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Posts Tagged ‘glass blowing’

final-flowers-2

Glass flowers made by AAI students at Holdman Studios.

During the 2016 fall semester at American Academy of Innovation, I started out in a bare science classroom without any lab stations or sinks. This was a challenge, but also an opportunity as I got the chance to design my own lab. Once I had finished the design and the architects rendered their version of it and the bids came back, it was late October. By the time the cabinet makers were ready to install, it was the week before Thanksgiving. I moved everything into the center of the room and covered it all with a large green tarp for the duration of the construction. I moved my classes into the school library for three weeks.

final-flowers-3

Glass flowers made by students at AAI. Mine is the red one with blue edges at the bottom right.

Since my STEAM it Up class couldn’t build sculptures or do tie dyed shirts or other such projects in the library, we took the three weeks to learn video filming techniques. I also set up a tour of a local glass studio. We researched the processes of glass blowing and the students wrote up a basic script and filmed the narration.

gathering-glass-from-crucible

First step: Gathering molten glass onto the puntil rod from the crucible.

Now I have done this before, as reported previously. I took a group of students from Mountainland Applied Technology College to Holdman Studios in 2009 to document the processes of glass blowing and stained glass artistry. The blown glass video was edited into a short description of the process which can be found here on YouTube (https://youtu.be/0TyDqZCGkpI ) and on my video page in this blog.

shaping-the-gather

Step 2: The molten glass is shaped on a metal shelf next to the crucible.

This time I wanted to get additional footage and give my new students a fun experience, so I set up a class for them to learn how to make glass flowers. These are simpler because they only involve stretching the glass, not blowing, so each student who wanted to pay the fee could make their own.

cullet-for-first-gather

Step 3: The glass is rolled in colored cullet or frit to produce the interior stem color.

We traveled down to Thanksgiving Point to Holdman Studios on November 30, 2016. We signed up and chose our colors. I set up some video cameras to record the process and explanation. A puntil rod is used and not a blowpipe since no blowing is needed.

Here are the steps for making a glass flower: A pre-heated puntil rod is used to gather the molten glass from the crucible, where it is shaped into a cone on a metal shelf.

rolling-first-gather-brielle

Step 4: The first gather is balanced by rolling it at the rolling station.

Colored cullet or frit is added to the molten glass by rolling it through the frit on the marver table. The rod is rolled to get the glass to the desired balance. A second layer of glass is gathered at the crucible and a second color added at the marver table. The first color will be the interior or stem of the flower, the second will be the outside edge or petals of the flower.

second-gather-cullet

Step 5: A second layer of molten glass is added and shaped, then rolled in a second color of cullet to create the flower petal color.

The student at the rolling station then uses forceps to pull out the molten glass into a flower shape. If the student is too cautious or takes too long (like me) the glass may cool too much to be pulled and must be reheated in the glory hole.

flattening-the-glass-me

Step 6: A flat paddle is used to flatten the molten glass agains the puntil rod, to allow for a hollow stem in the flower. I am wearing gloves and a fireproof sleeve to prevent my arm from getting burned. The glass is very hot.

pulling-out-flower-drew

Step 7: The student begins to pull out flower petals from the molten glass.

Once the flower shape is done, the flower is pulled out along the axis of the puntil rod to form a stem, which is either kept straight or twisted up depending on what the student wants. The glass is scored and knocked off the puntil, then fire polished with a blowtorch and placed in an annealing oven for 24 hours to gradually cool down.

pulling-flower-3-sterling

Step 8: Working quickly around the flower, the student continues to pull out the glass to make the flower larger. It feels like pulling taffy.

Six students and two adults, including myself, made flowers. They turned out very well. I had to return two days later to pick them up, and the colors were amazing as seen in these photos. Mine is the flower with a red stem with blue petals, which I gave to my wife as a Christmas present. The process was tricky but fun. I had to wear gloves and a fireproof sleeve to prevent my arm hairs from singing. The glass felt like pulling taffy. I highly recommend that you try this out if you get a chance.

glory-hole

Step 9: If the glass begins to cool (as mine did because I took too much time to pull it), the piece must be re-heated in the glory hole.

