A series of multi-coloured, rippling glass sculptures have gone in display at Manchester Craft and Design Centre featuring the determined breaths of a glassblower.

Seldom included in the finished product, the newly commissioned sculptures by Manchester-based makers, Jahday Ford and Joseph Hillary use innovative digital design and traditional glassblowing techniques to visualise the blown air in sculptural form.

The exhibition, Breathe, is on display at Manchester Craft and Design Centre in the heart of the Northern Quarter until May.

How has the blown air been transformed into sculptural form?

The early stages of glass blowing, balancing heat and shaping molten glass by blowing through a blowing iron, have been recorded by Hillary – by profession and education a digital designer – as sound files, taking the delicate sound of his friend and collaborator, Ford breathing through the iron itself. From the audio files he creates a visual representation using CAD software, before the illustrated sound waves are then turned into a wooden mould to begin the process of encapsulating an ambient sound in a physical object. The final stage in creating the finished glasswork goes right back to the start of the process, with Ford blowing hot, coloured glass through the mould Hillary has prepared to create a highly-detailed pattern as a feature of the finished, glass sculpture.

The process has been one of ‘trial and error’, supported by specialist glass technicians, which has included the wooden moulds burning and filling the studio with smoke, an issue resolved by soaking the birch moulds in water first. Having mastered the process, the collaboration continues.

You can watch a snippet of the process below:

Speaking about the process and inspiration behind the exhibition, Joseph Hillary commented, “Freezing the glassblower’s breath in the form of a sound wave and using that as the form of a newly blown piece of glass is our way of putting the identity of the maker back into the piece. We want to bring the two worlds of craft and digital design together to create work that pushes the material boundaries of glass itself. The origin of any hand blown glass vessel is the first breaths, an essential technique in the making process, so with these pieces the viewer is presented with a rare, three-dimensional representation of the origins of the item itself.”

The Manchester-based makers Jahday Ford and Joseph Hillary met as students in Manchester, forming the alliance of glassblower and digital designer.  It is this unique collaboration which led to the opportunity to put together the exhibition as winners of the Manchester Craft and Design Centre’s decade-long Graduate Award Programme, in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University.

Speaking on their collaborative work, Jahday Form commented, “Through experimentation, collaboration and study, I’ve tried to stretch the possibilities of form, material and experience as a maker. Both Joe and I found common ground as we both strive to find to methods of combining or manipulating a form, whether on a 2D or 3D basis, leading to completely new methods of working and exciting, experimental results.”

Where and when is Breathe on display in Manchester?

Breathe is displayed at Manchester Craft and Design Centre until 12 May 2018.

Image courtesy Ester Segarra