Crystalline geometry; a projection from five dimensions into three.

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This sculptural, low-relief “slice” of crystalline geometry is a mathematical projection from five-dimensions into three.

When you move from one dimension to another circles become ellipses and angles change. My sculpture mimics a plane cast obliquely through a grid of hypercubes showing the conjoined surfaces. Fragments of the square faces of hypercubes have become skewed into diamond shapes. The sculpture is made from just one identical repeating shape, a rhombus with diagonals in the Golden Ratio.

The painted glass tiles are assembled according to certain mathematical matching rules that I’ve coded into a Baroque design, carved into rubber and printed on the glass. Each tile is printed and kiln-fired with traditional stained glass enamels, then painted several more times before being wrapped in adhesive copper tape. The tiles are then soldered together to build the sculpture. Below, copper-foiled glass tiles stacked in boxes and a small section tack-soldered together.

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The tiles fit together easily to form convex or concave rosettes with five ‘petals’. They also form groups of three, either shallow dishes or steeper ‘ears’. When the tiles are correctly conjoined my painted pattern flows through from tile to tile, creating a cohesive overall design. If each tile is also located correctly in three-dimensions the sculpture can grow infinitely without repeating itself, by simply adding more tiles.

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When light is cast through the sculpture onto a parallel surface the stained glass projects a two-dimensional image of another geometric pattern. Discovered in the late 1970’s and called  Penrose tiling, this pattern is made up from two different tiles. This also is beautiful and fascinating, and I have been obsessed with it since I was a post-grad student at the Royal College of Art in 1984.

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I had the lovely opportunity to meet Sir Roger last year for lunch at Yale and show him my model for this sculpture. I also took a stained glass panel I’d made some years before with his famous tiling pattern in it. This was the last of my Menfolk series and the beginning of my full-time focus on stained glass geometry.

I’ve received a lot of encouragement along the way, especially from computer scientist Duane Bailey who has been researching Penrose tiling for decades. When I met Duane almost four years ago we were both working in two-dimensions. This past July we started working together in three.

We have built three sculptural models so far, each with over 500 tiles the size and shape of business cards. We have designed four more sculptures. Each uses colour to explore some particular aspect of the geometry.

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The assembly was fiddly and time consuming, but well-worth the effort.

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The reverse of the sculpture is beautiful too. Each tile is made from a plain folded business card, and the triangular folded-back corners cluster together like the petals of mountain laurel.

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I learned such a lot about the this geometry. That it grows from seeds that change  shape depending upon where you begin. That it has kingdoms, worms and skeps, and more rules called inflation hierarchies to be taken into account. The surface can fold up to nest over itself in curious ways.

Remarkably, this pattern also models the structure of quasicrystals, materials that exhibit long-range order at a molecular level but lack any of the classic symmetries that characterize conventional crystals. Quasicrystals are neither amorphous solids (like glass or plastic) or regular crystalline materials (like salt or diamonds). They exhibit a host of unusual physical properties and can be made to self-assemble from nanoparticles to make invisible materials.

Making life-sized models of molecular structures in glass is pretty neat, and building something by hand (rather than modeling on a computer) provides wonderful insights. It may be difficult to visualize a skewed five-dimensional cube being ‘projected’ into another dimension) but the relationship between sculpture and cast image is really quite simple, and elegant to witness.

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Showing my stained glass in two exhibitions that open tomorrow, Sat May 21

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Ornithologist

WILLIAMSTOWN MASSACHUSETTS

My stained glass panel Ornithologist is hanging in The Shops at the Library Antiques in Williamstown as part of  IS-183, the Art School of the Berkshires  25 year celebration Faculty Art Show. This delightfully unconventional exhibition takes place in various non-traditional gallery spaces up and down Spring Street in Williamstown Massachusetts.

Artwork by more than 75 artists from across our region will be on show until  June 16. Maps will be provided at the opening reception on Saturday, May 21, from 4-6pm, at the Purple Pub. After that, visitors may pop into any participating venue, pick up a map and take a self-guided walking tour.

MANCHESTER VERMONT

And… as a new member of the Vermont Glass Guild I am showing six of my stained glass panels alongside the work of 30 other Vermont and New England glass artists at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester, Vermont. All are from my seven-year long, 14-piece series Menfolk that explores the emotional landscape of men over time and in different circumstances. Included in the exhibition is Sir Edmund Hillary (below, detail). This was the subject of a lovely 13min video made by our son, Jack Criddle that documents my process, showing how each separate piece of glass is cut, painted, fired and assembled.

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There will be an opening reception for “Modern Alchemy – The Art of Glass” in the Wilson Museum and Galleries at the Southern Vermont Art Center, in Manchester, VT on Friday, May 21, from 5 – 7pm. I’ll be there to greet visitors and get to know my fellow glass artists. The show will run through July 10, 2016.

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Why teach stained glass design?

September Stained Glass Design workshop: Step-by-step from idea to finished window

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Do you know how to accurately measure a window opening; take templates; make full-size shop drawings? What if your window needs support bars or has curved perimeters? Are you consistent in coding perimeter lines to prevent installation errors? Is it easy to decide where to position bars and leadlines?

