Broken Glass

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Female of the Species has closed and we’re already in tech for Yankee Tavern but before I start writing about that play I wanted to write this post about the breakaway glass vases that we made for Female of the Species because they required a really interesting process to create. What I’m calling a vase is really a spiral sculpture with small square details along the rim. In order to create this shape we had to pour it first as a flat piece and curve it into a spiral while it was still warm.

The vase was cast in a re-usable clear plastic called piccotex, it’s a pure monomer resin so it’s very brittle. We melted it together with an additive called piccolastic so that it was strong enough to be moved carefully from the shop to the stage but still fragile enough to break on cue.

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The timing of the entire pour was critical, the plastic had to be cool enough to hold its shape but still warm enough to be pliable, a few degrees too cool and the vase started to crack in our hands while we formed it. Since the details on the rim of the vase were thicker they took longer to cool, in order to maintain the detail on them we had to fill the squares up first and let them set before we poured the rest of the sheet.

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The edges of the mold cooled faster than the center so to keep everything synched up we had to use a heat gun on the edges. While one person uses the heat gun on the edges the second person tests the center of the vase to see if it has solidified enough, this highly technical procedure involved poking the surface of the plastic with a stick. The heat gun is also useful for freeing the stick from the taffy-like surface of the plastic if it hasn’t cooled down enough.

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Once the plastic reached the appropriate temperature we wrapped the mold around the form. Our form was made of silicone baking sheets over a copper sheet. The form was held rigid by a jointed armature that could be collapsed a bit like an umbrella to aid in removal of the finished vase.

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Here are a series of action shots that I took while Ken and Thomas taught me how to help them make the vases.

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The final stage involved setting the still slightly soft vase upright and using compressed air to both cool and help release the plastic from the silicone baking sheets. The vase also settled slightly so that it sat flat on its feet.

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Et Voila! A beautiful piece of art ready to be smashed to pieces!

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