From flame to table: a bowl of handmade glass blackberries, each internally lit with an LED light display that changes slowly and continuously over time. The bowl is self-contained, runs on battery power for a week, and is recharged by placing the bowl on a simple charging dock with a USB connection.
I've worked on different blackberry designs for more than 10 years, starting with a vining bramble that made an apperance at Burning Man in 2012. Something about the terrible beauty of these sprawling plants, with their vicious yet fragile prickly shoots, has always fascinated me. Our unprotected skin (at least mine, anyway) is utterly vulnerable to those spiked defenses, yet beyond that wall lies wonderful branching clusters of sweet berry treasure.
I set about redesigning my hand-blown berry glass optic during the pandemic shutdown, reimagining how light might travel through a structure composed of dark spherical beads that make up the iconic blackberry form. Blackberries have a very dark black/purple color, and I wanted to preserve that look while also finding a way to make it glow. I made hundreds of prototypes and developed tools and forms to support the fabrication - my favorite is the seed machine I developed to help roll the little hand-cut glass spheres that comprise the berry. It's based on an old marble-making invention and includes a Donkey Kong style ladder that cools the beads as they drop so they don't stick together.
During this process I had piles of berry attempts accumulating on my workbench, and seeing them in various plactic cups and bowls soon led to visions of artwork that could capture the idea of a glowing bowl of berries. And so down another rabbit hole I went, experimenting with ways to gather and present the berries while also supporting the electronics and battery necessary to run a display. For the first incarnation, I settled on a 4" clear glass bowl that I etch (sandblast) on the outside surface a detailed vining blackerry bramble and sunbrothers logo. The berries 'float' freely inside the bowl and allow the viewer to touch and move them around, adding an satisfying interactive element to the piece. Underneath this layer of 14 berries, a dark velvet pouch hides and houses the electronics and battery.
The light display was always a crucial element of this design and something that I worked on in parallel with the physical build of the glasswork. My longtime collaborator Jeremy Lutes gets much of the credit for helping to program the results: there are multiple patterns that the berries peacefully, and randomly, cycle through to engage the viewer. The effect is one of subtlety and surprise as the berries gently burst, chase, darken, and glow. Each sequence is designed to highlight a different aspect of the glasswork without being too distracting or gimmicky, a common aspiration in all of my work to let it sit in the forefront or background of any viewing environment.
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