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These are sculptures, and not plastic bags filled with water

Don’t be fooled by the works of artist Dylan Martinez. You might think you’re looking at plastic bags filled with water, however, they’re anything but!

In his series, called Glass Water Bags, the Washington-based creative uses traditional glass-making techniques to craft pieces that pose as water-filled plastic bags, complete with realistic details such as bubbles, creases, and hand-tied knots.

According to Martinez, he creates these sculptures to challenge our perception of everyday things.

“The trapped movement of the rising bubbles and the gesture of the forms convince the eye that the sculptures are just as they seem,” he said.

“What is fascinating is that our desires often override our true perception of reality and you believe what you think is visible as the truth.”

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Martinez added that his fascination with perception is a result of his being red-green colourblind. “Having a deficit in my color vision is an alternative way of seeing,” he explained.

We recently caught up with Martinez to learn more about his work. In this interview, he talks about his path to becoming an artist, his creative process, and his upcoming projects.

How’d you get into art?

“My journey into creating art began in 2007 when I first began working with glass in college. For the first six to seven years, my focus was on learning techniques and refining my craft. I have lived and traveled around the USA and worked in New Zealand for a year gaining experience from several well-established artists.

“It really wasn’t until 2014 until I was really wrestling with how to utilize my craft for a more conceptual expression. I feel that I was on a sort of journey towards self-discovery through making and refining my craft. Then, in 2014, I began looking towards how can I take what I’ve learned and communicate with it.”

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What inspired you to make these sculptures that look like plastic bags?

“I believe that play is a vital part of the creative process. That is what planted the seed for this body of work. I invested in a hot sculpting torch as a birthday present to myself and spent an afternoon spot heating glass and just making marks.

“The next day (after the glass slowly cooled down, annealing) I examined my experiments and I was struck by how much the wrinkles I created reminded me of water in a plastic bag. This immediately inspired me to want to create a realistic fish in a plastic bag like you’d get at the pet store or win at a carnival. It seemed like a fun and playful object that typically recalls fond childhood memories. I also thought it was a novel use of glass in its pure form.

“It took me several months to refine and master the techniques necessary to make the bags look as realistic as possible. Through this time, I decided that they would be more engaging if I removed the presence of the fish inside.

“Let me explain, as the most common response I get is, ‘where is the fish?’ or that I should put a fish inside! I feel that the job of the artist or a storyteller is to set the stage for the audience and bring them up to an edge but not take them over. It is critical that you do not close the loop or necessarily finish the story in the manner expected, but to leave it up to the individual to complete the narrative on their own.

“I feel, why should I put the fish in the bag if the viewer has already imagined one in there? It creates an open-ended storyline where the audience has to fill in the rest of the story.”

Only the best survive! Back into the furnace they go for recycling. . . . . . #qualitycontrol #onlythestrongsurvive #breakingglass #recycling #bestofglass #glassart #glassblowing #hotglasssculpting #glassofig #sculpture #contemporaryart #modern #sketch #sculpture #painting #contemporary #ink #draw #fineart #streetart #artgallery #product #moderndesign #concept #designing #designs #interiorarchitecture #designers #prototype #instadesign #designporn

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How exactly do you make these? Take us through your process.

“I can’t disclose the specifics of how I make the sculptures, but I can provide an overview of my process.

“When blowing glass, I gather molten glass out of a furnace at the end of a five-foot-long iron rod. The moment the glass is removed from the fire (2200°F) it begins cooling (it begins at a consistency like honey). As it cools, it hardens, thereby requiring the gaffer (glass blower) to reheat the glass in order to make the glass soft and pliable for shaping. This happens continually until the piece is finished. About every 60 seconds.

“My sculptures require the assistance of another skilled glass blower. Flawless teamwork is vital to the successful completion of each piece and these certainly cannot be made alone.

“I begin by gathering a small amount of glass and create the bubbles that appear as if they are rising. I gather more glass until I have enough to shape into the ‘water’ part of the sculpture. I create every wrinkle by manipulating the surface with my knife. I then attach a blown bubble to the solid ‘water’ portion.

“After that is sculpted, I create the knot and tassel from a third bubble of glass and attach it. Once all the parts are assembled, the bag gets removed from the iron rod and placed into a 950° oven where it will slowly cool over the course of a week.

“Once cool, the bottom is hand ground and polished for completion. When removing the final sculpture from the iron rod, the temperature has to be perfect or else the knot and tassel will break off ruining the entire piece at the last second.

“During the entire process of sculpting each water bag, there is about a 10-second window where the whole piece can be ruined by either getting it too hot and melting it beyond repair or letting it get too cold and cracking it. So, I need to heat it just to the point before losing control so that I can have the maximum amount of ‘work’ time, typically up to 60 seconds, before the next reheat or it will break. “

Process shot. #ballstate #glassart #gallery #handmade #art #arte #design #interiordesign #glass #glassblowing #sculpture #hotglasssculpting

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How long does it take you to finish a piece? What’s the most challenging aspect?

“It takes me a little over a week to complete each piece.

“The most challenging part is to sculpt the hot glass itself. The glass temperature varies from 1500° F to 2200°F during the sculpting process, so all the manipulation is to be done with simple steel tools, like tweezers, cutting shears and a knife blade. You cannot directly touch the glass itself or else you can be severely burned.

“Glass making can be a very high risk and high-pressure environment. Unlike many other artistic media, you cannot stop or take any breaks once you start making a piece. It must be made as fast and economically as possible in one attempt.”

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Is there a message that you’re trying to convey to your viewers?

“I have always held onto a childlike fascination with the world around me. It has allowed me to find wonderment in the everyday happenings of life. Through my artwork, I simply hope to inspire a sense curiosity and wonderment within the viewer.

“On a more serious level, I think it is important for people to question the information they consume. Like my water bag sculptures, the world is typically not as it seems at first glance. The more we question our environment and the conditions within it the better we can navigate it and make more informed decisions.”

Come check out my glass water bags in person @sofaexpo both #1303. I'm looking to have a sold out show! #glassart #glassofig #sculpture #fineart #art #arte #artist #contemporaryart #modern #realism #architecture #design #chicago #navypier

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Lastly, what are you working on next?

“I’m experimenting with several new optical projects at the moment. I have a solo exhibition at Echt Gallery in Chicago opening July 13, 2018, that I am preparing for.

“These projects are inspired by the idea of manipulating and confusing light or vision. These works are designed to be in a constant state of flux where the optics will shift as the viewer moves around the space.

“I enjoy making artwork that invites some level of interaction with the audience. If one decides to, they can really investigate the artwork and discover unique details and properties.”

I had a great time at The Aesthetica Art Prize 2017 opening. What an amazing collection of artworks and artists from around the world. The exhibition is open May 26 – September 10 York Art Gallery. York, UK @aestheticamag . . . . . #contemporaryart #finalist #modern #gallery #sculpture #painting #contemporary #travel #fineart #abstractpainting #myart #artcollector #abstractart #artphotography #modernart #glassart #glassofig #artprize #hotglasssculpture #uk #artist #artmuseum

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To learn more about Dylan Martinez and his work, you can head on over here.

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