Manuel Fadat : Dear Fred Metz. I have discovered your activities during my researches concerning contemporary creations combining "glass" and "new technologies" (“in the digital age”), especially when I have read the article titled Digi-Fab goes to Pilchuck Glass School and the existence of the recent Pilchuck Glass School's Digital Fab Glass Lab. It was such a pleasure when I have read that “The studio will become a laboratory for combining the newest digital fabrication technologies and glass”. I have thought, so, that an interview with you was indispensable.
When I have asked you if you are agree to participate, you answered : “I was forwarded your letter expressing interest in asking some questions about my exploration into new technologies and glass. I thought I should reach out and let you know I'm available and more than happy to share the results of my research. I also have a few associates I work with who are also involved in these explorations whom you may be interested in contacting”. Wonderful !
In order to synthesize, the general idea of this study (a part is published on our website but I continue to make interviews to complete it) in order to synthesize, was to observe what happens when glass artists choose to “use” digital technologies and tools (what, why, how), when artists choose to “associate” glass and digital technologies, or when teams (engineers, artists, craftsmen, makers) invent digital tools and machine for design and/or manufacturing (in glass). As you know very well, we can find digital technologies in all the world of glass (craft, design, contemporary art, architecture), and it's interesting to examine all their effects and interests (technic, artistic, aesthetic, formal, symbolic, critic, but also, why not, economic, ecologic...).
Obviously, one of the aims of this study is to bring out, to broadcast and to popularize, if I can say, explorations, creations, technologies, creators, and of course the different relationships with new technologies in the expanded glass creation. So, I will be happy to contribute to share about your explorations, and to try to build gateways with other creators, researchers, pioneers.
About you, your career. Could you tell us how you have discovered new “digital” technologies, why did you choose to work with, and which technologies you use currently?
Fred Metz : I am the founder of Spiral Arts - we build tools and equipment for glassblowers. In addition to our manufacturing, we also engage artists and provide a facility to experiment with art and technology mostly centered around glass. I do not have a formal education in technology although I have been working with computers and electronics for many years.
MF : If you should explain to a teenager which digital technologies you will use and explore at the Digital glass fab lab (3D CAD and 3D printing software ; 3D Binder jetting printer ; Lost PLA ; glass printing robot ; touch sensitive glass ; ballistic deposition of glass ; use of microcontrollers), and why, how would you explain it?
FM : First, I encourage finding and experimenting with any appropriate technology for the process or idea you are trying to express. I usually point out, the foundation skill for anyone exploring digital fabrication is CAD. Find the best CAD software you can afford and try to master it. It is something a class can introduce you to, but to really become fluent, you must use CAD every day for years. So if you are struggling, that's the place to start.
Second, I encourage thinking about using digital fabrication to enhance the process of making rather than focusing on the object being made. It is quite easy to dismiss digital fabrication if we are talking about objects created using the computer. Those objects can carry a brutal digital fingerprint. I think the real power of digital fabrication is in its ability to extend the range of tools and change the process of creating an object.
MF : What can you say about the impact of new technologies in glass creations today ? Do you think that new technologies and digital culture can “enrich” the glass creations and open new paths? What is really changing?
FM : I believe technology will define the future of glass art. I don't know that it will necessarily change the fundamentals of how glass is made, but I believe we will be able to identify technology as the driving factor of newness in glass. It will certainly enrich our relationship with what we make and experience. Technology has, and will continue to re-shape the perception of Art in social terms.
MF : For you, which is the most significant and exciting inventions ?
FM : The ones I am working on of course 😉 From my point of view, the 3D printing process my group is working on has the potential of making fundamental changes to glass as a material. We are excited to explore questions like - could it be possible to form soda lime glass in a way where annealing isn't necessary? Could we form metalized super hard glasses? What affects could be achieved by working with discrete droplets of glass color? Could it be possible to print in Quartz?
MF : We all have been informed of the 3D glass printer created by MIT's Mediated Matter Group. A little revolution?
FM : I am quite envious that MIT got to printing in glass before us. They have a great team, fantastic show support and did a first rate job of getting the machine to understand the glass. I'm not convinced the "coil pot" approach is the ideal strategy for printing in glass since it requires a nozzle and may be restricted to certain geometries. Nevertheless I do believe MIT's work shows us how exciting the possibilities of applying new technologies to glass can be.
MF : Which are the limits in the combination of use of digital technologies in glass art today? I have great respect for tradition, but also realize how resistant tradition is to change brought about by new techniques. Perhaps the most significant boundaries are going to be the reaction of established artists to accept new tech in their practice.
FM : Should the use of new technologies be accompanied by critical reflection on new technologies themselves in social, political, ecological, economic, terms ? I can't say no categorically to this question. I think critical reflection is ongoing for anyone who approaches tech from an artistically informed position. Reflection and analysis should develope along with the work itself.
MF : May be could you give us some relevant examples of artists, works or experiments?
FM : I