Expanding Air

Expanding Air- working title

Expanding Air was born out of the test phase for the chrysalis project. I was lucky to be able to have Brian Corr and D.H. McNabb blow a couple of large forms for me at Pilchuck in 2016. 

working in the hot shop

working in the hot shop

carrying the pieces into the forrest

carrying the pieces into the forrest

We brought the glass pieces into the forrest to a place I had found and wanted to use for the Images.

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I hope that I will have the chance to continue this series with more glass pieces and different locations.

Mold less Pâte de Verre

In the Spring of 2014, while in residence at the Bullseye Bay Area Research Center I stumbled into what would occupy my investigative interest for the next years to come.
Working on a large wall piece titled “Rorschach” I was mixing up batches of black glass enamel to create the inkblot patterns of the piece. In spilling a jar of the enamel paint I wiped it up with a paper towel and remembered the organic burn out technique used in ceramics where organic material are dipped into slip casting clay. The clay soaked materials turn in the firing into solid clay objects as the original material burns away. I put the enamel soaked paper towel in the kiln and fired it. Which turned into the first moldless pate de verre object I created. With little intension, other than a curiosity of what would happen I had no idea what the moment of spilling enamel would start off.

working on Rorschach

working on Rorschach

The fired paper towel

The fired paper towel

Now over three years later, I have arrived at a stage where things have become quite a bit more complex. In the past years I have developed a variety of types of glass pastes that have specialized characteristics to fulfill specific requirements. I created a glass paste with a consistency of whipped cream that can easily be spread onto a surface and has the ability to stay in place and not run off.

The white appearing forms is the clear paste applied to cardboard forms, before they are coated with a layer of color and fired

The white appearing forms is the clear paste applied to cardboard forms, before they are coated with a layer of color and fired

The finished and fired forms

The finished and fired forms

Out of this spreadable paste, I was also able to make sheets of paste, which cut into shapes I am able to assemble into objects. As I started working on pieces created out of components a gluing paste was an important product to develop, with a worklife long enough to complete the joining process, that would dry into a hard, non-flexible material to reduce stress on the joints of the pieces while being handled before firing.

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I have also developed a paste that behaves like clay. It is just as moldable as clay and can be rolled out into sheets, cut with cookie cutters, pushed through an extruder and hand molded into the desired object.

The moldable paste

The moldable paste

The same past's extruded using a custom milled die.

The same past's extruded using a custom milled die.

I had worked through trial and error for two years in my studio, pushing my way through a number of challenges that had to be solved. How to support the pieces during the firing, What binders will burn out stain free, how to construct the supporting structures onto which the pastes are applied, how to solve drying shrink and firing shrink…
Two years earlier, when I applied for the Technology Advancing Glass Art Grant in the summer of 2014 I had only started working on this method and had not much more than a vague idea of what might be possible. Seeing the potential but also the amount of resources it would take to become serious about developing this process I submitted my application to the TAG Grant. Without the commitment I had entered into through receiving the TAG Grant I would have abandoned the project at some point. It has been a very difficult process.
In the summer of 2016 I started the Specialty Glass Residency at the Corning Inc. research Facility in Sullivan Park. Together with Dr. Patrick Teppesch we refined pastes and created new ones. This  half year in 2016 was the most exciting time, because I wasn’t alone in a less than ideal studio situation, without tools and materials, but connected to a facility where any chemical is available, measuring techniques and charting was a given part of the process. It was an environment set up to do just what I needed.

A lot of my time was taken up by creating pastes. What I had applied to the TAG Grant with was the need of rapid prototyping for this project.
Removing the plaster silica mold from creating pate de verre, I had to come up with other materials onto which the glass paste could be applied. The first paste I developed was the spreadable paste. Cardboard was an easily moldable material out of which almost anything can be constructed. In the beginning I would cut the cardboard models by hand, spending days to cut, crease and fold up three-dimensional geometric forms onto which I could brush the glass paste.

Manual cardboard construction and creation process

Manual cardboard construction and creation process

The finished piece, The Boat-2014

The finished piece, The Boat-2014

This being highly inefficient and time consuming I started creating the cardboard forms in the 3d modeling program Rhino and laser cutting the cardboard. Rhino can turn any three dimensional structure into a flat layout, which can be imported into the laser cutter operating program. In either program you can also assign details of your layout to be on the cut layer and the etch layer. The etch layer will create a partial cut into the material, which can be used as crease lines. Moving the creative process of the cardboard into the digital realm simplified the labor of the making process.

