Type Material Research Year 2018, Nuutajärvi**Nuutajärvi village used to be the home to Finland's oldest glass factory. Currently, a glass blowing school, small-scale manufacturing facilities and an active community of glass artists are present in Nuutajärvi.
45 Minutes with Glass is based on impressions and results of an exercise I took part during a trip to Nuutajärvi, the glass village in Finland. The exercise formalized by Anna van der Lei was based on exploring glass, a completely unknown material for the participants, within a limited time of 45 minutes alongside two glassblowing masters. Since we had no solid idea about glass material and its production, it was nearly impossible to outplan the outcomes. The process was full of uncertainties and it required flexibility. 45 minutes was very short in reality that we had to make fast decisions and improvise on the spot.
In doing so, we learned to use the feedback and signs from our actions. Seeing the outcome of our previous action and planning the next step took place almost simultaneously. Besides, focusing on the process and not evaluating the results as good-bad or functional-useless has enabled us to lose control. In the end, we did not force the process to realize the products we planned in mind; instead, the process itself controlled and shaped the results in ways we could not have envisioned before.
Realizing this pushed my interest in exploring improvisation within the creative process further and developed into a long-term research. This experience also had a fundamental impact on the way I approach craft as a process of exploring and learning-by-doing rather than focusing on objects gained in the end. The results of this exercise were recycled to glass raw materials in the workshop, yet I kept a piece as a monumental reminder of the experience.
Photo credit: Riko Omato
Before starting the production process, we scanned our environment, examined the existing objects and means available, and redefined them as tools to be used during production. I decided to use the metal stands in the workshop and imagined that the woven mesh surfaces would create patterns and textural elements on the glass. These stools used by masters—to stand up while blowing glass through long pipes—would not have normally be used as a tool to shape the material.
Throughout the exercise, masters were not allowed to comment on our ideas or interfere with our unconscious decisions. The masters I worked alongside, Janne Rahunen and Manuel Diemer, were doubtfully smiling when I first asked them to blow the glass through the metal stools. From the master's point of view, it must be extremely uncomfortable to go along with a process that they know will certainly fail. As the masters could foresee, the production process did not go so smoothly; during most of the attempts, glass got stuck in stools. Nevertheless, I could observe that Janne and Manuel were having fun during our process.