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Making Vessels with Electric Veins

Vessels with Electric Veins

​I discussed with the group the possibility of forming a conductive vessel that could communicate with the lively contents held within it. We started to think about how might we fuse metal in a more spherical, or organic form. A couple of possibilities arose: both involving blown glass. One idea involved laying copper staples, or other conductive material on a flat surface and rolling hot blown glass against the material, enabling the conductive material to be picked up within the glass, another was to create a wire frame that glass could be blown into.

I set about creating a frame, attempting to combine bodily forms with technological material. Veins kept coming to mind as channels that bring an energy and liveliness to a body and so I began to draw and form vein like structures with salvaged copper wire from my growing hoard of technological waste materials.

My first spidery forms: one with soldered joins and the other with finer copper wire wound tightly around the joins were regarded with suspicion by the glassblowing experts. The form has to be more cage-like, in order to contain the glass as it is blown. We did attempt to form the first shapes to the glass but as the hot glass oozed out, the solder burned away and the form fell apart.

I was determined not to add too much detail to the veins, the fragility was important to the structure, therefore I formed another slight frame with the least additional support possible. Although still difficult this was much more successful when formed to the hot glass. It required two skilled glassblowers to position the frame and ensure that it stuck to the glass, but the resulting form bulged satisfyingly against the copper 'veins' adding to a sense of the materials working organically together.

We discussed trying more structured forms that would contain the glass more fully. I was conscious of over-engineering a form but it also seemed sensible to explore the options so I created another, much larger structure.

This time, with only one skilled glassblower available (Jeffrey Sarmiento), a slightly different approach was taken to forming the glass within the copper cage.

Timing becomes critical when blowing glass into fragile structures of this nature. Gravity takes over and the resulting object has an extended bulbous form at the lowest point. Another interesting experiment in the contrast between forces imposed by humanity and dare I say 'natural' forces.

BioArtifactuality Test Piece

The next step was to try a stronger, tighter cage structure. For this test and the previous, larger structure, I was using thicker copper wire, which made the twisting of the wire at each connection more difficult to achieve in the time available, therefore I tried wrapping the connections in copper tape. It was likely that this would burn off but I was interested in the way it altered the form at this initial stage at least.

The outcome of this final blown glass piece was certainly the strongest form and with more copper, possibly the most conductive too (although all pieces conducted electricity well).

Other techniques developed over the course of this workshop and the second workshop the following week (which I was unfortunately unable to attend) developed the approaches that we had begun and resulted in a number of other possibilities. Some which particularly interested me are shown in the images below.

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