top of page

GAAC PROJECT GRANT towards, "the air we breathe" & Microbial cloud visualizations

Project (ongoing) Iteration 1.0: 2013

Phytoplankton account for half of all photosynthetic activity on Earth.

{Fungi produce 50 MTonnes of spores each year—equivalent to the weight of 500,000 blue whales—the largest source of living particles in the air. Spores are found in clouds and influence the weather}

Thus, Phytoplankton is responsible for much of the oxygen present in the Earth's atmosphere – half of the total amount produced by all plant life.

The proposal is to create a fully immersive environment/installation depicting the 'spaces in-between' the particulates and molecules that surround us yet, we cannot see. For instance: The air we breathe (1). Drawing from microscopic imagery of Phytoplankton, Zooplankton, Radiolarians and Melethallia, (fungi, pollens, and other particulate matter found in our air streams) and create three-dimensional sculptural representations built from sliced Vitrigraph(4) cane and murrini(5) (VR/AR mixed reality with soft circuit sculptural forms).

Imagine if you could actually see, touch, feel and perhaps hear everything around you on a microscopic level. What would that be like?

Would you want to consciously interact with these organisms, and molecular structures?

Would your conscious interaction(s) change the environment in any way, positive or negative?

The air we breathe invites participation through several non-linear sensory components.

Auditory: highly sensitive microphones record, filter and play back (live) breathing within the installation.

Touching, and feeling the Phytoplankton(2)(3)., Zooplankton, Radiolarians and Melethallia creates generative sounds, displays immediate air quality (VOCs, particulates, biogenic, etc.).

As the night progresses, and the air quality diminishes/increases, the structures within the space appear to grow or decrease in number. Mirrored floor and walls create the illusion of infinite space. Infinite air.

Significance To draw a direct link between the Oceans health, air quality, and Humanity. To open a positive dialog concerning the climate crisis, and how events like Fukushima, war, fossil fuel use/production all contribute to The air we breathe, and perhaps even our shared microbiome.

Between the Earth, and the Sky IS the possibility of everything- our air/our oxygen without it there is no possibility.

[caption id="attachment_87" align="aligncenter" width="1356"]rough Sketch-up of installation view.[/caption]


1. World Health Organization website. 17/10/2013 Press release (link no longer works).

2. The Ocean is Broken, by Greg Ray Herald Life & Style article on Ivan Macfadyen’s 3000 nautical mile findings.

3. National Geographic, Oceans.


5. Murrini/Murrine: Murrina (common pluralization murrine) is an Italian term for colored patterns or images made in

a glass cane (long rods of glass) that are revealed when cut in cross-sections.



I was fortunate to receive the 2013 Project Grant from GAAC enabling me to delve deeper into my fascination with the artistic representation of natural history, and the creation of fictitious places through research, creation and development of Vitrigraph cane and murrine.

Generally, murrine and cane are constructed in a hot shop or flame-working studio environment. My goal was to create murrine and cane similar to furnace pulled cane only, in a small-scale gold-smithing studio.

While I’ve produced murrine and cane via flame-working torch, it never had the ‘look’ (or perhaps quality) I was after.

Vitrigraph kiln.

Initially I’d hoped to upgrade my AF138 kiln. However this kiln was unable to reach temperatures above 1300f. To pull cane from the Vitrigraph set-up temperatures ranging from 1600 to 1680 are necessary.

Paragon’s Caldera kiln is made for Vitrigraph, able to reach temperatures above 2300f so, after several months of trial and repeated error, along with the generous support of GAAC I ordered a Caldera! While awaiting the Caldera’s arrival I played around with various stacking ideas.

Stacking, the term used to describe a Vitrigraph pot set-up, requires a ceramic or terra cotta pot with a hole in the base. Depending on how the glass is stacked and how many pieces/slices of glass (or frit or cane) is used, determines the murine pattern.  For instance, I’ve been looking to create perfect bulls eye patterns (like the SOMA chocolate jaw-breaker pictured). Ranging in size from three inches to six inches in diameter, it takes anywhere from thirty-three to thirty-six disks to fill a pot. (2)

To set-up the Caldera kiln I used a shelving unit from Uline: 24 x 18 x 72″

I cut a hole in the upper shelf in order for the glass to flow unobstructed. Then placed the bottom shelf as low as possible and weighted this shelf with bricks covered with a fireproof surface.

Vermiculite board acts as a base for the Caldera. (3)

Working with Bullseye Glass I’ve found top temperature of 1680 works well for a consistent, even flow. That said, one pull made up of various shades of blue was too viscous at this temperature and I had to drop it down to 1600 in order to maintain control.

The following image shows some of my first Vitrigraph pulls. The cane themselves vary in length and thickness between 5mm to 3cm thick, puntied the cane can be made thicker and up to a meter long. (4)

2014: I was awarded the OAC’s Creation & Development Grant enabling further research into Vitrigraph cane and turning these findings into 3 dimensional forms.

To date I am currently building 3 dimensional molecular representations of Melethallia, Phytoplankton, and Radiolaria also, in a small scale, jeweler’s studio!

Meaning: no roll-ups, no Hot Shop, and (hopefully) no kiln casting. 

Thank you to the Glass Art Association of Canada and Ontario Arts Council for their generous support of this project! 

bottom of page