Sophie Thomas & Louis Thompson
THE SEVEN STAGES OF DEGRADATION
This sculpture is produced as a collaboration between designer Sophie Thomas and a glass artist Louis Thompson. Seen at the RA summer exhibition this year.
It is made using shards of plastic collected from beaches around the world by Thomas and hand blown glass by Thompson.
Some shards of plastic are gathered into the hot glass in the initial stages of making as the first gathers of molten glass are collected onto the punty iron. Coloured glass and plastic are gathered together to form the internal illusion of the plastic bottles found on beaches as they gradually become more and more degraded. The external gather of clear glass then forms the bottle shape which has then been dramatically deformed using a wooden paddle whist the glass was still molten.
The bottles at first seemed completely convincing as plastic bottles but on closer inspection the quality of the glass is present. A clearer and more crystal quality that called for a second look. They are the size of large 1litre plastic bottles that might have contained a fizzy drink or washing up liquid. They have no labels but have found plastic lids which suggest the contents of the bottles through the function of the lid. Each bottle seemed filled with bubbles which were produced when the plastic and the hot glass mixed, this gave an appearance of worn and battered plastic as if it had been in the sea a long time.
As these bottles are made of glass they would be unnaturally heavy compared to the weight of a plastic bottle. They appear to have no internal void but are solid like a glass paper weight. The coloured glass and plastic shards forming the suggestion of the swirling internal contents.
They were displayed within a glass box suggesting they could be under water. The surface of the bottle being shiny and glass like enhanced this suggestion. Though the contents and collapsed structure of the bottle suggests the degradation caused by the motion of being tossed in the sea and scrapped back and forth on the beach, the glassy outer surface suggests wetness. The more degraded the bottles appear to be the duller the colours used. Browns suggest that the contents are perhaps still within the bottle and have in some way soured or been mixed with mud or sand.
The white plinth on which they stand is well below eye level so the viewer is encouraged to crouch down low to observe them. This changes how the viewer is interacting and makes an active connection with the objects and the viewer through an action required to aid viewing. They could be viewed from above or by crouching, seen from the side. The plinth was on a polished wooden floor. They were viewed in a room full of a large number of other objects and people.
It might be suggested that though these bottles are an illusion of plastic bottles they are representational of some kind of universal bottle form and might been seen to aid a memory or suggest a concern about the pollution of the sea.