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.