Pringle Teeter Art and Chemisty
Present Tense is the perfect title for an exhibit featuring an artist who works with a material that is a liquid at 2100° Fahrenheit. “You can’t just stop what you are doing, put it aside and come back to it later. You have to work in the moment.” It makes glassblowing quite a challenging art form but now that I’m going on my 10th season as a full time glass blower, I feel more confidence in my work, especially since I work alone most of the time.
The bowls in this show are made using a technique I developed using two colors of glass, one containing silver particle and another color containing gold particles. For several year I have been using the same 2 colors in the same way and getting completely different results almost every time. The differences come from slight changes in the procedure and color amount and differences in heating and cooling. This spring, my studio partner, Dana Smith, suggested I step out of my comfort zone and look for some new colors to play with – so I did.
I researched the chemistry of the various glass colors produced by the two German companies who supply the glassblowing industry. I wound up choosing two colors that are undoubtedly the softest and most difficult colors to work with! When using them, it is critical that the piece be heated slowly and carefully because by the time it is hot enough to blow and manipulate, it can easily end up as a puddle on the floor. Another danger is that uncontrolled shifts in temperature can cause changes in oxidation that alter the colloidal coloring, which is created by these nanoparticles of silver and gold in the glass. If you let these colors get too hot, the tiny particles of gold will coalesce into large aggregates that take on a disagreeable ‘liver color.’ You must layer the colors in a very particular way in order to get the best results. I did a number of color tests and loved the results, learning which way to layer the colors for bowls and then differently for vases.
I had cataract surgery in January that resulted in 2 other laser procedure over the next 2 months. Despite the complications that kept me out of the studio, I discovered, as I had been told by many people, that colors appear much brighter and more intense than before. One day I noticed the beautiful array of color rods in my supply of glass color and decided to try something I’ve wanted to do for many years – a multiple incalmo piece using all hues of the spectrum. Incalmo is the technique of or joining together, while still hot, multiple parts of separately blown glass to produce a single piece. This is usually done with a glassblower and an assistant. In order to do these by myself I made multiple blown tubes of different colors. Once they properly annealed I cut them into slices on a diamond saw. Then, the edges were polished on a flat lapidary wheel. Once back in the studio each piece was carefully measured, mapped out (colors are different once they are hot) and loaded into a kiln. The kiln slowly raises them up to the temperature of 1000 degrees so they don’t crack from thermal shock when picking up. I then picked up each slice on a pipe, stacking and melting them one at a time until every one fit. This process first practiced in the Islamic world in the Middle Ages, demands great precision because the edges of the adjoining elements must have precisely the same diameter.
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