Glass - Back to the Future!

Presenting Author:
Choi Keeryong
<[email protected]>

article posted 07 Jan 2016

Choi Keeryong completed his practice-led PhD research in Dec 2015 at the University of Edinburgh. He received his first degree in fine art from Hanyang University in Seoul, Korea in 2003. He moved to the UK and enrolled on an MA programme in glass and architectural glass at the University of Edinburgh, UK in 2006. Before he returned to the university to conduct his PhD research, he worked for the school of design, the University of Edinburgh as an artist in residency and a visiting lecturer from 2008 to 2010. He received the Scottish Overseas Research Student Awards Scheme (SORSAS) grant and the Edinburgh College of Art international student scholarship for his PhD research.

His research interest lies in the notion of invented cultural authenticity, historical and symbolic meanings constructed around craft materials, and how they are appreciated and provoke an aesthetical emotion.

The development of inlaid colouring technique
for hot-glass making process

Choi Keeryong
31/10 Milton Street, Edinburgh EH8 8HB

The possibility of developing an inlaid colour decorative technique for glassblowing initially arose in response to Dr. Ray Flavell's research on the encapsulation of voids within the body of glass artefacts. His innovative achievement, in terms of the technical contribution he has made to the field of glassblowing, makes it possible for controlled drawings to be transferred directly onto a parison (a blown glass bubble) by applying stencil cutting and sandblasting. (cf. Fig. 1)

In the course of an in-depth study into Flavell's development of his techniques, I recognised the potential to apply the Sanggam1 decorative technique onto glass artefacts, as the incised motifs create a void which could be filled with coloured powder glass, therefore, a delicate line-drawing style design can be achieved with dynamic colour variations.

The inlaid colouring technique might also share some similarities, in terms of the idea of achieving controlled colour decoration on blown glass artefacts, with the Graal2 glass technique (or Intarsia3 as Frederick Carder (1863-1963), the English-born American glass artist, called it) and the Mykene technique. (cf. Figs. 2 and 3)

The Mykene glass technique was developed in 1936 by Vicke Lindstrand (1904-83), a Swedish glass designer, during his time in the Orrefors Glasbruk, Sweden. It suggests that an earlier attempt had been made to achieve better controlled drawings with a layer of glass. (cf. Fig. 3)

Powdered carborundum mixed with epoxy resin, as Flavell speculates, was applied directly onto the drawing on the surface of the glass body, and then another layer of a glass wall encapsulates the drawing (Flavell, 2011, p.33). However, as the clear spots, which the transparent glass body revealed through the irregular bubbles, and the fine definition of the drawing suggests, a thin layer of powdered carborundum was possibly applied onto the shallow etched void on the parison. Therefore, in spite of the chemical reaction of the bonding agent, the epoxy resin, as the irregular bubbles prove, the outline of the drawing remains intact.

Having undertaken an in-depth study of Flavell's research into the development of the encapsulation of voids, as well as examining the Graal and Mykene glass technique, and Sanggam ceramic technique, my key aim then was to develop an innovative colour decorative technique for glassblowing by combining these well-established, afore-mentioned techniques.

Developing this particular technique allowed me to explore the state of ambiguity a viewer experiences when they look at my work. I do this by delineating geometric patterns and counterfeit letters onto my glass artworks and encapsulating them in between the layers of transparent glass. (cf. Fig.4)

By that I mean, my artwork does not easily fit into either Korean or British visual culture, as I create, deliberately, a pseudo Korean-British or British-Korean image that is viewed as a Western or Eastern image or a mix of both cultures. The cultural ambiguity inherent in my artwork challenges viewers, sometimes and creates uneasy feelings in them when they look at it. As an artist, I want to use glass and porcelain as an artistic medium to find ways to provoke a feeling of anxiety in the viewer when they look at, and think about, my work.


1 The Sanggam technique is regarded as highly important to Korean cultural heritage, and the highest achievement of the technique is appreciated by art collectors and connoisseurs. During the Goryeo dynasty (935-1392), Goryeo potters first used Sanggam decoration, which is unique to the ceramic decorative techniques of the Song dynasty (960-1279) China period, during the second half of the 12th century. Sanggam decorative designs included natural motifs such as cranes, flowers and grapevines, which were firstly incised into the leather-hard (or semi-dried) body of the bowls, vessels, cups and bottles. Secondly, the incised design was filled with white or red slip (clay mixed with water), and the excess was wiped off before the application of clear glaze and firing.

2 The Graal glass technique was developed by the designer Simon Gate, in collaboration with a team that included Gustaf Abels (engraver) and Knut Bergqvist at Orrefors Glasbruk (also known as Orrefors glasshouse), Sweden, in 1916 (Flavell, 2011, p.24). Clear glass is cased by a layer of coloured glass then decorative design is applied to the surface. The design section is protected from the hydrofluoric acid, which etches away the rest of the section of coloured glass.

3 Carder developed the technique with the help of Johnny Jenson, a Swedish glass blower, at the Corning Glassworks in 1916. The Intarsia glass was produced until 1923 (Flavell, 2011, p.25).