We got some good photos and video, even though lighting conditions in the studio are challenging (there is a strong backlight). Audio is also a problem as the glory hole and fans are noisy. But I can hear the explanations well enough to at least transcribe the footage, and record new narration over the top when I finally edit all of this together into a longer video.

pulling-out-stem

Step 10: Once the flower shape is done, the flower is pulled away from the puntil along its axis to create a stem for the flower. The first color of cullet becomes the stem color.

If you want to schedule your own lessons to learn to make glass flowers or even blow your own Christmas ornaments, here is the link to the Holdman Studios page:

https://www.holdmanstudios.com/hotshop-classes/

spinning-the-stem-noah

Step 11: If the student desires, the puntil rod can be rolled to twist up the stem.

fire-polish-me

Step 12: The glass is scored with forceps, knocked off the puntil rod, then placed on fireproof cloth and fire polished with a blowtorch, as I am doing here. The flower is then placed in the annealing oven (at left) to slowly cool down over 24 hours.

students-with-flowers

Some of the students at American Academy of Innovation who made glass flowers at Holdman Studios.

glass-display

Displays of glass at Holdman Studios. In addition to classes for making glass flowers, the staff also holds classes for traditional glass blowing including making Christmas ornaments.

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Zosimos, Theosebeia, and a Distillation Furnace

Zosimos, Theosebeia, and a Distillation Furnace

    For the last two weeks I have continued my research into the alchemists of the Middle Ages and Early Modern period, including such shadowy figures as Hermes Trimegistos (the mythic father of alchemy who, according to some medieval writers was a grandson of Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom, to others was a contemporary of Moses or Abraham) and Zosimos of Panopolis, the first verifiable real person whose alchemical writings have survived. Zosimos lived in Egypt, probably Alexandria, during the late 3rd and early 4th Centuries A.D. His teachings were written in Coptic Greek and later translated into Arabic. One book he wrote was the Mushaf as-Suwar, or Book of Pictures. The Chemical Heritage Foundation has a book edited by Theodor Abt with a facsimile copy of this manuscript, which was discovered in Istanbul and apparently dates from pre-Islamic times. This is seen from the fact that the book contains over forty color illustrations depicting Zosimos, his student Theosebeia, and various gods, demons, and angels. Depicting the human form is forbidden in the Quran, so these drawings predate Islam. In the Mushaf as-Suwar, Zosimos used allegorical language and the symbolism of gnostic Christianity to describe a series of dreams in which the processes of grinding and roasting and distillation where used to purify substances, but which also symbolized the inner transmutation of the soul; the purification of the alchemist himself. In the image above, Zosimos and Theosebeia with the sun and moon with faces over their heads (representing their eternal, perfected souls) are standing by a furnace with a distillation alembic on top. The size of the furnace (the same size as the figures) indicates an inner or spiritual transformation. Interestingly enough, these same symbols – sun god and moon queen standing by a distillation vessel – are quite common in alchemical allegorical symbology.

A recipe for red glass using gold powder

A recipe for red glass using gold powder

    In addition to this “deep alchemy” research, I’ve begun to photo books that document technologies and processes used in the Middle Ages and Early Modern periods. One such book is Antonio Neri’s Art of Glass, written in Florence around 1612. Neri was a master glassmaker and his book details recipes and techniques for glass blowing, enamels, paints, etc. One page of the English translation by Merritt shows Neri’s recipe for red glass using gold powder that has been “calcined” using Aqua Regis and roasting. The diagrams in the book show the use of tools very similar to those used today; this is one art form that has not changed all that much. A modern glass blower could go back in time 400 years and still be perfectly qualified to practice the art; the only real difference is that back then, the glass factories would make their own colored frit (hence Neri’s recipes) instead of buying the frit ready-made.

