The art of blown glass takes on new meaning in Matthew Szösz’s Inflatables series. About 15 years ago, the artist was interested in challenging assumptions about how the material could be worked and what form it could take. “In the craft and design field, the way that we make things has a profound effect on what we make,” he tells Colossal. “Blown glass and thrown pots are round; houses and furniture are rectangular. I spend a good portion of my time experimenting with process to try and use a new way of making to create new families of objects and forms.” The resulting sculptures capture a playful tension between fragility and strength, ephemerality and durability.
Using glass panes or sheets from salvaged windows, Szösz carefully plans the shape of the final form and cuts numerous pieces that are measured to slightly overlap so that when fused together, they create tight seams. Ceramic fiber paper separates the layers to prevent the material from sticking to both the kiln and itself. At 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit, the piece is swiftly removed from the kiln and inflated, balloon-like with compressed air. The glass is malleable for only about a minute at most before it cools to a hard object. “There is very little shaping that can be done during the inflation, so the process relies entirely on the preparation of the material,” Szösz explains. “Once you pull it out to inflate it, what you get is what you get.”
Szösz’s work with sheet glass take numerous forms, and his sculptures are currently on view in two exhibitions at BWA Wrócław Galleries of Contemporary Art, including a solo show titled Gold Standard, and the group exhibition Autonomous Zones, a collaboration with Pilchuck Glass School. You can follow more of the artist’s work on Instagram and his website.
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When it comes to scrap metal, Hogansville, Georgia-based artist Leah Jeffery has honed an instinct for transforming old bike parts, cutlery, and offcuts into a captivating menagerie of expressive animals. During her senior year of high school, she began exploring different trades, and after signing up for a welding class, discovered a natural skill with metalworking. She became interested in re-using discarded materials, and her first project was a great horned owl, which spurred an ongoing series portraying an array of wildlife.
Now working as Bruised Reed Studio, her practice centers around the proverbial turning of trash into treasure. “There is something about taking what was discarded and giving it new life,” she says. “I use any scrap metal I can find—mostly old bicycle parts and flatware, or people will give me their random metal junk.” Each sculpture is one-of-a-kind, formed from in a wide variety of textures, densities, and patinas to expressively capture an eagle’s intense gaze, a butterfly’s wings, or a sloth’s lazy grin.
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One of the Largest Louisiana Glass Recyclers Was Founded by College Students Who Are Rebuilding a Vanishing Coastline
The Louisiana coastline has undergone significant erosion in the last century, and one method of restoration involves rebuilding landforms and protecting areas with sand. Unfortunately, the world is simultaneously experiencing a massive shortage of the material—it’s the most-extracted and second most-used resource in the world—so it’s essential to find new, innovative methods of procuring the substance.
Glass Half Full, one of the largest recyclers of the material in Louisiana, is working toward this goal by turning bottles and other waste back into their original, granular form. On a visit from Business Insider, Franziska Trautmann and Max Steitz, who co-founded the organization while in college, tour the facility that already processes an astounding 16 metric tons of glass per week. The substance is crushed and sorted into gravel-sized chunks, a fine powdery material, and a coarse grind, the latter of which is shipped to wetlands and habitats for use in restoration efforts. Thanks to a National Science Foundation, Glass Half Full even collaborated with Tulane University scientists to ensure that the reused material doesn’t leach harmful chemicals into the water and can sustain plant life.
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Back in 2003, Kamikatsu Zero Waste Center is at the forefront of the community’s charge to become entirely trash-free in the coming years.
Designed by the architect Hiroshi Nakamura (previously), the recycling facility is comprised mostly of upcycled materials, including a mishmash of 700 donated windows cloaking its facade. Unprocessed timber and trimmings—cedar logging once was one of Kamikatsu’s main industries—structures the building and forms tresses designed to be disassembled and reused. A terrazzo flooring made of glass and ceramic shards runs through the center, and a bookshelf made of bright blue storage containers from a nearby shitake farm covers an entire wall.
The curved facility features a central drive-through area for dropping off unwanted materials and houses offices, a community hall, and a shop where residents can bring items they no longer use and others can take them home for free. On the other end of the building is a four-room hotel that’s decorated with wallpaper made of old newsprint, and Nakamura stamped “Why?” on the pages to prompt questions about consumerism. He elaborates:
Not bringing things in from outside the region is the first step in reducing wasteful packaging, transportation costs and fuel. When designing, I often go to not only the old garbage station but also the abandoned house in the town, the old government building before dismantling, the abandoned junior high school, etc… Materials used for the building are those that consider garbage as a resource and utilize it.
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Collectively, we use a staggering amount of single-use plastic each year—we buy one million plastic bottles each minute around the world—most of which ends up in landfills, oceans, and other natural spaces. Nzambi Matee, a 29-year-old entrepreneur from Nairobi, is combatting this global crisis by recycling bags, containers, and other waste products into bricks used for patios and other construction projects.
Prior to launching her company, Gjenge Makers, Matee worked as a data analyst and oil-industry engineer. After encountering plastic waste along Nairobi’s streets, she decided to quit her job and created a small lab in her mother’s backyard, testing sand and plastic combinations. Matee eventually received a scholarship to study in the materials lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she ultimately developed a prototype for the machine that now produces the textured bricks.
Made from a combination of plastic and sand, the pavers have a melting point higher than 350°C and are more durable than their concrete counterparts. Matee and her team source much of the raw product from factories and recyclers, and sometimes it’s free, which allows the company to reduce the price point on the product and make it affordable for schools and homeowners. So far, Gjenge Makers has recycled more than 20 tons of plastic and created 112 job opportunities in the community.
“It is absurd that we still have this problem of providing decent shelter–a basic human need,” Matee said in a statement. “Plastic is a material that is misused and misunderstood. The potential is enormous, but its afterlife can be disastrous.”
Right now, the company generates between 1,000 and 1,500 bricks per day, and Matee hopes to expand across Africa. You can see more of Gjenge Makers’ production and finished projects on Instagram. (via designboom)
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London-based artist Barbara Franc (previously) upcycles materials that otherwise would be tossed into the recycling bin to create a quirky menagerie of metal creatures. Composed with scraps and copper wire, the lively sculptures generally are indicative of movement: owls lift a talon mid-waddle, two cats peer over their shoulders with surprised expressions, and a squirrel appears ready to scurry off.
The diversity of Franc’s creatures mimic the breadth of materials utilized. She often begins by creating a wire-netting form before attaching the found objects—which include a combination of windscreen wipers, dog leads, keys, cupboard handles, cutlery, biscuit tins, old spanners, metal clips, costume jewelry, and clock and watch pieces—that she sources from yard sales, thrift shops, builder’s dumpsters, and along the roadside as she walks. When attached to the body, logo-printed scraps form a bushy tail and chess pieces create ruffled chest feathers.
Franc notes that she creates to celebrate other species rather than out of sentimentality. “It is more about a very positive feeling of respect for the huge diversity of life on our wonderful planet and the knowledge that Life itself will always be there. Animals just symbolize that for me in an uncomplicated and direct approach as there is no human element to confuse the issue,” she says.
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