Tea 43

Computer graphics arts have a long-standing tradition of exploring reflections and refractions, and seeking perfection in the representation of these physical phenomena in glass.

Traditional glass arts explore similar issues, but are more frequently interested in generating the optically unexpected, rather than the optically perfect. When these realizations were considered by glassblower Daniel Schreiber and sci-vis researcher William Ray, the Looking Glass collaboration project was born. Their work explores the synergy between CG and glass arts.

This work explores the relationship between the form of the Utah teapot as a computational ideal, and the process by which that form is realized using traditional glassblowing techniques.

Displayed as a hanging sculptural work, Tea 43 allows a full-round glimpse of the glassblowing, teapot-making process -- a process that is surprisingly different from the computational lathing process. More of the physical glassblowing process is involved with the construction of necessary, but "not-teapot" appendages that have to be removed later, than in the teapot itself. Interestingly, many of the most intriguing and beautiful optical effects in the teapot are in portions of the work that are eventually removed from the final form and are therefore usually seen only by the artist.

In this companion piece to Perfectly Rendered, the viewer gets the chance to observe, as closely as possible without being present at the glassblowing furnace, the teapot as the artist sees it, before it is finally, perfectly rendered.

Technical Overview
Hybrid digital/glass works start out as simple sketches of object profiles. Simple CG lathe techniques allow rapid prototyping of how collections of objects would interrelate in the physical world. The objects are then hand-blown freehand and worked without molds to produce physical objects corresponding to the sketches. Finished glass objects are then digitized in 3D, to provide virtual models of the real pieces. The models can be used for further previsualization modeling of installations or used directly in hybrid sculptural and print works.

The glass objects are formed using traditional glass-blowing techniques. The glass artist and his team of assistants manipulate molten glass, as hot as 2150 degrees Fahrenheit, by repeatedly heating and shaping it with simple hand tools. Metallic oxides provide coloration, in this case a crosshatch of stripes applied to the still-molten glass during the blowing process.

Each of the three hanging proto-teapots in Tea 43 is a Utah teapot in intermediate states of the glassblowing process. Much like the proverbial elephant within the block of marble, the finished teapots remain to be removed from among the blown parts that "aren't teapot."

Daniel Schreiber & William Ray
The Ohio State University Biophysics Program
ray.29 (at) osu.edu