The Glass Sculptures of Rod Richardson
Welcome! Please feel free to look around. These unique glass sculptures were made for my own enjoyment, but you may enjoy them too.
You have probably never seen anything that looks quite like these. That is because the technique behind these sculptures – flow sculpting – is an original invention. The technique evolved out of a series of experiments exploring the fundamental nature of the material, in particular the liquid and optical properties of glass.
These experiments were a conscious attempt to break away from more traditional glass blowing and casting techniques that emphasize precision and repetition of form, forcing the material to conform to the mold of the artist's intentions. To my way of thinking, the emphasis on design and precision introduces a subtle bias, which involves suppressing the most essential qualities of the material: the liquid, the optical, the random flow. My impulse was: forget the artist, forget plans and intentions... what does the glass want to do?
Development of the technique began one day when a gob of overheated molten glass flowed off of my blowpipe and hit the floor. I thought it looked pretty cool, especially mid-drip. Ultimately, after much trial and error, this random mistake evolved into a system that allows glass, gravity, fire and a team of artists to collaborate is creating unique sculptures that capture the glass in mid-flow.
Flow sculpting can be described as three-dimensional drawing with molten glass, using a graphite frame, such as a cylinder, for support, and a pipe or gathering ball as the pen. Sculptures are drawn upside down, then flipped to finish, the top becoming the base. It requires a team of three to four people: one person (usually me) gathers molten glass on a gathering ball, drawing and shaping it over the frame, one assistant guides the flows (with a light touch as necessary, only minimal intervention) using a variety of tools, and one, preferably two, heating the sculpture with torches, so it remains workable for as long as possible.
The process is very Hephaestian, involving huge gouts of flame and glowing molten-hot glass. A pyromaniac's dream really. While there is substantial preparation and cold work required before and after the creation of the sculpture, the actual drawing of the sculpture must happen very fast. Each sculpture must be completed in five to twelve minutes, max, or the glass will shatter. This puts a premium on instant, instinctual aesthetic decisions, with no time to over-think. You can start with a plan, but you literally have to go with the flow.
Flow sculpting is a seasonal activity for me, very hot work, best undertaken during very cold weather. Mostly, I work out of Urban Glass, in Brooklyn. Those interested in working with me in the studio on the next series should contact me by email. We can do 10 - 20 sculptures in a session. It is hugely fun! Anyone interested in commissioning my glass sculptures for private or public display should likewise contact me by email.