Heike Brachlow

Heike Brachlow

PhD Candidate

Department of Ceramics and Glass

Royal College of Art

heike.brachlow@network.rca.ac.uk

Hekie Brachlow profile page on Heart of England Glass

 

Shaping Colour: Density, Light and Form in Solid Glass Sculpture

 

Colour in transparent glass is different to colour in most other materials: brighter, more changeable, and affected by the environment. This is due to the optical properties of glass: transmission, reflection and refraction of light.

 

It is therefore not surprising that many glass artists explore colour within their work. However, artists generally buy their coloured glass, and are therefore restricted to a finite range of hues available from manufacturers. Also, colour is often an afterthought: only after the models and moulds are made is any thought given to colour. Anybody working with solid glass of a certain size encounters another issue: most of the coloured glass available will appear very dark in large objects.

 

For a glass artist to fully explore transparent colour and create a personal palette is difficult, because contrary to the field of ceramics, there are no established methods for colour testing and making.

 

My research has developed a feasible process for studio-based glassmakers to create coloured glass in a kiln. Using this process, a range of bespoke glass colours can be created, and colour density can be adjusted to object size and form.

 

Investigation of the interaction of colour, light and form has resulted in identification of the factors that influence the appearance of colour in glass:

 

  • Form of object
  • Thickness in relation to colour density
  • Surface finish of glass
  • Angle of incident light
  • Intensity of light
  • Wavelength (colour) of light
  • Reflection and refraction of light
  • Scattering of light

Taking into account these factors, combined with experience, allows judgement of appropriate colour density for a given form and thickness, both for commercially available coloured glass and the making of coloured glass.

 

My personal colour palette consists of subtle tones of polychromatic colours, colours that change in different types of light. Most of my work reflects my attraction to movement, and part of the reason for this attraction is the idea of transformation. My work of the Theme and Variation series, developed during my research at the Royal College of Art, started out as colour tests, then transformed into puzzle-type elements with endless possibilities, to be given a specific form or arrangement. Even when the form is fixed, the object will still change, depending on the light.

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