Laser cut cardboard forms ready for assembly

Laser cut cardboard forms ready for assembly

3d scan of Kieran, with reduced polygon mesh parts for cutting and assembly

3d scan of Kieran, with reduced polygon mesh parts for cutting and assembly

used and removed cardboard forms, ready to be reused

used and removed cardboard forms, ready to be reused

cut and partially assembled head

cut and partially assembled head

The incredible advantage of 3d modeling is that relative speed in which anything can be created. No actual materials and resources are being used to figure out a form and changing your mind about what you make doesn’t mean that you have to throw away lots of materials but you just change your model. Making decisions before they become physical reality is an incredibly helpful feature. Unfortunately the learning curve for these programs and machines is long and slow and the speed at which they programs get upgraded makes it hard to follow along. Also the availability to the general public of such technologies is still lacking. I was fortunate enough to be able to use the maker space of the Human Centered Design and Engineering Program at the University of Washington, both as a Graduate student and as an alumni.
With the development of the clay-like paste I needed to make my own tools to be able to extrude the paste into shapes. I created dies for a simple extruder through which the pastes are pushed. I have been using an OtherMill, which is a small desktop milling machine. The drawback of this machine is the speed at which it can cut. Milling my own tools required me to learn an additional number of programs.

The OtherMill and program showing the progress on the milling time

The OtherMill and program showing the progress on the milling time

Some dies

Some dies

The die modeled in Rhino.

The die modeled in Rhino.

A die and extruded paste

A die and extruded paste

In the Maker Space at the University of Washington I was also introduced to Virtual Reality modeling. It is the newest bit of technology and still in progress of becoming a great tool. Virtual Reality modeling or VR modeling can be learned in an extremely short period of time and the modeling happens in a three-dimensional space, in which you as the maker are part of.

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Wearing a large headset, with glasses and headphones, your hands holding remote controls that feature buttons you become part of the computer generated space. Two cameras track your motion and through your headset you see a virtual rendering of your hands. The controls let you draw and paint in the virtual space and through your headset you can see everything appear in front of you. Being able to sculpt in the same space instead inside a flat screen in front of you helps you create complex objects that are proportioned in relation the real space.

Some of the objects I modeled in VR

Some of the objects I modeled in VR

I had often found it hard to model on the computer inside a grid, without any physical reference, which is usually the case when sculpting in the real world. Anything you model in VR can be plugged into other existing programs, turned into templates for laser cutting or 3d printing. In the future I hope this program will continue to become more refined with more features as it opens up new way of sculpting forms quickly, without the restraint of gravity and materiality before producing them in the real world.

The 3d model imported into Slicer to prepare for laser cutting

The 3d model imported into Slicer to prepare for laser cutting

Laser cut parts

Laser cut parts

The two parts of the TAG Grant project, the development of the pastes and the application of rapid prototyping needed to happen in tandem to be able to create new forms. In the future I hope to refine this technique. There are still a lot of problems to be solved and questions to be answered before it is an easily applicable process. 

Chrysalis

Chrysalis- Work in Progress, Corning Inc. Research residency

In the summer of 2016 I started the Specialty Glass Residency in upstate New York. The Specialty Glass Residency is a joint program of The Corning Museum of Glass and Corning Incorporated that supports artists in exploring the use of specialty glass materials to inform their body of work.

One of the materials I was introduced to at Corning was a glass ceramic of the Rhino glass product family developed by Corning Inc. The Rhino glass ceramics consist of different compositions, each formulated for different purposed such as bullet proof vest shields, ceramic teeth filling, countertops and pressed table ware. The basic characteristics of the glass ceramic is its working properties. You batch the raw materials and melt them in a furnace from where you can extract it for your usage. It works best if you can shape a product in one heat. If the glass ceramic ( clear when initially heated) cools below a certain temperature range, is heated up again, via a flame or oven, it will start forming crystals in the heat. These crystals are visible at the beginning as small seed crystals that will continue transforming the glass into a ceramic as you work. 

Seed crystals visible in a blown form. These seed crystals formed by gathering multiple times glass over the previously cooled start.

Seed crystals visible in a blown form. These seed crystals formed by gathering multiple times glass over the previously cooled start.

One blown form before reheating it and after it has been transformed into the ceramic after heating it.

One blown form before reheating it and after it has been transformed into the ceramic after heating it.

The challenges with this material is, that you can not work it easily in the hot shop and blow it into forms, because as you need to constantly reheat the material to keep it soft and workable and to not make it crack as it can cool too fast. Another problem you face is that glass heats unevenly. Where it is hotter it transforms fast. This leads to having part of your form being glass and the other ceramic. Even though both materials are originating from the same source, the properties are so different that one incompatible with the other. That leads to the piece breaking, unless you either transform it fully or not transform it at all. Typically this material is used for press molding or sheet forming. To take this glass into the hot shop was very challenging. Glass is a soft skin, that can be inflated by gently blowing air into it through the blow pipe. Once the glass on your pipe turns into ceramic, it become rock hard and can't be inflated.

When working with it I was captured by the crystal formation in the clear material. The slow whitening and changing of a material body into a different one was captivating. 

Streaks and textures as well as a milky translucent color are the visual striking properties of Rhino when blown.

Streaks and textures as well as a milky translucent color are the visual striking properties of Rhino when blown.

I learned that Rhino glass was extremely shock resistant and strong. Looking at the first bubbles we blew, I was reminded of a chrysalis and thinking about the possibility of this material to be able to support my weight I wanted to make a form that was large enough for me to get inside of.

