Pangrams and Prince Rupert Drops
24 February 2013
Glass can serve as a window giving a clear view of the world or a mirror perfectly reflecting our own image. Introduce distortion to the glass and you can obscure that view of the world or play with your image in the way of a fun house mirror. Artist Helen Lee's love of graphic design and glass, leads her to create glass vessels with embedded letters and words as design elements.
During a recent stay as resident artist at the MIT Glass Lab, Lee explored using the letters of the alphabet embedded in glass cane as a design element for her blown glass globes. After making a full set of glass canes for each letter of the alphabet, Lee laid out pangrams – sentences using every letter of the alphabet – then fused them together. She also made vessels that revealed lowercase script letters when cut in half.
|Letter "P" cut on side of glass.|
Lee, who is based in Berkeley, Calif., gave two examples of pangrams she fused into her glass: “Quick wafting zephyrs vex bold Jim” and “Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.”
Don’t expect to be able to read the pangrams though; they are primarily a design element. “This is one of the more illegible typeface glass projects I’ve done. In theory, if you slice it really thin and look down the end of it, you would be able to see the letter, but in practice, and in usage, you won’t really be able to see it. I’m more interested in generating different patterns from the letter forms. I am thinking about calling these ‘obfuscation vessels’ because that’s effectively what I’m doing to the language with this process,” Lee said.
Lee started her letter-based design project at the lab by pulling simple cane with a straight black core in the center and with two layers of clear glass on the outside. She then advanced to designing the whole alphabet in cane using the Virtual Glass software program. Virtual Glass was developed at MIT by Martin L. Demaine, visiting researcher and glass instructor, Erik D. Demaine, professor of computer science, and Peter Houk, Director of the Glass Lab. Volunteers from the Glass Lab community made sure Helen had at least one assistant every day.
Past visiting artists at the MIT Glass Lab range from relatively unknown upcoming artists to well-known artists such as Dante Marioni, Kiki Smith and Lino Tagliapietra. Other invited artists, such as Dale Chihuly and Larry Bell, chose to give a lecture only while others have stayed for a few weeks and made their own work using students and instructors as assistants. Glass Lab Director Peter Houk said, “I have been wanting to get Helen back to MIT to make work and interact with Glass Lab people for some time, and this winter seemed like good timing for everybody. She was ready to spend some time working out some ideas she had been thinking about. … Her stay was very productive, partly because she had been thinking about these ideas for a while and was very organized about her plan of attack, and partly because she had no lack of assistants among the Glass Lab community. A lot of people in the Glass Lab are people who knew Helen when she was at MIT and were eager to see her, work with her, and catch up.”
|Artist Helen Lee embedded pangrams in this globe produced at the MIT Glass Lab.|
Lee, 34, is an MIT alumna (2000) with a B.S. in Art and Design. After studying architecture at MIT, Lee worked in the MIT Glass Lab for four years before pursuing an MFA in Glass at RISD (2006). She has taught at the Chrysler Museum of Art Glass Studio, Haystack Mountain School of Craft, Rhode Island School of Design, California College of Art, and the Palo Alto High School Glass Program. She has also been a visiting artist at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Tyler University, RISD, Virginia Commonwealth University, Cal State Fullerton, and University of Delaware. She was a Pilchuck Glass School Emerging Artist in Residence in 2009; a Headlands Center for the Arts Affiliate Artist from 2009-2011; and in 2012 was a guest designer at The Corning Museum of Glass’s Glass Lab on Governor’s Island, in conjunction with the exhibition Graphic Design: Now in Production. The visit in early February was her first time at the MIT Glass Lab as a visiting artist.
Prince Rupert Drops
Lee also made Prince Rupert drops during her Glass Lab residency to take advantage of her proximity to the MIT Edgerton Center. “Prince Rupert Drops are made by dropping hot glass in cold water. By virtue of that extreme temperature change, it effectively becomes tempered. They’re very strong. You can beat on the head of it with a hammer, but the tail is very thin. When you break the tail, the whole thing explodes into dust in an instant.” Lee said.
With Dr. Jim Bales, Edgerton Center Assistant Director, and student Kyle Hounsell (electrical engineering, ‘13), Lee captured high-speed strobe video and still images of the shattering Prince Rupert drops. Photographs and video show the high concentration of small particles from the breaking glass.
Exploding Prince Rupert drops at the MIT Edgerton Center
An exploding Prince Rupert drop is captured with high speed flash photography
Image: Kyle Hounsell/Dr. Jim Bales
Prince Rupert drops explodes
Image: Denis Paiste, Materials Processing Center
An exploding Prince Rupert drop is captured with high-speed photography
Image: Kyle Hounsell/Dr. Jim Bales
Lee engaged Dr. Jim Bales, Edgerton Center Assistant Director, and student Kyle Hounsell (electrical engineering, ‘13), to capture high speed flash photography and high speed video of the shattering Prince Rupert drops. Photographs and video show the high concentration of small particles from the breaking glass.
Updated 2/28/2013 to include comments from MIT Glass Lab Director Peter Houk