National Glass Centre

I visited the National Glass Centre in Sunderland to learn about the different types of glass, processes and the wider work of the centre. My guide was super artist Helen Pailing who is currently completing her practice based PHD exploring the concept of recrafting waste (check out her beautiful chandelier in the atrium) based from the centre.

Helen provided my with a fascinating first insight into the different types of glass and their applications. Here is a low down of some of the glass materials she uses in her work

Borosilicate – Often used for science applications due to its high melting point and takes forms such as tubes, rods, petri dishes & testing jars. Most famous example is PYREX produced for the UK in Sunderland.

Fused Glass (pic at the top), where layers of different glass are heated together in layers

Float Glass – a sheet of glass made by floating molten glass on a bed of molten metal, giving the sheet uniform thickness and a very flat surface. This glass is used for windows and cut with a water jet.

Cast Glass: We saw some example of cast glass in the form of droplets shaped as they fell through a terracotta mould (below left image)

Pulled Glass: Made by heating the glass with a flame (flame work) and hand pulling the glass apart – very delicate and beautiful. Soda glass is often used in flame working (below right image)



During my trip I visited the Hot Shop where the big furnaces are for glass blowing and recorded sounds of the machines and the various types of glass in Helen’s studio. Listening back to the glass recordings, there were some incredibly beautiful fragile soundscapes, falling, cascading plates of tiny pieces of glass. The hundreds of edges chiming against each other, I will use some of the these recordings for textural work possibly using granular synthesis in Ableton in the coming weeks.


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