Glass Artist Employs UV Technology to Create Stunning Designs
By Nancy Cates, contributing writer
Artist? Scientist? Glass artist Sidney Hutter, of Auburndale, Massachusetts, considers himself to be both.
I use science to make my art, he said. The pieces are sculpture, 3D and a continually changing sculpture depending on the viewers angle is what I wanted. One of the things people who collect my work say is that, depending on the angle, you can look right through the piece and not see any of the color or adhesive. Change the angle of view by 20 or 30 degrees, and you see something different. It depends on the angle perspective from where the viewer is standing.
Hutter, who has been working with glass since 1974, blends art with the science related to glass properties, use of dyes and pigments, coatings and UV cure. As a graduate student, he was forced to change the way he approached glass art after a fire in the studio eliminated his ability to blow glass, so he began gluing glass pieces together.
I started using UV-cured adhesives in the early 80s and, prior to that, used anaerobic adhesive, he explained. The technology has continually evolved over the years.
Art evolves as UV technology does
Hutter began curing adhesive under a fluorescent black light, but the low UV output resulted in a long cure time. In addition, it would only cure a single layer. He developed a pre- and post-cure system that allowed for the spot cure of multiple layers with a low-intensity UV lamp, then cleaning the piece and full curing with a higher intensity UV.
I began researching LED use as the technology developed, he continued. The change in the last several years is amazing. Theres no heat, so it makes the working environment much more comfortable, and the bulbs last much longer. The disadvantage is that it is spectrum-specific, and I dont have a spectrometer to figure out the cure.
Ive been a member of RadTech for over 20 years, he continued, but Im only as technical as I need to be to get the work done. I have to have an understanding of the technology Im using. Some industry professionals find it intriguing that I use the technology in that way. Now Ive been at it so long that people ask me technical questions related to my art. Its a critical part of what I do.
Everybody at RadTech has been amazing, Hutter said. People who know more about the material than I do have helped me. When I talked last year in Chicago (RadTech 2016), several people offered help and suggested I try their material to see if it would work. I used the presentation as a vehicle to show them what I do, and they take me seriously because they know I am always striving to make the best art that I can, using the most up-to-date materials and technology available.
In a paper based on Hutters conference presentation, “Fine Art Applications Using Pigmented UV Adhesive”1, he wrote: As a glass sculptor, my interest is in the effects of light reflecting and refracting off and through glass. By laminating layers of glass, I am able to emphasize and manipulate the effects of light using color, shape and surface treatments.
In those early years there was limited information about the uses of UV technology for adhering glass to glass, and few materials were available to me, especially on a small studio scale. As advancements in color technology grew, so did my designs. From that point on, my pieces began to incorporate an array of available, vibrant colors.
As technology developed in the early 90s, more options for glass were available, along with the ability to color the adhesives. Until that point, Hutter wrote, the only color in my work came from the limited colored commercial plate glass available, which I laminated with clear adhesive, or opaque antique architectural glass, which would not transmit light. The ability to add color into the adhesive between the layers of glass opened up many possibilities.
This advancement led to new series of work. The interior of the pieces was becoming as compelling as the exterior, and I began cutting and polishing windows into my vessels, allowing a look inside.
UV technology adds stability, enhances color
Adding dye created an almost unlimited palette for me to work with, Hutters article continues. Later, at a RadTech conference, I was made aware of fluorescent dyes, which added yet another dimension to my palette. Fluorescent dyes are more vibrant and are slightly opaque. This effect puts more emphasis on the dye in the piece rather than the play on clear glass and transparent dye. Because each fluorescent dye can be combined in small quantities with a regular color dye or dye mixture and with adjustable ratios, the combinations are unlimited. The self-illuminating properties made the pieces pop!
Testing the materials involves more than just ensuring that the adhesive cures. I glue a piece of glass together, and it sticks, Hutter explained. Now I want to saw it, grind it, polish it. There is intense altering of the material after its adhered. The material has to hold up to those secondary techniques.
As an example, we just cut a piece, and one of the joints failed. Something caused it to fail and ruin the piece it could be a number of different things. There are multiple levels of testing the materials before the piece is finished.
Hutter said that most artists use epoxy, which generally required 24 hours to cure, but he prefers the quicker cure of UV adhesives so he can move from one part to another. Our biggest challenge is cleaning the material after the adhesive has been applied and cured. Part of the art form is removing the excess material without chipping or scratching the glass. You have to figure the amount of adhesive needed. With the colorants, the challenge is being able to cure through multiple layers. The easier it is to cure, the more layers I can do at once.
Adding more color to his compositions added more beauty to Hutters art but also added complications. When he noticed that the dyes used to color the adhesive were beginning to fade, Hutter worked with an industrial colleague to resolve the problem of light-fastness by using a UV stabilizer. After several tests, it was determined that one percent UV stabilizer partially controlled the fading of colors post-cure. That change, while helpful, lengthened cure time, and the longer cure can result in cracks or separation of the adhesive. Hutter addressed that issue with enhanced photoinitiators, which also helped solve later issues with pigment dispersion and dispersing agents. The photoinitiators decrease cure time and increase cure through denser colors, with a low-halogen lamp pre-cure process used to set the adhesive before the UV curing process.
Hutters exhibit, Sidney Hutter Through the Years: Glass, Light and Color, is on display at the Sandwich (Massachusetts) Glass Museum through Oct. 29, 2017. When the exhibit closes, Hutter will be working with glass blowers at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington, and then plans to move on to a lighting show in West Palm Beach, Florida.
In the lighting show, he said, I will not only be using UV LED for cure but also to enhance the materials. I will include a series of illuminated sculptures that can be considered lights or art objects that use light. It will be a new element of my business profile.
I prefer to make a piece on spec rather than on commission, Hutter concluded. I cant guarantee that whatever is in the buyers mind is exactly what I will make.
Hutter paused a moment, then continued.
What I make is magic. I dont always know at the beginning exactly how it will look. I might not know until its all put together.
1. Fine Art Applications Using Pigmented UV Adhesive, Hutter, Sidney. RadTech 2016 Proceedings. Downloaded 6/27/17.