desktop calendar for April

april_2016
Desktop calendar for April – click image to download

Well, maybe I should call this a calendar for mid-April! I’m late (again…) because I’ve spent every free moment I had outside… Ever since I moved to Ronse I find myself drawn to the landscape, the flowing fields and the woods on the hills! I have a few posts ready about my explorations so you can discover this landscape with me.

For the calendar of April I wanted to show you a little work-in-process image of my fur/landscape project. I’ve been searching for a way that worked in translating that soft feeling of fur, a sense of movement as with grass in a field, while still indicating something glasslike and fragile. I’ve come a long way with it, as you can see in the posts from a few months back (november and december). I explain how I came to it in one of upcoming posts; for now, enjoy your calendar!

the glass fur project: untangling very carefully

glass fur

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The little test dome I showed you last time has been fired. It was fun to revisit the techniques I had acquired for my research into historical pâte de verre (the wax dome itself was one of the models after Despret’s that were left over!), but giving it a more personal and decidedly prickly twist.

glass fur
With the wax steamed out, only the glass pins remained embedded in the mould.

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The glass pins that I had heated one by one in the flame of a candle and pushed into the wax, had all been embedded in the plaster/silica mould. The wax was steamed out and I added pâte de verre to the surface, and fired it in the kiln. Since it was such a small form, I did this in my own tiny Paragon SC3 kiln instead of the industrial ones at Sint Lucas. I hadn’t used the oven in quite a while so I was happy to find out that everything still worked!

glass fur
The mould after firing (on the marble cement floor in the oldest part of the house).

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Now, I knew the real fun would only start with removing the mould material from the fired glass… I couldn’t just hack away the bits of plaster/silica and glass fibre, because the 1mm glass pins could so easily break. It needed a gentle approach…

glass fur
Slowly but surely…

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Thanks to an old toothbrush and a couple of wooden toothpicks I eventually managed to not break every pin I had put on earlier. Heh. But it was tricky! The secret was mostly to soak it in warm, salty (soda) water for a couple of hours, and then the very gentle prodding began… it was a calm and precise work, taking care not to use too much pressure.

glass fur
Here you go: a glassy punk!

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This is the result so far: a translucent dome partly covered with glass pins. It’s a start; it already tells us a couple of things. I like the translucency so that it almost fades into the background…The surface looked almost blurred, only when you examine it from close by you see the “hairs”.

But it needs more tweaking and experimenting. One thing I don’t like is the diameter of the hairs, which look more like pins than fine hairs. This has to do with the proportions and if the model had been bigger it wouldn’t have been such an issue. The plan is to scale it up.

Another thing is this quality that fur has; since it is embedded in elastic skin it moves and ripples with movement or draping. This I’d love to transfer to the glass fur too… So I’m experimenting with more elastic materials for the skin: transparent silicone and textiles.

To be continued!

The pâte de verre and artistic glass objects of Georges Despret (1862-1952)

a little intro

This is a post on my thesis subject, Georges Despret,  who was a Belgian-French industrial who developed the pâte de verre technique around 1900. He’s the subject of my Master’s thesis at UGent, and of the technical and practical research I’m doing at Sint Lucas(now Luca School of Arts) Gent. And I’m happy to share it with you!

reconstruction of a working process

At Luca I’m piecing together how Despret might have made one of his pâte de verre bowls, by making one from scratch. I’ve been working in the glass and ceramics studios, so this is a hands-on type of research, figuring out how each step of his work process might have looked like. It’s partly based on historical sources and contemporary research into historical pâte de verre, and partly on the process of making itself.

Georges Despret - bowl 1906 - Design Museum Ghent
Georges Despret – bowl from 1906 – Design Museum Ghent

Of course it’s impossible to replicate the exact circumstances in which Despret worked – this wasn’t my intention, but I reasoned that making one of his bowls could be a helpful complimentary method since there are very little historical sources left. His archives and many of his artworks were lost during the first year of World War I, when his manufacture in Jeumont (north of France) was reduced to ruins in an explosion. There he had built a museum that showed everything his manufacture was capable of, with an emphasis on the artistic glass objects. But all of that has been destroyed.

So I’ve based my practical research on what remains: his glass objects kept in museums all over the world, his collaborators like sculptor Yvonne Serruys (on whom my promotor Prof. Dr. M. Sterckx is a specialist) and ceramics collector Géo Nicolet; a few archival documents, some contemporary press, and recent research. Next to that I’ve looked at the discoveries and techniques of other pâte de verre artists, like Henry Cros (the pioneer to whom Despret looked up), Decorchemont, Argy-Rousseau and Walter.

The little (and big) parts I couldn’t find an answer to anyhow, I’ve tried to find through experimentation, So there’s a degree of hypothesis in my research I’m well aware of, but that doesn’t make this project any less worthwhile. I’ve received fantastic help from my teachers at Luca, my promotor at the UGent, the city of Jeumont and the curators of the Design Museum Gent and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. And all the fantastic librarians!

This research project will become a chapter in my Master’s thesis (it’s due in August, so I’m still working on it), but I also wanted to give a more personal account of it,  showing you what I’ve been up to in the past 7 months. A bit like my studio and work in progress pictures. Thanks for reading!

Edited to add: here is an account of my technical research (pdf, in Dutch).

a few links:

Despret on Wikipedia (in French)
Despret in the collections of the Corning Museum of Glass
Mémoire vivante de Jeumont with photos of Despret’s castle in ruins after WW I, close to his manufactures

further reading:

Cummings, Keith. Contemprary kiln-formed glass. Londen: A & C Black Publishers ltd, 2009. -with a chapter on Stewart’s research on Amalric Walter.
Daum, Noël. La pâte de verre, Paris: Denoël, 1984 -extensive book on pdv, but needs critical reading.
Delaborde, Yves & Bloch-Dermant, Janine. Le verre: Art & Design XIX°-XXI° siècles. Courbevois: ACR Edition, 2011.
Hamaide, Frédéric (red.). De glace et de verre: Deux siècles de verre plat franco-belge (1820-2020), Fourmies: Ecomusée de l’Avesnois, 2007. -with a chapter on Despret’s artistic glass by A.-L. Carré.