MF : Dear Daniel Cutrone. I have discovered your works and activities during my researches concerning contemporary creations combining "glass" and "new technologies" (“in the digital age”). We wanted to bring out artists, craftsmen, makers, experiences, practices, researches, in order to understand and make visible the different issues, and the different relationships with new technologies in the expanded glass creation. You are an artist and an educator, Assistant Professor at Tyler School of Art of Temple University in the glass program. In a couple of days, you will participate in the 2015 Robert M. Minkoff Foundation Academic Symposium at UrbanGlass in NYC, dedicated to the new technologies and pedagogy in glass (New technologies in practices). In june (2015) you have participated in the 44th annual Glass Art Society conference, focused on the theme « Interface : Glass, Art and Technology », concerning experiments incorporating digital modeling, CNC routing, digital processes. You use several technologies (glass blowing, casting, fusing, kiln working, and flameworking, also digital tools) to create your installations and sculptures (with several dimensions : poetic, symbolic, philosophic, narrative and reflexive). You also question the viewer, his perceptions, and « the » perception. So, I'm not wrong if I say that your are really involved and engaged, among other things, in the field of the new technologies applied in glass creation, and I'm not wrong also if I say that you are aware and well informed of the different questions that this field raises.
Could you tell us which digital technologies you use, why did you choose these technologies and what is their place in your statement ? The relationship with technology has been an important issue in your practice ?
DC : I became involved with CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/ Computer Aided Manufacture)1Conception Assistée par Ordinateur / Fabrication Assistée par Ordinateur because of a specific need in my work. I needed mountains, not just any mountain nor the illustrated idea of a mountain, but two specific mountains. Conceptually, I wanted Mount Everest and Mount Fuji in my work. This specificity demanded data I understood that CAD/CAM could serve this need.
Many people view these new digital technologies as “click and print” solutions. My intent in using these technologies is to bring them back to the studio and use them as a very traditional glassmaker. It is not about removing the hand or skill of the maker. In my own practice I have been using Rhinoceros as my primary CAD software. Initially I began CNC milling graphite molds2Computer Numerical Control milling graphite molds : Moules en graphiste réalisés avec une fraiseuse à commande numérique pilotée par ordinateur that I designed in CAD. These molds are used in multiple ways. Sometimes I use them in very traditional ways, such as hot casting directly into them. In other work I have used them more adaptively in the glassblowing process. Ultimately my decision to use these new technologies is about bringing a new vocabulary of form making into the glass studio and mostly this is about a new level of specificity of form.
MF : Can we say that these digital tools influence the form, the meaning ?
DC : These digital tools have altered my formal constructs and informed my content. While using these new methods, the CAD space became more a workspace it became a “think space”. It’s a space that allows quick iteration and modification, which is definitely a boon to creative exploration. As I began learning and exploring CAD/CAM there were many serendipitous experiences. One of these early experiences involved the tool path. Learning to prepare a model for the CNC mill involves a process where one needs to define what is known as a tool path. Typically a smooth model requires many passes of the tool over the form, but fewer passes yields a coarser more stepped appearance. Initially, I intentionally decided to leave this residue in order to bring the viewers attention to the manufacture and artifice of the mountains that were my subjects. These marks have been designed in such a way as to add additional content beyond the ideas of residue and 3D manufacturing. Another important moment of discovery for me was a digital glitch event. This occurred when I was first learning to run the CNC mill. The mill randomly changed the orientation of its Z-axis. I was interested in using this moment to further push the idea of artifice in my work. In the topography I have used this idea in two ways. The first was to re-mill one area of the topography. This drop in elevation represents a false rendering of the topography that also gave a new center point. The other way that I used the idea of the digital glitch was to create a repeat in the topography.
MF : Could you give us informations concerning the glass programm at the Tyler School of Art ? Which visions, politics, whishes, challenges, problematics ?
DC : The glass program at Tyler School of Art is a state-of-the-art glass facility that has an amazing breath and depth of faculty. We continually challenge our students to reconsider how to creatively use glass. It is important for educators to seek new ways of engaging the act of making, but this should not be done at the expense of traditional making. The goal is to speak to relations between making and content. At Tyler there is a desire for more access to these technologies, as well as a hope that these technologies may be used to foster collaboration and cross-pollination One of the aims of our school is to develop a physical workspace that is not area specific and may be used to facilitate interactions among artists working in different areas.
MF : Just a little question concerning new technologies at Tyler School. Which kind of new technologies are used in the glass program ? Which links with digital technologies ? Conceptual, reflexive, practical ?
