Art + Science

My work is a combination of my interests within design, nature, materials, and science.

Glow Glass

The most unique thing in my gallery

In a late-night viewing of the Discovery Channel’s documentary on bioluminescent jellyfish and algae, Jeff found inspiration for his phosphorescent glass. Jeff was reminded by the bizarreness and odd practicality of this “sliver” of science.

Following trial and error, Jeff came upon a combination of materials that he could place in the glass during the process to produce this glow. The formula is unique, and it’s glow will out live us!

Uses:

– Bedside drinking glasses
– Container for beach glass/lakeside memorabilia
– Table vases
– Memorable gifts

*Works are dishwasher safe, glow up to 12 hours, “charge” with any form of light, and should not be microwaved

Firefly

The fusion of science, art, and play

Jeff considers light to be its own medium.  Since childhood, he’s been fascinated and drawn to unique forms of light- specifically, colored light.  For Jeff, colored light conjures up memories of coziness, stoplights, neon signs, and the literal warmth that these pre-LED lights have off.  A childhood in the Midwest also included the wonder and catching of summer fireflies.  A brilliant yet fleeting source of light that is nearly magical, even for adults.  These works are my latest adventure with science related art.  For the Firefly Series, I have created a surface that emits light when supercharged by a UV laser.  The electrons within the surface of the work become excited and continue to emit light even after the laser is removed.  The light energy is briefly recycled, leaving light where the laser touched.   Capturing the playfulness of childhood summers, these works allow one to draw with light, which slowly fades back to a blank canvas and a new opportunity.   

Bismuth

Homegrown crystals

Bismuth is a brittle whitish metal found on the periodic table of elements. Though a “heavy metal”, it is nontoxic and is found in everything from cosmetics to Pepto Bismol. While looking for unusual materials to work with in the studio, Jeff came across Bismuth —enjoying its unique properties. After years of tinkering, Jeff figured out how to grow crystals as the molten liquid cools and “freezes”.

As a kid, Jeff collected rocks and minerals and found a fascination with crystal formations. Appearing supernatural, Jeff always thought crystals must be from the landscape of alien lands.

To grow the crystals Jeff had to purchase ingots of solid Bismuth. Slowly, he has accumulated nearly 50 pounds of 99.999% pure metal. From here, he takes a small quantity of Bismuth and melts it in a small cooking pot. At around 500 degrees, it becomes liquid and looks like mercury. It is not red-hot metal but looks like liquid silver in its molten state. After many failures, Jeff has learned to observe the surface and can tell when the liquid is nearly ready to freeze. At this point, Jeff drops a “seed” crumb of cold bismuth onto the molten surface. This crumb is the coldest spot in the crucible of liquid Bismuth, so the crystal will begin to grow from there. As each crystal slowly grows, Jeff stands, watches, and waits. If delayed too long, the crystal will fuse to the side or bottom of the crucible, rendering him incapable of retrieving it. Contrastingly, if not given enough time, the crystal never grows.

When timing is right, the crystals are pulled out of the still molten liquid Bismuth, and it is still silver in color. Within two seconds, the surface oxidizes, resulting in the rainbow colors appearing. The colors continuously shift until the temperature is reached where the color is “frozen”.

Videos

Magnetite Terrarium

Gardens became a passion of Jeff’s at an early age in life. Jeff loves plants, greenhouses, and the efforts of tending to them. For a couple of years, he had fun making his own terrariums. Using self-blown glass bubbles as vessels, he would carefully place materials inside using chopsticks. These small Zen gardens used soil, moss, fired clay, glass, lichen, and other materials from his farm. Jeff still enjoys terrariums, but plants seemed too compostable over great lengths of time. This led him to wonder about a “faux landscape.” Asking himself, could I make terrariums that displayed treasured materials instead of plants? He had just the material in mind.

As a child growing up along the coast of the Great Lakes, summer was synonymous with beach time for Jeff. Occasionally the sand looked different than usual, and his curious self would poke around. He’d find darker patches of sand that looked like dirt, and fellow kids would tell him that it was oil from an oil spill. He curiously collected the darker material in a Pringles can to take home. Jeff knew that it was Magnetite, as Jeff’s can of Pringles felt heavier than expected. Magnetite is a form of iron and is abundantly spread throughout the world. Our clean, beautiful sands of West Michigan have Magnetite spread throughout, in concentrations far less than 1%.

Being a form of iron, it is magnetic. Being playful with magnets, Jeff separated the magnetite from the beach sand. Once a glass bubble is cooled and filled with magnetite, he seals the opening, and the piece is accompanied by a rare earth magnet. In playful fashion, similar to the vintage Wooly Willy and Hairy Harriet, the magnet is used to draw the material across the surface of the glass. The magnets reacting with the Magnetite make the iron collect together in the pattern of a magnetic field. In interest of creating with local materials and scientific curiosity, Jeff introduces his Magnetite terrariums!

Take a tour!

Come see Jeff Blandford’s incredible art in person! Take a tour of the Gallery in Saugatuck, MI. 

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