I was intrigued by the glass workshop as I had no idea what it involved, that was until I was able to sneak a glimpse of some work done by the group before mine. I was surprised by how professional and complexed it looked and wondered how we were going to manage to achieve this in just one afternoon, but at the same time was very excited to get started.
View of the Glass Studio
After being shown around the workspace we were talked through the health and safety which is outlined bellow:
We were all given a square piece of glass and discussed it’s properties, including it’s transparency, smoothness and shininess. The technician explained how we were then going to use a method called sandblasting, a process which involves diffusing the glass removing any transparency on the sandblasted area, leaving an etched affect.
Sandblasting got it’s name as originally people used sand as part of the process, however it was later discovered that this wasn’t healthy for the people using the machines. The silica dust created whilst sandblasting can get into peoples lungs and then cause Silicosis, a potentially fatal disease. Nowadays within the UK an alternative material is used as well as having extra safety measures imposed, such as proper ventilation, that ensure the safety of workers. Unfortunately this is not necessarily the case in other parts of the world. Places such as Bangladesh have people using the more primitive method with little protection in order to create things such as the stressed denim effect on clothes, that are then bought and in sold in places like the UK. Workers are often aware of the adverse affects it can have on their health but are too poor to walk away from their jobs. This type of immoral practice is something I will refer to later when looking into sustainability and ethics within consumerism and how it can be affected/ have an effect on my work.
And so back to sandblasting…
Before we began to focus on the pattern we wanted to create we had to prepare our glass, this involved smoothing the edges using the diamond tipped sandpaper with a little. The reason diamonds are used is because they are stronger then the glass allowing it to be sanded down, similar to how you would use normal sandpaper on wood. Whilst doing this though we had to make sure just to rub along the edges so that we didn’t create scratches on the surfaces of the glass. Once our edges were smooth and even we had to wash off our glass with soapy water and dry it thoroughly.
Our glass was now ready to apply tour resist, which was sticky back plastic, on either one or both sides depending on how many sides would be sandblasted. When doing this we had to be careful not to get air bubbles underneath as that would interfere with the next stage of drawing on the pattern. I found that starting from one side and using a ruler to smooth it down was a great way to prevent any air bubbles.
We then had to design our pattern and draw it onto the resist, I talk about this in more detail later on…
Once we had our pattern drawn we used a scalpel to cut along the lines, removing the PVC where it would then be sandblasted. The more precise this was done the better the end result would be. Mine was fairly neat but there are a couple of places where my inaccuracies are visible within my completed piece, these can be seen bellow in these close ups:
The problem was that I was initially too hesitant when using the scalpel and therefore didn’t press down hard enough, meaning I had to go back over the same lines. I now know how much pressure to use so if I was to do it again I could achieve a better result.
Now came the fun part, using the sandblasting machine.
To begin with we had to turn on the extractor then simply lift up the lid, place the glass inside then shut it again.
Button to turn on Extractor
Then we had to place our hands inside the large, plastic, built in gloves in order to hold our glass and put our foot on the presser that made the machine work. The longer we held the glass there, moving it around to ensure all the necessary parts were blasted, the more noticeable the ridges around the pattern would become which is something else I would like to experiment with when I have more time.
Built in Gloves
Geometric shapes are a prominent part of Bauhaus art but they have been used by the varying artists in different ways.
For example this image bellow by Wassily Kandinsky shows a complex arrangement of shapes that are layered upon each other, overlapping to make more shapes. I particualry like the layering effect and think it would lend well to the glass when sandblasted on alternate sides.
Here in this piece by Eugen Batz that was created as part of class by Kandinsky, you can see a far simpler take on the use of geometric shapes whilst still incorporating the use of layering.
As we were short on time I couldn’t spend as long as I wanted to designing my image and so this did influence my decision greatly to opt for a simplistic deign like the one created by Eugen Batz. And so I arranged some rectangles, triangles and a circle across the space I had to work with in a way that felt even and balanced. Although I was unable to overlap the shapes, by sandblasting both sides, I liked the idea of the shape being cut short and so placed my circle in the corner, only showing a quarter of it.
Overall I thought the process was simple and effective with a lot of potential for creating far more intricate work, dependant on the time and effort that was put into the design. Although I was really happy with my simply designed piece of glass I felt the need to return to the studio to create a more complex piece . Whilst bearing in mind the Bauhaus concept of creating artistic, hand crafted items that have an everyday purpose, I decided to make these 20 x 20 squares of glass into a set of four coasters with corresponding patterns.
Back to the drawing board
The particular piece of work I had in mind whilst designing my coasters was this wall hanging my Ani Albers. I like how the colours change as the shapes overlap, adding to the complexity of the image. Although I am not able to recreate this as I am not using colour I can instead represent it through the use of sandblasted and non sandblasted areas on each side of the glass, creating a third tonality.
I drew the design with the four coasters together creating one image across them, then when separated they also convey four individual images. I decided to begin with the two diagonal lines that overlap in the back ground, which you can see here, drawn onto the resit.
I’m going to leave the resit on those areas which means they will remain transparent, apart from the small space where they overlap. This will be removed and sandblasted along with the background.
The wall hanging by Albers featured mainly circles so to make this my own the only one I am going to use is in the centre, joining all four coasters together. I struggled to get the circle exact and it was particularly hard to cut out.
Then I decided to alternate my coasters with triangles and rectangles. When I cut the shapes out I left the resit on the areas where they overlapped which will create the two toned effect I was going for. This is of course the opposite of what I did on the other side with the diagonal lines (I left the overlapped areas clear instead of covered) which should create even more shapes and patterns.
Once sandblasted on all sides I could see that design worked really well and showed a clear link between Albers piece and my own. I was however quite disappointed with the quality of the lines and edges which down to me rushing when cutting it out as well as the fact I has used a knife instead of a much sharper scalpel. I hope to be able to return to this again in the near future to be able to get it perfect.