Featured Artist: Christopher Unger
In the beginning of November I interviewed the glass artist Christopher Unger live on Instagram Stories. It was a lot of fun. I have added the video to YouTube (find my channel here and subscribe) so that you can watch it if you didn't get the chance to join us or if you would simply like the pleasure of seeing it again. I definitely recommend watching the video because after he answers a few questions about himself and his art he demonstrates his process by making an ornament and a vase. The ornaments and the vase are currently available in his shop (click here to go straight there). I bought a white ornament and I am so excited for it to arrive so that I can put it on my tree!
After the interview was complete, I did come up with a few more questions to ask. Throughout the demonstration there would be random, loud popping/cracking noises. Those sounds didn't come through the video very well, but in person they were quite loud. I asked him about it and he explained that after he is done with the rods he places them in a barrel to cool. Since the glass is cooling at an extremely fast rate, the glass cracks and breaks off. Hence the name "crack off." He places the rods in the barrels to contain the glass because it could become dangerous, sometimes the glass acts explosive and sometimes it just chips off. By the time the rods are done cooling, all of the glass has broken off and the rods are clean and ready to be used again.
Christopher does recycle most of the clear glass with an exception to the crack off. He explained that if he were to recycle the crack off, then his project would contain lots of bubbles and impurities due to little pieces of metal or dirt and debris that breaks off of the pipe with the rod.
I was curious what form the glass came in before it is melted and used for these beautiful projects. Christopher grabbed a bag (it almost looked like a feed bag), cut it open and pulled out a handful of glass. The raw glass looked like giant ice cubes. He explained that when the furnace is getting low, they use a shovel and fill it back up with the raw glass.
My final question was if Christopher leaves everything on all the time or if it is shut down every night. The furnace, the machine that looked like a giant pot of melted glass, is left on always. The gloryhole, the machine where he re-heats the glass as he manipulates it, is turned off every night. The annealer, the machine that cools the glass down at a slow rate so that it doesn't explode, is also shut down when not in use. It takes approximately 1 hour for the gloryhole and annealer to warm up.
During the past month after our interview, Christopher has been experimenting with broken glass. So if you want to see glass exploding because it wasn't placed in the annealer, head over to his Instagram and check out his videos and images. To view his portfolio and learn more about him visit his website.
If you have any questions, please contact me or Christopher Unger. Thanks!