A windlass for raising ore

A windlass for raising ore

    Another fascinating book of technology that I’ve started to photograph is De Re Metallica by Georg Agricola, first published in 1556. It details mining practices in Germany at that time, and Agricola goes into elaborate detail on the types of mineral deposits and veins found, how to survey them, what tools to use to dig the ore out, how to raise and lower the ore buckets (as in the windlass diagram shown here), and even several techniques to pump water out of the mine shafts. Here he has a diagram of a multi-stage sump pump that is powered by an overshot waterwheel above the mine. Interestingly enough, Pliny the Elder talks about a similar technique that used human-powered treadmills to raise sump water in stages inside the Rio Tinto gold mines in Spain during Roman times.

Multi-stage water pump

Multi-stage water pump

    Agricola’s book required over 270 woodcut illustrations which held up its printing for years. It was a masterwork, a book of beautiful design and quality, as you can see. I feel very priveleged to even look at it, let alone photograph it.  Unfortunately, Agricola died in 1555, a year before it was finally printed. I guess that’s a lesson to scholars to not be too perfectionistic in our work!

    Finally, I continue to explore the area surrounding Philadelphia with my family. We traveled to Ocean City, New Jersey last Saturday and I took some good photos and video of the ocean, which will surely come in handy. I’m already thinking of places to use it. Here’s a sample photograph:

Beach at Ocean City, New Jersey

Beach at Ocean City, New Jersey

It reminds me of Isaac Newton’s saying, that he considered himself merely a boy playing on the beach looking at interesting shells and pebbles, while all around him the ocean of knowledge lay unexplored.

    I have also continued working on illustrations and animations for forthcoming podcast episodes. Here is a video clip of an animation of the Earth rotating. It was created in Daz Bryce 6 using a brass sphere surround by a gold sphere, the texture of which contains a world ocean mask (which I found at a NASA website) to cut out the ocean areas. I’ve been using this to create animations which zoom in to Greece, Egypt, Rome, etc. for various parts of the Greek atomic theory episode that will be posted at the end of August.

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Stained glass artwork at National LIberty Museum

Stained glass artwork at National LIberty Museum

 

    Each day as I travel to Chemical Heritage Foundation, I walk through the heart of old Philadelphia, where history is found in layers. This city is over 325 years old, whereas the towns in Utah where I come from can barely claim 150 years. Just about every building either is historic in its own right or is built over an historic spot. CHF is located at 315 Chestnut Street, which is diagonal to Carpenter’s Hall (where the First Continental Congress met in 1774). Just a couple of weeks ago I realized that the alley next to our building leads to Franklin Court, which is where Benjamin Franklin’s house was located as well as his printing office. There is a museum that is almost literally underneath our museum at CHF (talk about layered history!) that includes replicas or originals of Franklin’s many inventions and scientific instruments among other exhibits. 

The Flame of Liberty by Dale Chihuly

The Flame of Liberty by Dale Chihuly

 

 

    I was hoping to have some of these sorts of synergies occur as part of my fellowship, but sometimes opportunities come up that are completely unexpected. One such happens to be next door to Franklin Court – only about ten feet away from our building. It’s called the National Liberty Museum, and it has an excellent display of the struggle for liberty and some of the heroes that have helped to achieve it. I didn’t realize this until I finally walked in last week, but it also is a museum of modern glass art. Each historical display is paired with blown and stained glass artwork that compliments and emphasizes its theme, ranging from highly realistic to abstract. Given how much work we’ve done this spring on stained and blown glass, I was pleasantly surprised to find this. I was amazed at the beauty of the glass work and the power of the displays. They have a piece called the Flame of Liberty by Dale Chihuly, as well as several others by him. He is one of the great current masters of blown glass. They also have some beautiful stained and sculpted glass pieces.

 

Blown glass platters by Dale Chihuly

Blown glass platters by Dale Chihuly

 

    I’m also finding there are opportunities in the vicinity of Philadelphia that could become possible episodes. There is a zinc mine in northern New Jersey that gives tours; a coal mine up in the Poconos; the Drake oil well (the first one) in Titusville, in the extreme northwest corner of Pennsylvania (I would have to stop there on my way back to Utah); and other possibilities. If I take advantage of all of these, then I will have enough materials to last for months.

