Pate de Verre Moulds by Michael Eden
I must issue a disclaimer before going ahead!
I have very little experience of working with glass, as I have been a potter for most of my working life. However, over the past 3 or 4 years my practice has evolved to use 3D printing and Selective Laser Sintering.
My first ‘digital’ pieces were made at the Royal College of Art in London as part of my MPhil, then for a time they were produced by Axiatec, a French company who had created a non-fired ceramic material and an infiltrant that allows 3D powder printed objects to withstand high temperatures.
I started to think about glass after my wife, Victoria Eden started to cast ballotini in ceramic moulds. She had obtained the material from a company that undertake road marking. In the UK the ballotini is added to the paint to make the white lines reflective at night. It is comprised of very small perfect spheres of clear glass and is obtainable in 2 sizes.
Pate de verre has held a fascination for many years, so I thought that I would undertake a simple experiment. From observing glass casters I knew that their moulds incorporated a proportion of flint for structural and heat resistance reasons. For my tests I needed a mould that would withstand the firing temperature but would then easily disintegrate in order to remove the glass from the closed mould.
So I designed a mould in Rhino that would allow me to fill the exact shape of the object with ballotini. To make it easier to fill the mould it was divided into 3 sections. It was then printed on a commercial 3D powder printer, with no post-printing treatment.
I then simply filled the sections one at a time with the foot section acting as a reservoir. This was then slowly fired to 720°C (1330°F). After cooling it was removed from the kiln. The mould had cracked a little but easily crumbled away allowing me to extract a successful first test. The ballotini looked a little dull, so in future tests I will experiment with other types of glass, particularly coloured glass.
As a complete pate de verre novice, I think the result is very encouraging.