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Ceramics & Glass (MA)

Isabella Kullmann

Isabella Kullmann lives and works in London. She obtained an MA in Ceramics and Glass from the RCA in 2015 and was awarded an MPhil in 2020.

Scholarships & Awards 

Corning Glass Scholar, NY State, 2018

Corning Glass Scholar, NY State, 2015

Royal College of Art -- Pilchuck Glass School partnership scholar, Seattle, 2014

Winner Inspired By…Victoria & Albert Museum, London 2012


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Full text of MPhil thesis

Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Ceramics & Glass (MA)

I came to glass late after a career in publishing. As a relative novice and outsider to the discipline I continue to question existing practices and, in particular, the use of materials and the very model of the workshop itself.  

In this MPhil research project I speculate on an alternative glass practice. I describe this as a ‘diffuse’ practice: a practice which is not grounded in a workshop or studio, but instead remains flexible, moving on and off site. In major cities such as London work spaces are scarce and expensive. To equip and maintain a functioning hot shop or a cold shop, with the attendant health and safety requirements, is often beyond the means of a single craftsperson or even a small group of makers. Instead, I advocate a light and fluid approach to making, where facilities are rented as and when required, and precision engineering is accessed via digital networks. The traditional structure of the workshop, once fixed and immutable, is adapted to the realities of urban life in the twenty-first century. 

Digital technologies are expanding the creative possibilities for applied arts but as the lockdown demonstrates we still require real spaces to make physical work. The question we now face as makers is: do we relax back into our settled practices? Or, on the contrary, do we take this opportunity to imagine new modes of working?

An early set of samples which explores multiple bubbles within a single blown form from left to right 051.05.18; 042.02.18; 046.03.18. — Glass modules with internal elliptical cuts are stacked up to create multiple internal channels for the breath. Viewed from above, the internal structures resemble a bronchial tree with separate superimposed chambers emanating from its central core or spine. Seen sideways on these chambers may be read as closed bubbles, while the solid areas of the object appear hollow. This visual ambiguity, which plays on our perceptions of the material as immaterial, expresses one of the underlying themes of this research into float glass and its use in architecture and art.

Untitled # 079. 05. 19 (2019). Blown waterjet-cut float glass (21.2 x 15.4 cm). — A blown glass vessel will naturally become spherical as the surface tension pulling silicon dioxide molecules together equalizes. Bubbles in effect minimize the surface area that surrounds a prescribed volume of air. The optimal geometric form for enclosing the largest volume is therefore a sphere. In mathematical terms, this is known as variational geometry. To explore this physical principle which smooths out the angles into curves I made a series of samples based on rectangles with internal grids.

Sample 070.05.19 (2019). Blown waterjet-cut float glass (14.8 x 12.4 cm). — A cantilevered construction of rectangular volumes has blown out into a gently curved form. The breath and heat have softened the sharpness of the angles and the internal structure has been transformed into an architecture of parabolic and catenary arches.

Untitled # 080.05.19 (2019). Blown waterjet-cut float glass (15 x 16.8 cm). — The stacked layers of float glass are clearly visible adding pattern and texture to the surface of the glass leaving a memory of its transformation from 2D sheet glass to a 3D object.

Sample 075.05.19 (2019). Blown waterjet-cut float glass (4.3 x 19 x 15 cm). — An elliptical construction with an internal spiral cut spins out into a delicate shell-like vessel. The final form emerges, as if organically, from the breath, heat, and movement – a form that would be impossible to design or predict through computer modelling.

Untitled # 081.07.19 (2019). Blown waterjet-cut float glass (14.5 x 30 cm). — A scaled-up version of sample 075.05.19. The internal spiral, however, has spun out in the opposite direction as the glass modules were inverted when building the layered construction.

Sample 078.05.19 (2019). Waterjet cut glass, re-heated and spun. (5.9 x 14 cm). — The right-angled abraded edges of the waterjet-cut construction have softened into a bead which recall the language of extruded clay or additive manufacturing.

In Search of Form — An edited extract from my MPhil thesis 'Treading lightly between the analogue and digital to transform float glass – an alternative glass practice?'
070.05.19 — 360 degree rotation of sample 070.05.19
This practice-based research project followed two overlapping lines of enquiry. First, I investigated the use of float glass (industrially produced sheet glass) as an alternative to furnace glass for blowing. Second, I explored the creative potential of bringing together digital technologies (waterjet cutting) with conventional hot glass techniques.

The process that I have developed is to stack waterjet-cut float glass into three-dimensional constructions which fuse in the warm-up kiln before being picked up with a blowing iron and worked hot. The precision and predictability of the digital is transformed by the breath of the glassblower, centrifugal force, and gravity as the glass comes alive in the re-heating chamber.

This exploration of material and process subverts the ‘hylomorphic’ model, whereby form is imposed onto the material, and instead proposes a collaboration with material where, in the words of Tim Ingold, form emerges through a ‘confluence of forces and material’. The writings of Juhani Pallasmaa have also inspired this experimental approach to design and making, which has generated original outcomes in the form of tests, samples, and prototypes.

* Work on the final pieces has been interrupted by the Covid 19 lockdown.


Blown waterjet-cut float glass.
Applied ArtsDigital CraftFloat GlassGlassGlass blowingInnovationMaking in a digital worldMaterialMaterial InvestigationRecyclingResearchTransparency
22 July 2020
12:30 (GMT + 0)

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