    Speaking of episodes, here is a video clip, as promised, that was presented at my Brown Bag Lunch two weeks ago. I’ve added a few images and finished out some animations since then. It is meant to show two samples of the episodes on the origins of atomic and elemental theories in ancient Greece. I am showing this here to get some feedback from anyone on how well they like (or don’t like) the animations and illustrations used, as they are representative of what you’ll see in all the episodes. Please feel free to comment on these video samples; the more specific, the better. 

    Meanwhile my research into how atomic theory changed and developed in the Middle Ages is continuing, and I will have some things to say about that next time.

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    This has been a busy week for me here at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. On Tuesday, June 23 I presented The Elements Unearthed project at a Brown Bag Lunch here. It’s pretty informal; people bring their lunches and eat while the speaker presents. I had 20 people attend, which was very nice. I would have been happy with five!. After a couple of technology glitches  I switched to Plan B and everything went well. In addition to talking about the purpose of the project (which is to document the history, uses, sources, mining, refining, and hazards of the chemical elements and industrial materials through student-created podcasts (whew!)), I showed some short samples of the student videos created this last semester for glass blowing and synthetic diamonds. I also showed some animations with narration of a podcast episode I’m working on this summer on the history of atomic theory. You saw a sample image on the last post of Aristote’s hylomorphism. That’s just one frame of a whole animation. But just so that you can have a sneak peak at what will be posted to iTunes and YouTube by the end of August, here is the first video clip of the students’ work:

This is a clip edited and narrated by Alex Anderson, who also took the photos of the rejects at the end of the clip. Videotaping was done by Sam Comstock, Megan Parish, and Bernardo Martinez. My only contribution was some final tweaking of the video color balance and lighting to match up the two cameras and smooth up some transitions; otherwise, the editing is all Alex’s work.  This is a representative sample of the kind of work you’ll see when these episodes are finally posted. I’ll post the samples for Synthetic Diamonds and Aristotle/Empedocles next time.

    Here is the PDF version of my presentation, sans video clips:   Elements_Unearthed_Presentation_6-23-09

    After my presentation, Ron Brashear, the Director of the Beckman Center here at CHF, took me out to lunch. As we talked, I was surprised to find that we knew some of the same people. He had worked at the Huntington Library in California, researching Edwin Hubble’s letters and personal papers. As part of his research, he visited Mt. Wilson Observatory where Hubble did most of his work. I’ve been up there several times with the NASA Explorer School workshops that I did for JPL, and so we’ve both met some of the astronomers and docents at Mt. Wilson and we’ve both visited the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ. It is a small world, as they say.

Intersecting Bubbles

Intersecting Bubbles

    I find, however, that as I have these opportunities to work in the science education and science history fields, that I increasingly meet the same people, or at least find that we have the same aquaintances. Academic and scientific circles become increasingly rarefied and specialized, but sometimes they intersect in interesting ways. One of the great privileges of my life has been to meet some of the best minds in several scientific disciplines, including space exploration, astronomy, and now science history. I’m not going to drop names here, but when comparing them to so-called “celebrities” I’ve met, the scientists are the truly great ones, the ones we should be holding up as heroes. My fellowship here at CHF has already helped me to make contact with some of these personal heroes and to at least intersect their circles, and that may be the best part of all for a science groupie like me.

    The other activity I’ve worked on is a Preliminary Proposal for an Informal Science Education grant from the National Science Foundation, which was due yesterday at 5:00. After writing with blazing speed (I hope it makes sense), I wrestled with NSF’s Fastlane submission system and finally hit the submit button a few minutes after 5:00, only to realize that I forgot to justify one of my budget entries – to provide stipends for time and equipment to the mentor teachers/schools of the participating teams. Hopefully that won’t be enough to kill it.  I am submitting the Summary Page and the Project Description here for your evaluation. I would appreciate any feedback you can give.

