Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lava Boats

In the summer of 2012 Michael Hengler moved to the Big Island of Hawaii to conduct research for his thesis project that consisted of him traversing the lava fields, launching lava boats into the molten rivers, and capturing it on video. Prior to moving to the Big Island, he discovered the cultural belief that  _Pele_, the volcano goddess, is embodied in the lava itself and therefore should not be used, but after months of research and meetings, Hengler received blessings and cultural permission from numerous Hawaiian Anthropologists and Hawaiian Cultural Practitioners to proceed with his project.  Ironically, he also learned that a company on Hawaii harvested and sold lava cinder which would now become the medium for his lava boats. Michael constructed six one-foot boats (as seen in the above picture) which he launched into the lava rivers, one by one, on three separate trips.  Watch the video footage of the lava boats riding the molten rivers by clicking here.  The eerie photo above was taken after a three hour hike into the caldera of Kilauea crater after dark.

The photo on the left is on location at Bryson Cinder on the Big Island of Hawaii.  It shows where the company extracts and crushes the cinder that they then package and sell to home improvement and garden centers as an attractive and durable ground cover.

In the photo on the right, you can see  the view from Michael's front porch while living in Kalapana, Hawaii.  The entire area has been decimated by the active volcano and, if you look closely, you can see the molten lava glowing in several locations.  A small community of approximately 100 off-the-grid houses have built new homes on the 50 foot thick solid volcanic rock earth.  Small shrubs and plants are starting to appear through the cracks of the black earth, but it will be centuries before it returns to it's original lush landscape.

Once back on the island of O'ahu, Hengler began the task of creating the next component of his thesis project: a ten foot lava boat. First, he created a styrofoam model as seen here on the left. Then he cut the styrofoam boat into two halves due to the size restrictions of the oven it would eventually bake in.

The styroboat was then covered in tape and a plexiglass wall was built around it (as seen in the picture to the right). A liquid plaster and silica mix was poured into the plexiglass frame and left to set for thirty minutes. In the photo below, the plaster boat mold is flipped right side up and completed after fine sanding and finishing touches were added.

The 800 lb plaster boat mold was lifted via forklift and lowered into the oven as seen on the left.  Michael filled the boat mold with a combination of the lava cinder and a thermal glaze he created for the project, comprised of the lava itself.  He added and sculpted the ingredients by hand to reach the desired boat shape.  

In the photo above, we see each boat-half after being baked in an enormous oven for over a week that reached temperatures of over 1600 Fahrenheit!  Once the pieces cooled, Michael was set to shape the halves into precisely the form he was looking for.  Hengler then connected the halves together.  The completed boat weighed approximately1400 pounds! 

It look a dedicated crew to assist Michael in setting up the solo exhibition. The gallery floor was covered with a foot of black lava cinder and three walls displayed a rolling video of the footage Hengler recorded while on the Big Island.  The exhibition showed at the University of Hawaii, Manoa's Common's Gallery in Honolulu, Hawaii.   A sincere thank you to Sidney Goo at Niu Nurseryfor his generous donation of three pallets of the lava cinder. And big mahalos to all of the assistants who helped Michael Hengler put together this show.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Nautical glassblowing

 Michael Hengler's interest in boats extends from his childhood in Wisconsin and fishing trips with his family. A camping adventure over a long summer weekend was reminiscent of an entirely different world to the young Hengler. This nautical fascination has flowed into Michael's most recent work completed this summer, 2013, at his recent fellowship at Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center in Millville, New Jersey.

The piece to the left is a hollow glass blown vessel.  Hengler suspended a sandblasted glass boat inside the vessel and filled it with water. The finished piece is capped off with a solid glass orb and permanently sealed the fate of the capsized boat.

 The piece above, called "Unroll to Go", combines glass blowing,
glass fusing, and a found metal object.  A detailed shot is shown below.

The five canoes on the left are ready to embark on an unknown voyage.

For more of Michael Hengler's work, check out his website at Michael Hengler.com

Monday, September 9, 2013

Glass Boat that Floats

Michael Hengler was awarded a fellowship from the Creative Glass Center of America at Wheaton Arts, in part, for his submitted proposal to make a life sized glass boat.  Some were intrigued, some were encouraging, and others were dubious about his plan to build the boat & then place himself in said boat to float the Delaware river. The planned route of the aquatic ride of Hengler was the same transit route the numerous glass manufacturers in the southern New Jersey region used to transport their glassware during the 1800-1900's.

After convincing himself and others around him the giant boat could be created, Michael set to work.  Henlger and his dedicated and diligent assistant, Mikey Butzine, poured over plans, ideas, and opinions.  Their first few attempts involved pouring hot glass into a boat mold the pair made from plaster, but that boat form was not able to hold it's shape to Hengler's liking.  Multiple processes were attempted and studied before a mutual consensus was met: the boat was to be made out of sheet glass (also known as window glass-as seen in the photo on the right).

Using a glass cutter, the stencil of the boat imagine was etched into the sheet glass and snapped off one piece at a time. The boat will consist of 4 sheets of quarter inch sheet glass layered one on top of another. The four sheets will be melted, or fused, together in an enormous oven before advancing to the next stage. This fusing of sheets proved to be incredibly challenging! Six separate attempts to fuse the sheets were unsuccessful due to either cracking, devitrification (clouded & discolored glass), or uncontrollable temperature fluctuations. Wheaton Arts generously donated supplies for the first FIVE attempts at which point Michael was required to purchase the sheet glass himself for two more attempts. The costly sheet glass was finally fused properly during the seventh and final try.

