Introducing Jahday Ford & Joe Hillary

BY Manchester Craft and Design Centre


We are completely overwhelmed with joy and excitement on receiving the 12th Annual Exhibition Award!

As craftsmen, the Design Centre has been a huge inspiration to our work and development throughout the years and we are over the moon with the chance to contribute our own exhibit early 2018.”

‘Breathe’ is a collaborative project between a glass blower, Jahday Ford and digital designer Joe Hillary. It brings together the worlds of glass and digital design to create work that pushes the material boundaries of glass using innovative techniques. It was this work that earned Jahday and Joe our 2017 MMU Graduate Award. They were initially inspired by a piece called ‘The Audrey Lamp’ which was created by digital craftsman Michael Eden along with a studio of master glass blowers. They used a two-part mould, which when blown into, formed the silhouette of Audrey Hepburn around its edges, creating a piece not possible from the work of purely human hands. They felt that whilst using a mould in glass can create impressive forms, it can also diminish the artist’s hand and almost dehumanise the object by taking away any connections to the maker himself. Hand-sculpted glass displays uniqueness and individuality, something that digital manufacturing and manufacturing in general, lacks. With a material that is so strongly connected to its craftsmen, they wanted to reinstate these footprints of the maker back into the piece.

The origin of any hand-blown glass vessel is the first breath, an essential element to the creation of the piece.

They decided to record the sound of Jahday blowing into his iron and using the visual format of the sound wave as a visual stimulus, which could then be manipulated into a three dimensional form, using computer aided design software. “By recording this, we have essentially frozen the moment in time, where the craftsman is embodying himself within the work.” Whilst still using moulds to create otherwise impossible shapes, they can form an expression directly from the maker. Finding this bridge between the two worlds provides the craftsmen with another form of expression within the material, an identity that can only manifest through a digital process. By revolving the two-dimensional sound wave in the CAD software, they could create a three-dimensional visualisation of this moment in time. The development of the project involved great communication between the digital designer and glass blower as well as students and technicians, to ensure that the outcome was successful. This involved reflecting on the computer renderings of the form, making minor adjustments each time, to ensure that: the hole was big enough for three gathers of glass, the trough wasn’t too deep so that the glass couldn’t reach it, and the details on the mould weren’t too small so that the glass could not pick them up. For Jahday to create a piece, a team of people was needed to hold the mould shut, blow smoke away and help twist the iron, which helps keep its symmetrical shape. Due to the extreme temperature of the glass, the wooden mould slowly deteriorated but they managed to produce 12 pieces to a high standard. This gave Jahday and Joe room to experiment with different colours and finishes, to create a collection that can work together. They explored translucent, matte and metallic finishes to see what effect it would have on the form. As a finished object, it is very flexible and can be refined into either a light, vessel or can be displayed in a gallery.

Jahday and Joe will be exhibiting here at Manchester Craft & Design Centre in spring 2018.

The MMU Graduate Award is kindly sponsored by the Radcliffe Trust.