Elements_Unearthed_Summary_6-25-09

Elements_Unearthed_Description_6-25-09

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   This is a report on our progress toward completing the student podcast episodes for this year. Right now, three episodes are underway and a fourth is pending. Students in my Media Design classes at Mountainland Applied Technology College have researched, planned, videotaped, and are now editing the following topics: The Art and Science of Blown Glass; Illuminating History: The Story of Stained Glass; and The History and Process of Synthetic Diamonds. Our fourth project will be about the history and properties of clay pottery.

   On Feb. 11, a team of students traveled to Thanksgiving Point near Alpine, Utah to tour Holdman Studios, a glass blowing and stained glass studio ran by Tom and Trevor Holdman. Our subject matter expert on blown glass, Gay Wyn Quance, had previously come to our school where we interviewed her on the history and processes of glass blowing where we could guarantee good lighting and audio. At Holdman Studios, we set up our cameras, lights, and mics and videotaped Gay Wyn giving two separate demonstrations of the process of blowing a glass plate. We used two cameras and a wireless lapel mike system to ensure good video and audio. We also took several hundred excellent photos of the process (see our previous post). Afterward, we videotaped Trevor and his assistant, Keith, creating a large green with white striped glass platter. We have since captured all the video and audio to Final Cut Studio on our Mac Pro computers, written transcripts word for word, and assembled them all with narration into a draft script of the episode. Today we recorded the narration, and tomorrow we will capture the narration and begin the editing process.

Green art glass for stained glass windows

Green art glass for stained glass windows

   For the stained glass project, another group of students travelled to Thanksgiving Point again on Feb. 26 to videotape Josh Lewis demonstrating the processes of making stained glass windows, from a demonstration of the basic cutting and assembly process through creating the original cartoons, painting on the glass, using sandblasting to engrave the glass, and finally how glass is slumped or molded. Again we had two video cameras and a digital still camera and two mics and we recorded some excellent footage and audio. We have since captured all of this to our system, written the transcripts, and are now writing the final rough draft of the script.

Partially assembled stained glass window

Partially assembled stained glass window

   We contacted Novatek, a company in south Provo that makes Polycrystalline Diamond (PCD) for oil well drill bits. The president of the company is David Hall, son of H. Tracy Hall, who invented the processes of synthetic diamond at General Electric in 1954. After leaving GE for a professorship at Brigham Young University, he continued to invent new processes including the tetrahedral and cubic presses still used today. He formed Megadiamond, a company that has since been sold to Smith International, and then formed Novatek. Our Subject Matter Expert is Francis Leaney. On Friday, March 13 a group of students from my morning class traveled to Novatek where we interviewed Mr. Leaney on the history of synthetic diamonds, the processes of making them, and their uses now and in the future. We took a detailed tour of the plant using three cameras, as well as the museum that houses many of Dr. Hall’s original inventions including samples of the very first synthetic diamonds. That footage has now been captured and the transcripts are being written, which is a slow process.

Tetrahedral press for synthetic diamond making

Tetrahedral press for synthetic diamond making

   Meanwhile, I have been busy traveling to teacher conferences in Utah to present this project and enlist the aid of colleagues to form teams of their own to document the chemistry in their own towns. The Utah State Office of Education has given its support of this project by offering continuing education credits for teachers who go through the training. My initial grant application to the National Science Foundation was turned down, unfortunately, but the reviews were detailed and quite encouraging, They want me to develop more partnerships to help ensure the success of this project and to come up with a more concrete evaluation plan at the end. However, the idea itself they feel is worthy and they encourage me to reapply. My next move will be to start building these partnerships and to send out a mailer to all the science and technology teachers in Utah to describe this project and ask for teams to volunteer. The conference presentations went well and their are some interested teachers already, but now is the time to reach out to the rest of the state. Here is a .pdf version of the presentation I gave to Utah teachers at the Utah Science Teachers Association and the Utah Coalition of Educational Technology conferences this last month:

elements_unearthed_presentation (.pdf format)

