. We decide we need larger objects to be sourced from charity shops for next time…..and possibly get James Devereux in and put on more kilns! Helga finishes the stars and stripes mould, the small one…and we will see next time what happens with the results of a very exciting week!