 Stage two was complete after the sheets spent one week in the oven.  In between the four layers of sheet glass, Michael had placed copper hooks to be fused into the glass.  After the glass cooled, the edges of the form were mounted on tall bricks called fracks. The hooks  were used to tie the boat with metal wire to keep it  from sliding off the fracks during the next stage: slumping.  In the photo below (taken while the boat was still in the oven), you can see the previously flat sheet glass slumping into the desired shape Michael was trying to achieve.

While the boat was slumping and then cooling in the oven for a week during stage 3, Michael was set to make the six foot glass oar needed to paddle himself on his journey. In the picture on the left, he his shaping glass on a metal table called a marver to create part of the oar  In the photo below, you can see his six foot glass oar. It is comprised of several sections of hand blown glass components which were then glued together.

In the photo on the right, Michael is about to open Wheaton Art's nine foot oven (affectionately called "Tiny") to unveil the final attempt at his seven foot glass boat project. Did it crack? Did the slump goes as planned or did it fall off the fracks? Will three months of work produce the coveted boat or is it back to the sketch book to consider more ideas?

 In the photo below, Hengler is pulling the boat out of the oven on it's designated tracks which helps ease the load of the weight.

Success!!! Wheaton Art's artistic director, Hank Adams, joins Michael in his excitement.  The glass boat made it out of the oven without any major issues.  In the photo on the left, Hank is assessing the successful aspects of the slump and possible changes to be made for Michael's  boat if and when he seeks yet another attempt. Hank was an incredibly helpful and resourceful component of Michael's fellowship at Wheaton Arts and we are both grateful for his support and encouragement. Thank you, Hank!!!

For more info on the artist, Michael Hengler, or his artwork, please visit his website at MichaelHengler.com
Michael happily resides in beautiful Honolulu, Hawaii and teaches glassblowing at the University of Hawaii.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Buoy and Boat

After three months of long hours and tedious details, artist Michael Hengler's "Buoy & Boat" project came to fruition.  The glassblown buoy & boat sets varied in size from 1.5 feet to 8 feet in length.  Each glass object starts off the same: as liquid molten glass pulled onto a metal pipe from a 2400 Fahrenheit furnace.Once there is enough of glass on the pipe, the glassblower then blows air through the pipe to create a bubble inside of the glass.  As the bubble grows, the Gaffer (glass artist) shapes  the object to his or her desired form.

In the above photo, Michael is shaping the piece on a metal table called a marver. The picture on the right shows him swinging the hot glass back and forth to create length. This cylindrical object is then placed in an oven to cool slowly and when it is cold it will be sliced in half with a diamond saw. Once cut, the two objects are placed back in an oven (the "garage") and bought to a working temperature of around 2200 Fahrenheit.  At this point, Michael can add the final details and create the two boat forms he is envisioning.
The 33 sets of glass buoys and boats were etched with Michael's website address and released into the current at Hereford Inlet in Wildwood, NJ on July 15th, 2013. With a team of assistants, Michael installed the varying sizes of buoy sets along the coast line in hopes that the ocean current would take them out to sea and their new owners would email him as to their whereabouts.  Things seemed to be going really well except...
...the tide wasn't cooperating. The waves were simply not strong enough to pull the "Buoy & Boat" sets into the Atlantic and off to their voyage. There was a deep channel with a rip current just 30 feet off of the shore, but the buoy sets weren't coming close to it. So, what would any clever artist do?
Even the lifeguards were eager to join in. The incredibly kind lifeguard on the surfboard above offered to hand deliver the larger buoy sets one by one! The day of the "Buoy & Boat" installation was filled with a few challenges, but the overwhelming feeling we received from the people on the beach and from all of the helping hands was complete gratitude and joy.

For more information or to check out Michael Hengler's artwork, check out his website at michaelhengler.com  The artist currently lives in Honolulu, Hawaii and teaching glassblowing at the University of Hawaii

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The eventful summer of 2013 brought Michael Hengler to Princeton University to study with internationally known scientific glassblower Mike Souza. Mr. Souza has worked in the field for over 40 years and has held a position at Princeton University for over 20 years. Mr. Souza generously shared his extensive knowledge and life's long 'tricks' to the young artist and scientific glass hopeful. In this photo, Mr. Souza is utilizing a glass lathe, a blow tube (in his mouth) to add air which inflates the glass, and a handheld torch.

 Here you can see the glass lathe holding the glass in place. The lathe is used to rotate the glass piece on it's axis so the glassblower can make the various adjustments needed. Most scientific glass pieces begin as a hollow tube created in a factory. In this photo (right), you can see the initial tube size remaining on the left and the multiple changes the glassblower has made on the right. 

A Princeton Physicist, working on cutting edge Helium3 experiments, requires the use of a specialty glass, Aluminosilicate, because of it's impermeable properties. Mr. Souza and Michael constructed the four foot glass apparatus with eight perpendicular arms so that the Physicist could perform eight concurrent experiments at once (see left).

Why is an artist interning with a scientific glassblower at Princeton University? Michael is very comfortable with the glass medium and finds much enjoyment in problem solving with the scientists & creating this type of glass work. While attending the University of Oregon in 2007, Michael was employed by a geophysicist and has been producing scientific glassware for the University of Hawaii since 2012.  Finding himself fulfilled in this career path, @MikeHengler decided further formal training would be beneficial.

For more information on scientific glassblowing, check out the website American Scientific Glassblowers Society and for more details about Micahel Hengler's work and his artistic process go to MichaelHengler.com