We are Hanna Litwin and Romin Heide, together we form the Berlin-based design studio BÜRO FAMOS. We have been at North Lands in March and April 2019 within the residency of the ISGNE programme.
Writing this text recalling our time at North Lands we were overwhelmed by the incredible lot of impressions we had. For us it was a great opportunity to get this residency. Having worked in glass before, we were keen on spending entire four weeks with this wonderful material. Most of the work with glass we had done so far was linked to mouth-blowing, which we realised together with our friend, the glassmaker Cornelius Réer. The residency seemed and proved to be the perfect opportunity to explore new techniques and possibilities.
The theme we set ourselves for the residency was ‘Typology of Haptics and Textures’. Before heading to North Lands, we developed two main directions we wanted to explore. Both are related to exploring new haptical and textural qualities that can be achieved with glass. One was the Pâte de Verre technique, which we have dreamt of using for quite some time, but never had the opportunity before. It turned out that North Lands was the best place to embark on this ship and start exploring it. The other line of work was about hot glass casting, directly from the furnace. We had already used this technique on smaller scale and wanted to take our experimentations and knowledge in this field further.
Departing from Berlin, where we have our studio, leaving the crowded and busy city, passing through the even busier airport of Heathrow to finally arrive at Inverness, where we were picked up from the airport to go to Lybster, was exhausting and impressive at once. Seeing the beautiful Scottish landscape as we drove further North to finally arrive at the North Lands studio increased our curiosity. Our first morning at the studio was mind-blowing. Nosing around and getting to know all the wonderful possibilities the place has to offer overwhelmed us. Michael was really helpful explaining techniques and equipment.
Pâte de Verre was a challenge, as there are so many factors you have to consider that all will give you different results! Its about temperature, frit-grain, colours, firing time and the size of the desired pieces, just to name a few examples.
We had a a very special texture and feel in mind which we wanted our Pâte to look like and it was a real quest to get there. Very soon we put the first of a long series of tests into the kilns and waited excited how they would come out. We ended up in doing many samples and trying out a lot of firing schedules to get there. Again we have to say that Michael was an amazing help on this journey.
As if that weren’t enough, we also chose to explore the extensive possibilities Bullseye Frit offers regarding colour. So Hanna ended up becoming quite an expert in frit-tinting! We managed to take this new project quite far and are looking forward to finishing it soon to be able to show the pieces.
Furnace casting started with a session for exploring how different mixtures, grains and types of sands could enable us to influence the surface and look of the cast pieces. The results pointed into the right direction so we went on and designed two-part pieces with a base and a top that are held together by a joint which is directly cast into the pieces.
Casting itself is great fun, as its quite fast. But to be able to cast certain preparations had to be made. Plaster positives of our desired shapes for embedding them in the casting sand had to be prepared and of course the different sands themselves had to be sieved and mixed properly. We were able to do three casting sessions in the hot-shop which was great to evolve our mould preparation and casting approach from session to session. After a really long annealing cycle, due to the massive amount of glass, the cast pieces that came out have all the textural and haptic qualities we were looking for. By cold-working the pieces we managed to expand this range even further and ended up with a wonderful series displaying different haptic and textural qualities.
The two processes we chose were interesting to coexist, as both are fast and slow at the same time.
Preparing Pâte de Verre is a beautiful slow and meditative process. Compared to other kiln techniques, the firing is quite quick. As mentioned the casting from the furnace itself is very fast, making the sand moulds and the positives beforehand takes their time plus waiting fo the annealing of the cast pieces really teaches you patience. We enjoyed to feel all this different rhythms.
In between all the experimenting and hands-on working we also had focused days, we used discussions and brainstorming, to evolve our ideas. North Lands is a wonderful place to help you staying focused on things and make big steps in a project. Being away from the diverse tasks we face in our studio everyday was a relief that enabled us to evolve the two new projects.
It was great to meet all the amazing people at North Lands. We want to point out how welcoming and helpful everybody was. Michael, who does an amazing job and seems to really know everything, was a huge help. Also the whole team of North Lands was always very open and encouraging towards us.
Sharing the house with glass artist Alexandra Muresan, who was also on residency, and glassmakers Emma Baker and Emma Goring was wonderful. It was interesting for us to learn about their approach and how they work. The mutual exchange spending time together – also outside the studio – was an enriching experience.
After the studio hours and on the weekends we took the opportunity to explore the surroundings and also went for a long walk on the John o’Groats Trail from Lybster to Whaligoe. The rural nature on the coastline was amazing. Caithness is lovely – remote and rural, but truly beautiful!
Leaving this place after the intense four weeks made us a little sad, but we are grateful to have had this opportunity. We would love to come back in the future!
(c) Hanna Liwin and Romin Heide, April 2019