A Strange Symphony

Philipp Weber: A Strange Symphony

A Strange Symhpony provides a stage for the drama and music hidden inside the craft of glassblowing. Philipp Weber altered the glassblowers main tool, the blowing pipe, and developed a new instrument to manipulate the relation between the glassblower and his material. This changed the approach towards the material enabling the craftsman to shape the inner form of the glass using different valves on the pipe. The transformation of the tool stimulated a new working process and inspired the glassblower to improvise, provoking a performance of glass making.

While watching belgian glassblower Christophe Genard working, the blowing tool caught Weber’s attention. In the past 2000 years only minor alterations have been made to the 1.5m long steel pipe, with no effect to the material. ‘What would happen to the glass, if the function of this tool radically changed? How would Christophe adapt to a new pipe?’. By manipulating the pipe the designer took influence on the inner shape of the glass. However, through changing the tool the designer sensed a certain mystery in the craft of glassblowing. The rhythm and drama, which he saw hidden in the process of making glass, left a resonating impression on him. The pipe as a tool for glass production, appeared to be like a musical instrument to him.
He translated the mechanism of a trumpet into an application for blowing glass. Ultimately Weber started working on a new ‘instrument’– an allegoric bond of craft and music–, inspiring Genard to ‘improvise’ the glass. Playing the valves, he would activate different air streams, shaping the glass from inside,. The transformation of the pipe into an instrument provoked a performance of glass making. A short-movie, several glass objects and the instrument itself communicate this dance with the fire.

How did the project begin?
I started making tools for glassblowing 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 glass making has a lot of rhythm inherent to it. A really good glassblower 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, they’re necessary. They make the glassblower 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.

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.

Philipp Weber: A Strange Symphony Philipp Weber: A Strange Symphony


Glassblowing: Christophe Genard
Tool Production: Mart van Hest
Filmmaking: Minsung Wang, Conor Trawinski, Philipp Weber
Sound Design: Johannes Arolt
Interview: Disegno Daily
Photos: Alexandre Kurek, Philipp Weber
Design Concept: Philipp Weber

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