Sunday, December 17, 2006

Glass Casting in Antarctica

I figured out how to save the glacier! I'm going to turn it into glass. I actually managed to make a small glass sculpture in the Palmer Station lab using exactly the process I had proposed with the ice molds. Over the past few weeks, Art and I have taken several silicone molds off of ice surfaces from pieces we have found in the water around the station. I melted some paraffin wax into different silicone textures and built up a small wax model for the glass using three textures from the ice.

After embedding the wax in a dental casting plaster, I melted out the wax in a small lab bench furnace at about 200ºC.

Here is my studio on the mash and grind deck of Palmer Bio building. We put the kiln go outside so as not to smoke everyone our during the burnout process. I was worried that the weather might affect the firing temperature, but it didn't.

Here is the mold with chunks of glass I had brought from Oakland, melting at nearly 800ºC. The glass is a very light copper/cobalt blue, with about a thousandth percent colorant, very light.

Ken setting the temperature on the controller. This controller was not ideal since it wouldn't turn down slower than 1ºC per minute. I wanted the high temperature cooling to be less than half that so I babied it for several hours while it went through that critical phase.

Here is the piece when I broke it out of the mold. Notice the two textures. One was the smooth faceted ice and the other side was the snowy, granular ice. The "nose" is a third slightly wrinkly texture.

Zenobia and Kerry organized an art show in the bar at Palmer. I put in some of my ice pieces, including this tall one I have shown before in "Ice Studies."

The top photo is after an hour out of the freezer container. The second, several hours later as the sun was setting. The ice broke up internally around the crystals, which had also formed the facets. The afternoon was warm enough so the ice started to melt. It lasted just about exactly 24 hours before it tumbled to the deck.

I also put in one of the silicone molds. I wonder if anybody got it, but it represented an absence of form, absence of a sculpture, maybe the absence of the glacier. Several guys were fascinated by the silicone, since it's flexible and strong.

Above is another picture of my glass casting taken in the declining light of the day at about 11PM. Below is another of our "Ice Studies," when we were in the container with the photo lights. This one used one blue light to accentuate the clear form.


Blogger Angie Weid said...

That is AWESOME!! Congrats on making your sculptures. You have to be proud.

12/17/06, 9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Ruth has never done things the "easy" way. This current chapter is indicative of continuity!

12/18/06, 12:03 AM  
Blogger Alto2 said...

An art show at the bottom of the world. Brilliant! Kudos for getting your casting procedure to work for you in sub-zero temps.

12/18/06, 2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if you're the first person ever to make glass in Antarctica!

12/18/06, 2:43 PM  
Blogger The Lone Beader® said...

Those sculptures are beautiful! Thank you for sharing this interesting process;)

12/18/06, 6:15 PM  
Blogger Sara Bowen said...

David, I have really enjoyed reading your blog. I'm an artist just moved to Australia so in some senses I am also grappling with a strange new world (although I can't rope it and pull it in over the side!), although it's not as cold... Enjoy the rest of your trip; I look forward to reading about it!

12/19/06, 3:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the blue cover thing on the mold? (& you probably are the first person to cast glass in Antarctica - should we call the Guinness people?)

12/20/06, 1:12 AM  
Blogger Fabián Fucci said...

Nice shots! I think a map of the station and surroundings would be a valuable add to this blog.

12/21/06, 12:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home