[blog posts; previously published online]

  contents page        

Blowing the dough (part 1)

(published 12 October 2011)

I had wanted to write yesterday due to the binary beauty of the date, but the day was taken up with other Art matters, and the opportunity did not arise. More of that later, for now a report on the remarkably readily possible undertaking of the impossible.

A year ago I heard of a thing called a ring resonator. This object was at that time completely new to me, and my instantaneous, unstoppable response to hearing those words was an image of a luminous, diaphanous structure, floating in the nothingness of my mind. A glass circular form, indescribably light and fragile, imperceptibly pulsing with the energies of the universe, emitting an infinite range of coloured light from its integrally transparent curved clarity. A glass doughnut.

And over the subsequent times that I have spent residing with the silicon photonics group this vitreous image has repeatedly reappeared, silently animate as it has been mulled in my mind. I had sought to make one, to have one made, but with no success, not least because of my stubborn demand that it must be blown rather than cast glass (to me there is a dynamism resulting from the trapped vitality of the former that is less evident in the latter). It was not possible. In a final effort to construct this wonder I set out on an impossible mission last week, blowing the last of the grant, and spent it at a glass studio on an exploration of the potential of the doughnut's formation, questioning the edges of its possible construction – is it really impossible?

And so it seems that the answer is no. It was made at first attempt through a combination of Kim’s expertise and a slightly brutish attacking of the glowing molten blob. True to say that the small leaden lump of chunky glass with rough edges that is the semblance of a glass doughnut does not exactly mirror the one in my mind, but technically it is exactly the thing I wish to construct. How easy (if a little diminutive) the impossible can sometimes be. The second go was neater but still small, and the third (again small) is as yet unseen by me as it had to be left in the annealing oven to prove when I departed. Now is the time to get excited about the fourth, which is to be constructed next week, and is to be as large as possible. Theoretically the limiting factor of this possibility is the size of the glory hole (the boxed blow torch that is used to reheat glass to enable continued working on it), so there is a technical finity to this thing that is somewhat more expansive in my head. But I am heartened that in the last week of my official time as artist in residence with the lab I have managed to construct the first thing that I envisaged. Things are looking up.

previous post     next post