So the team of the Corning Museum of Glass and I set out to blow a form, large enough for me to be in.

In the hot shop at the Museum

In the hot shop at the Museum

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After some trying we figured out the process pretty well. Watch a short video Corning produced during the initial phase here:

The still glassy bubbles, with seed crystals for the ceramic transformation embedded, had to be placed back into a kiln to bring them back up to the temperature they needed to turn into the ceramic. In order to do that they needed to be supported from the inside as they would otherwise collapse. When we started the project we didnt know about the issue of having to support them during the firing. Corning ordered loose fiber frax to stuff the bubble with for us.... Unfortunately the material arrive first months later at the end of the residency.
Unsure if we could do the second, required step of this process, we decided to shift production course as the months went by without the material arriving.

In the second phase we tested different modes to generate a chrysalis form. ranging from making it from round, fitting sections, to constructing it out of parts.

Tests for construction from Parts and shards

Tests for construction from Parts and shards

Jeff Mack with a blown form for round sections. Dr. Jane Cook, Chief Scientist at the Museum in the background

Jeff Mack with a blown form for round sections. Dr. Jane Cook, Chief Scientist at the Museum in the background

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A full scale chrysalis model in my studio, to better understand the look and workings of it.

A full scale chrysalis model in my studio, to better understand the look and workings of it.

In the end we settled on blowing small, one gather lollipop shapes, that can be combined into a large surface, like scales.

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In the past half year I have moved away from a chrysalis form that resembles that of an animal. I have recently started constructing the form of the chrysalis from a rock that I found. 
 

The rock and its models.

The rock and its models.

From this rock I will construct the form for the chrysalis, over which the skin made of glass ceramic scales will be placed.

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Drawings of each face of the rock. Studies and interpretations.

Drawings of each face of the rock. Studies and interpretations.

Book of Breath

The Book of Breath - work in progress

In 2014 I created a small piece, consisting of a simple strip of mirror, onto which I wrote the words- Next to Nothing- with Rain X. Rain X is used on windshields to make the rain run off easier.As an ink it is invisible on the glass, but will inhibit the glass to fog over when breathing onto it. 

In the summer of 2016 I started the Specialty Glass Residency in upstate New York. The Specialty Glass Residency is a joint program of The Corning Museum of Glass and Corning Incorporated that supports artists in exploring the use of specialty glass materials to inform their body of work.
In connection with the Coatings Lab. at Corning Inc.  I was able to expand the initial test into a book project. With the help of the incredible knowledgeable and talented Senior Research Scientist Wageesha Senaratne and Dr. Prantik Mazumder we figured out what coatings to use on the glass, how to avoid the coating processes to interfere with each other and how to use the thinnest glass possible for the pages of the book.

First piece from 2014, Next to Nothing.

First piece from 2014, Next to Nothing.

Learning about the difference between hydrophillic and hydrophobic with Dr. Prantik Mazumder at Corning Inc.  

Learning about the difference between hydrophillic and hydrophobic with Dr. Prantik Mazumder at Corning Inc.  

The book making process at Corning was a multiple step process, after we had decided on layout, fond type, coating method and glass type. 
We ended up using a 0.4mm thick Gorilla Glass. This is the type of glass we have in our mobile devices. 
The glass had in the first step to be cut in the laser cutting lab. After cleaning we inkjet printed the text on the glass pages in Corning's printing lab. The black lettering was used as a resist stencil which we later removed after we had applied the first set of coatings. 

In the laser cutting and printing lab with Matthew Fenton and Michael Gaj. Looking at the process of the book project.

In the laser cutting and printing lab with Matthew Fenton and Michael Gaj. Looking at the process of the book project.

After the printing was done, the pages were sent off to the coatings lab, where they received the first set of coatings. For this step the glass had to be ultra clean and the process is done in clean room environments to ensure that the coatings cover the glass without any faults.
After that we took over the last step of coatings and the removal of the inkjet print.

In the lab with Wageesha Senaratne coating pages. The solid black block at the edge of the page to the right is where the book binding will be. The printed ink resist ensures proper adherence for the binding, as the coatings we used are designs to prevent smudges. That would interfere with any glues used for the binding later on.

In the lab with Wageesha Senaratne coating pages. The solid black block at the edge of the page to the right is where the book binding will be. The printed ink resist ensures proper adherence for the binding, as the coatings we used are designs to prevent smudges. That would interfere with any glues used for the binding later on.

After the pages were coated we dipped them in a liquid that would lift off the ink from the page. A little help with a razor blade enabled us to remove it fully.

Scraping off the ink.

Scraping off the ink.

testing the coating quality in the finished pages.

Breath reveals the writing on the now completely clear page.

Breath reveals the writing on the now completely clear page.

the text can also be filled with water and sits proud in the writing. 

the text can also be filled with water and sits proud in the writing. 

The next step now is to bind the book and make the case it will be in. Stay tuned.

This is one of the pages activated...