If you’re dedicated to making good stained glass but have answered ‘no’ to most of these questions, please note: I am offering a specialized drawing workshop that shows how to design and build stained glass windows according to a logical, repeatable, step-by-step process.

So how do you birth an idea? Well, drawing is fundamental.

Aside from imagery and subject matter, there are four key visual components to stained glass: colour, line, value and transparency. Exploring options in all these areas is an important part of the creative process, and it’s difficult to do this when ideas are still floating around inside your head. This is where design drawing comes in; making sketches, working to scale, drawing a cutline, and, in the case of painted stained glass, making a full-sized black and white drawing.

And how do you build a window that fits properly; is structurally sound; and works successfully within it’s architectural setting? Again, drawing is the key. It’s much easier to progress smoothly through the manufacturing process (saving time, materials and costly errors) when technical information is clearly set out on paper beforehand. These are called shop drawings.

Even if you use a computer to do artwork, learning the traditional design procedure, and understanding the purpose of various drawings, may be helpful. Teaching will be via Powerpoint presentation, hands-on drawing exercises and group discussion.

September 26-30th 2016 (5-day workshop) General info about workshops here.

Stained Glass Tiling: the process

Williams College student Elizabeth Jacobsen describes the process of designing and building a stained glass window from a mosaic of transparent colored glass tiles, each handpainted and kiln fired to create a unique work of art.

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2016 workshops

workshop(front)This year, I am offering week-long design and glasspainting workshops in June; 3-hour Saturday Afternoon Intensives; and a 10 week series of evening classes beginning March 10th. All at my studio in Vermont. Here’s the schedule. Application deadlines for American Glass Guild and Stained Glass Associate of America scholarships are Feb 28th and April 13th respectively.

 

Hoaf kilns, tracing brushes and puttying

IMG_1592A couple of interesting Hoaf kiln questions came into my Inbox recently (thank you Jeffery), plus a request for help sourcing tracing brushes – something I get asked pretty frequently.

Hi Debora, I am a glass painter and I have a Hoaf kiln. Why do you have the extra fiber material with holes for the vents on the inside?
What you describe as ‘extra fiber’ is the original insulation in my Hoaf “Speedburn II Fuse” kiln, purchased directly from the manufacturer and imported from Holland in 1999. I bought a similar kiln in 1983 which I left in England when we emigrated. I haven’t added any insulation to my kilns, and do not recommend this because it may interfere with the finely calibrated ignition mechanism. I had my kiln serviced a while ago because it was not re-lighting properly at firing temps (when the burners to click on and off to maintain soak temps). The engineer explained to me that the volume of air inside the kiln affects ignition.

Long skinny pieces of glass tend to bow. Is there a work around?
This is because fibreboard kiln shelves wear out in the middle from years of vacuuming. My original shelf did this, and had to be replaced. During January when I was firing a lot of student work I was using the shelf like a tea tray to ferry unfired glass from college back to studio, and it finally broke.

Also I noticed you only putty the back side of your window. Do you always do that with your painted pieces?
I always putty both sides, very thoroughly. My video must be confusing. Puttying, or ‘cementing’ is structurally important, not just an aesthetic consideration.

Last question – Do you know a source for good tracing brushes. I am having a hard time replacing mine.
My old quill brushes are very precious and irreplaceable (as far as I know… please share if you know where to buy them). I also use Mack or Xcaliber sword stripers. Great for tracing with my propylene glycol mixture, they have long, soft, beautifully matched hairs. I do recommend these, and they’re easy to find online and at art stores.

My workshops generally end with a handout of notes gathered during class, which help to keep the ball rolling. I just incorporated some notes from last September’s  glasspainting class (brushes, carving and printing rubber stamps) onto my Resources page. My June 2015 Oregon students have continued networking since their workshop last summer, sharing technical advice, design ideas, and more and I get a great buzz out of this. Thanks to everyone who has contributed questions and shared their own sources and ideas over the years.

Photo is of last month’s Williams College student work, on trays waiting to be fired.

In Praise of Morton

Impeccably cut glass tiles. All precisely the same size. Clean, perpendicular edges. No shelling, flares or ragged grozing. Much is handmade antique glass, including Lamberts, Blenko and some ancient English Hartley Wood streakies. Some is almost 1/4″ thick, yet the craftsmanship is exemplary and, believe it or not, cut by complete beginners – mostly without using a grinder. All thanks to the wonderful Morton glass cutting system.

I have been teaching Stained Glass Tiling at Williams College in Massachusetts every day  throughout January. Here’s the glasscutting in progress, plus some of the geometric constructions done during the first week of the course.

Students had to use a straight-edge and compass only (no rulers, protractors or computer printouts) to draw precise, accurate polygons that would nest together to form a tiling without gaps. Along the way, they figured out how to set stops and cutting bars on their Morton surface and cut multiple identical copies of the same shape.

Today, students finished copperfoiling and soldering, and started to frame their panels. Every tiles was painted and fired. More  pictures soon!

Even better, if you’re nearby, do come and see their work for real, on display in the science building at Williams College. We will be holding a reception from 1pm – 2.30pm this coming Thursday, Jan 28th, on the third floor corridor between the Physics building and the Chemistry building, above the Eco Cafe. Enter through the cafe from the Science Quad and look for signs.