Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Glassblowing at MassArt

For the first few weeks of June, the Turkish artists involved in Floating World Projects have been staying in Boston for a residency at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design with James McLeod, Leo Tecosky, and Oben Abright. The group traveled to New York City and photographed graffiti and architecture around Brooklyn, and the resulting images are being used to screenprint collages over glass panels, similar to earlier pieces incorporating photos of Istanbul. The finished pieces will be exhibited at the Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston.

Last week I (a person who has no experience with glass) visited the studio where Leo and James were working with MassArt students to produce glass shapes to be used for screenprinting. Below is a photo-diary of sorts of the process, from an outsider's point of view (meaning the vocabulary will remain simple!).

First, the artist takes a roll of compacted pigment at the end of the rod, and begins surrounding it with hot glass, continually twisting it as it hardens.

Several layers of hot glass are built up over time, with one person shielding the artist's face from sparks as he or she cradles the glass with wet cloth to shape it, and another person periodically blowing through the rod to expand the glass ball.

As it gets larger it is passed on to James and Leo, who continue to build it up until finally rolling it along a flat surface to give it a somewhat oval shape.

Then James stands at a greater height to lower it into a hot, hollow concrete tube, which shapes it into a flat-bottomed cylinder.

It is then chipped off the rod and stored in an incubator of sorts.

Watching glassmaking is exciting and fascinating, and I was impressed with just how much of a group effort it really is- with a range of different jobs and activities handled by the MassArt students/graduates working together.

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