Display of the history of synthetic diamonds at Novatek

Display of the history of synthetic diamonds at Novatek

   We should have the draft versions of the episodes done (or a director’s cut) by the end of April. By mid May we’ll have the final versions edited, compressed, and uploaded to this blog. I’m also working on new versions of the episoded created last year; these have not yet been posted because they still need some editing and improving to shorten and tighten the stories. Altogether, by the end of May, we’ll have the four episodes from this year, three from last year, and the introductory episode I created this last fall for the NSF grant. We look forward to having this first Phase of the project completed by the end of May, ready to move into Phase II with my trip to the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia this summer.

   Now that the various issues regarding this project at MATC have been resolved, I will be able to start posting on a more regular (weekly) basis and keep you up to date on each project. Next week: How you can get involved.

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Where We Are Right Now:

   The last two months have been extraordinarily busy in both good and not-so-good ways. I haven’t posted many entries lately, partly because we are now deep into this current round of podcast episode development (more on this in later posts) and partly because of things going on at my school (MATC). 

California cyprus stained glass window

California cyprus stained glass window

   My two Multimedia I classes are both deeply involved in planning and research for their topics and we have begun to videotape them already. One topic chosen by a team this year was stained glass, its history, and how it is made. I contacted a renowned local studio (Holdman Studio at Thanksgiving Point, owned by Tom and Trevor Holdman) to see about the possibility of videotaping how they do stained glass. I was able to visit the studio that afternoon and found that they also have a blown glass facility, and watched as Trevor Holdman and an assistant (Brent) created an amazing glass platter using techniques that haven’t changed much in 1000 years. The science and physics of the glass as a material are fascinating. We also found a marvelous subject expert on blown glass in Gay Wyn Quance, who teaches classes at the studio and agreed to come to MATC for an interview, which we conducted on Jan. 28. This gave my students some practice setting up and using the equipment. Then yesterday, Feb. 11, we traveled to Thanksgiving Point and videotaped Gay Wyn, Trevor, and Brent in the studio creating blown glass plates and platters. The video footage and photos are excellent, and our task now is to capture the footage, write transcripts, create final scripts, and edit over five hours of tapes down to about 15 minutes for our final episode. We plan on having the episode ready by early March.  We still need to return and videotape the stained glass portion of the workshop.

Blocking the blown glass

Blocking the blown glass

   Other teams are looking at liquid nitrogen and oxygen, pottery making and ceramics, and synthetic diamond manufacturing. Over the next few days I will be setting up tours and contacting experts to go over the wiki site that these students have been creating, at:

elementsunearthed.pbwiki.com

   Another factor in not updating this blog as well as I had planned is that I have been writing a series of grant applications, including a big grant for Informal Science Education through the National Science Foundation. I managed to get the grant done in time on Dec. 18, then spent most of Christmas Break creating supplemental materials to send in, including a podcast episode with all of our previous entries summarized as description and rationale for the project in video format, with images and animations. It was difficult to create, at 23 minutes of animations and images with no video footage at all (except some news footage of the Mona sodium azide spill mentioned above). I am now working on a grant for Intel Corporation, and preparing for several presentations at Utah teacher conferences coming up in the next few weeks.

Blown glass heating in the glory hole

Blown glass heating in the glory hole

   On the unfortunate side, after discussions with my program managers at Mountainland Applied Technology College (MATC) I have decided to remove this project from my courses at MATC once the current round of podcast episodes is complete. I was hoping that the students there could continue their involvement in the project, gaining invaluable practical experience in video production. But because of lack of vision and fear of risk on the part of the managers at MATC, it is clear that after this May I will no longer want MATC to have any involvement in the project. It won’t make any real difference to this project as a whole, other than it would be good to have more students act as reviewers who know something about video editing. It may mean we will now involve students in media design from other schools instead. But because of the separation that is now needed for this project, I haven’t been able to spend as much time updating this blog. Now that our video projects are in full swing, I will return to this and keep you posted on our progress.

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