DMY Berlin

Philipp Weber's Creation of a Strange Symphony


13 June 2013

The winner of the New Talents award at this year's DMY design festival in Berlin is Philipp Weber. A graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, Weber presented Creation of a Strange Symphony, an exploration of musicality in glassblowing.

The project, which Weber began in 2009, saw him seek to alter the way in which glass is formed by adjusting the typology of the metal blowing pipe used in glassblowing.

Working with a Belgian glassblower, Christophe Genard, Weber developed a pipe that includes valves like a brass musical instrument. Rather than a single opening - through which the glassblower uses his breath to control the expansion of the molten glass - Weber's pipe has three openings, which can be open and closed as and when needed using the valves.

The result is a more complex tool that allows for the creation of extraordinary, pupal glass forms. Genard's work with the tool is documented in a film created by Weber, which was shown at DMY.

Below, Weber discusses the project, why process is more important than outcome, and how musicality is essential to glassblowing.

How did the project begin?
I started making the tools while studying in Eindhoven. I had maybe three tools, but then left it until my graduation when I felt it was time to pick it up again. That’s when the music came in and I realised that the process of glassmaking has a lot of rhythm inherent to it. A really good glass blower has some kind of musical talent. I saw that and decided I wanted an allegory in my project to make clear that music and rhythm are a big part of it.

That's where the brass elements come in?
People ask if they’re decorations. They're not decoration, they're necessary. They make you approach the glass much more playfully. I told Christophe that it’s not about how the product looks at the end, it’s about letting yourself be overwhelmed by the material and starting a dialogue with the glass. It’s about improvising. That’s when he went really wild, as if he was playing jazz.

Is that sense of liberation the main innovation of the pipe?
It brings technical differences too. A traditional pipe is just one steel pipe with an opening at the end. You blow through it and create a hollow vase or whatever. The pipe has three valves and with those Christophe is able to control the air chambers inside the glass. Now you have many bubbles and can control the airstream by using the valves. You have many chambers to shape the inside. That was not possible before, in any way. With those three bubbles he can shape the glass from inside out and grant it an inner form. So he could have one main bubble and two smaller chambers spinning around that. That was the original idea. Looking at how I could change glass by changing the tool.

The project is presented as a film. Why is that?
I’m very inspired by literature and film and when I saw the drama and music in the way that Christophe was working, I thought it was so beautiful. The performance that started developing when he was improvising was amazing. So it's the performance that needs to be shown. I wanted to make a movie. It’s better to see it live, but that’s difficult. So a movie.

It's more about the process than the final objects?
Whenever you settle on a shape, say a vase or something functional, you block the dialogue with the glass. Glass has a very strong self-will. It’s almost fire you’re working with; a glowing piece of material that you can’t touch, so it has it’s own will. I think we block that self-will by deciding on the final shape beforehand. During that process there are so many things that can happen. So I asked Christophe to just improvise. That’s where we got the most interesting shapes and a lot of insight into it as a material.

What's the future of the project? Will it be continued?
Definitely. There is so much about the material and working with it that I want to continue with. There’s interest for production, which I’m happy about and which I’ll experiment with, but the performance part is a big passion of mine. I get a lot of insight about shaping and working with the glass. I’m not the glassblower, but I understand the material through working with it. My dream is to have an orchestra of glassblowers, using different tools and performing together.

Creation of a Strange Symphony follows below

Philipp Weber's Creation of a Strange Symphony