DC : This semester I began teaching Rhinoceros CAD software to my advanced techniques hot blowing class. In the class I introduced my students to a number of 3D technologies. We used a handheld 3D scanner to scan each student’s head. From these scans we CNC milled graphite blocks creating miniature molds to be used with molten glass. My objective was to bring these tools back to the glass studio as quickly as possible, because the real goal is to be a glassmaker. Additionally, in our program we have enamel decal printers. Other resources that are available for our students are a laser engraver, a digital vinyl cutter and numerous digital printers.
So why choose to work with digital technologies? The digital is represented by data, which address the needs of specificity. Specificity can be represented in a line or a curve, but is also may be represented in a face or a space. This is the specificity that the new digital realm can bring to makers. Additionally, CAM (Computer Aided Machining) provides the potential to explore unique residue from these processes. I would point out that these tools represent potential, but they need to be considerer within the greater context of traditional making. The idea is to realize which tools are needed and beneficial to your needs and new technologies are not always the answer. I see it as a mix and match situation. One example I give my students is that to design a cylinder in CAD only takes a few moments. However, to machine a perfectly smooth 2-part mold of that cylinder can take many hours. Practically speaking a smarter decision would be to find the correct size pipe and make a 2-part mold of that pipe in a more traditional way. As artists and makers our value is in our creative voice and that voice is shaped by the vocabulary of our techniques. Digital technologies expand the vocabulary of traditional making. However, technology alone, as with any technique is a simple vocabulary without deep meaning. It is our job as makers to create a meaningful syntax or context with our techniques.
MF : What digital tools bring into the glass creation, specifically ? What can you say about the impact of new technologies in glass creations and design today ? Do you think that new technologies can enrich the glass creation (aesthetic, artistic, formal, dimensions) ?
DC : Glass as a material is unique. It is a material that can be creatively manipulated in multiple states. Scientifically glass is classified as an amorphous solid. Materially glass can be worked as a liquid or a solid and somewhere in-between. In fact you can work creatively back and forth between these states. So, how can new technology be brought into these different areas of working with glass ? First, I would like to stop calling them technologies and just call them tools. There is an exciting breath of tools that can already be brought into the glassmaking process. There are CNC mills that can be used to create molds for blowing or casting glass. There are water jet cutters that can be used to cut intricate patterns in glass that can then be manipulated in a kiln or in the hot shop. There are laser engravers that can etch images or any data on or in glass. There is even a glass printer created by MIT labs that can extrude molten glass. This is a really exciting time to be a glassmaker or for that matter any other kind of maker.
MF : Which are the limits in the use of digital technologies in glass art today ?
DC : I don’t like to think about limits. I like to think about what is inherent to a material or a process. I like to consider potential or possibilities. But, for a moment I will speak to what machines or robots cannot do within traditional glassmaking processes. One is the application of color during the hot process, either with the creation of layered colors or traditional caning techniques. Another is the making of form that involves multiple hot connections. The goal for me is to expand the scope and vocabulary of making while remaining, in many ways, a traditional glassmaker.
MF : The use of new technologies should be accompanied by critical reflexion on new technologies themselves in social, political, ecological, economic, terms ?
DC : There are two areas concerning the use of technology in glass making that require critical consideration. First, how and who can gain access to these new tools? To me what is exciting is that these new technologies are becoming more available and accessible by the public. There are “hacker spaces” that are popping up all over giving interested people an entryway into this new way of making. Second, as a maker or artists, how do these technologies affect how and what we might say? Within my own practice I saw an opportunity to leave the residue of these digital processes as content in my work. Specifically I was interested in bringing the viewer into a space that was simultaneously intimate and vast. I like my work to create a push and pull. I want the viewer to be drawn into Mount Everest and Mount Fuji and understand as those places from the perspective of nature. Yet, I want the viewer to see the residue of 3D manufacturing, to be pulled out of the intimate natural space and recognize the artifice. Ultimately I am interested in putting the viewer into a state of inquiry. I am not trying to make a declarative statement. I only wish for these new relations to be considered and perhaps for a state of wonderment to be engendered.
MF : May be could you give us some relevant examples of artists, works or experiments ?
DC : A couple of groundbreaking artist and makers using digital technologies are Ferrucio Laviani's Good Vibrations Storage Unit and Wim Delvoye’s Twisted Dump Truck along with Markus Kayser who Built a Solar-Powered 3D Printer and I had already mention the MIT Lab that built a molten glass 3D printer.
Image : Daniel Cutrone, Object of Desire (Photographie : Matthew Hollerbush)