Past Work

Glass sycamore key


This is one of possibly three development paths that I'm taking on a college project called "Dialogue", where students have been encouraged to experiment, push boundaries, get out of our comfort zones, initially in collaboration with other students - in my case, Val Muddyman and K.J.Greeves.

Fairly early in in the project we decided on a starting point of sycamore keys, which happened to be helicoptering onto the ground in large numbers at the time.  We liked their delicacy and symbolism - procreation, transience, flight, the wind. 

At the end of Part 1 we gave a joint presentation of our work, which I've posted in this blog, covering subsequent developments.  We're going our separate ways in Part 2 - I'm continuing with sycamore keys and the others are pursuing unrelated topics.


I love the delicacy of sycamore keys and a lot of this is tied up with their ultra-thin wings.  In a lot of sculptures of keys the delicacy has been lost because the artist has been forced to thicken the wing to make it strong enough.  I think the result is often rather ugly - see the above blog for some examples.

Initially, I concluded that I would have to scale up a key 2 or 4 times to avoid this, and even then I was thinking of casting the wing in metal so I could get away with a thickness of less than a millimeter.

 Then glass technician Lawrence West showed me some thin glass - a millimeter or less - that he'd blown as bubbles, and that was quite strong.  He suggested scaling things up a lot more, and I decided to give it a try.

  Blowing big glass bubble Lawrence West blowing a big bubble.  He blew 3 and I broke them into pieces.
  Flattening glass in a kiln I put the pieces in this kiln and fired them so they were flattened.

In some cases I overlapped several pieces so they joined together.
  Flattened piece of glass bubble Example of flattened piece of bubble
  Flattened piece of glass bubble Another example.  Reminds me of ice-covered puddles.
  Ceramic mould for glass sycamore seed I've made a couple of half-elipsoids to slump the glass over to form the seed.

This smaller one is 100-mm-long. 

I also made one about 150-mm-long.
  Glass sycamore key ready for firing This is almost 1-metre-long.  The 150-mm-long seed is a bit small but I went with what I had.

I tried to make the surface of the powder resemble the veining of the key, using various methods.  I ended up scrunching up aluminium foil and then flattening it out, laying it on the powder and sciring lines across it with my finger nails.

I cut the flattened glass into smaller pieces.  I started off trying to but them together but ended up realising it would look better if they overlapped.

I placed a glass stringer (rod) along the top edge
  After firing glass sycamore seed After firing, and after making a few remedial fixes before a second firing.
The main remedial fix was chopping off and re-positioning part of the top stringer that had fallen out of position.

I also spotted a couple of holes that I laid extra glass over.

In addition, a bubble had started to form under the largest piece of glass (near the seed in the photo) so we altered the firing cycle a little to try and flatten it and prevent other bubbles forming.
  After second firing of glass sycamore seed Result of second firing.

I hadn't realised I'd left so many holes  in the wing but I quite like them and it probably helped avoid bubbles.

For more on my evaluation of the project to date please see my "Thin Glass" entry in my "Dialogue Research" blog that I'm generating for College.
  extruding a glass stringer Preparations for my follow-up - starting with extruding a glass stringer to run along the top of the wing and up the side of the seed.
  Blown glass seed I got Lawrence West to blow this bubble to create a 3D seed.  It's a flattened elipsoid with some markings on it.  It's big - at least 250-mm-long!
  Bubble and stringer This is how the stringer and seed will fit together.

Lawrence and I have discussed how we (or if) we should join these 2 elements together.
  Bubble and stringer Close-up of the above.
  Mould for glass sculpture I have a plan for bonding the seed to the wing.  I will create the wing in such a way that I can glue the seed in afterwards, using a specialised epoxy resin.

 So step 1 (pictured) is to capture the shape of the seed at its widest point, where it will fit into the wing.   I only need to capture the shape of the seed where it buts on to the wing, which equates to a 2 part mould at this stage.
  Mould for giant sycamore seed Completed mould.

I used this to create a stringer that will curve around the seed and run along the top of the wing.
  Giant glass sycamore seed Giant sycamore seed Mark 2 after firing. 

A couple of pieces of glass had slid off so I did a few minor repairs and re-fired it.

Prior to the first firing, I narrowed the groove in the mould to make sure the glass rod would be pressed against what will be the face of the blown glass seed.
  Giant glass sycamore seed Result of second firing.

Discussed whether I should glue the blown glass seed into the space I've created for it.  

Glenn Carter (lecturer) and Lawrence West (technician) advised against it on the basis that (a) the wing might break if all the force is focused on the "neck" of the stringer, and (b) the curly stringer represents the space occupied by the seed.

I'm not convinced, and I've now bought the specialized epoxy resin to join the 2 elements together.  It's called HXTAL-NYK-1 from Creative Craft.  Here's an info sheet on it.

  Gluing glass sycamore key I went ahead and tried gluing the seed to the wing.

  Mixing the epoxy proved a bit disastrous  - the weighing scales stopped working while I was adding the hardener, so I had to guess the proportions.
 Failure of gluing glass syacmore key
 Failure!  The expoxy took days to start going sticky by which time the clay supporting the seed had shrunk and the epoxy has run into the resulting void.
  Failure of gluing glass sycamore seed I tried to rescue it but broke the wing and the glass was messed up with a mixture of epoxy and  clay. 

Threw the whole lot away!

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