Friday, January 25, 2008

Dialogues between filament and bulb

Artist and glassblower Dylan Kehde Roelofs emailed me about his new collection of hand blown incandescent sculpture (also known as "light bulbs"). Rockets, insects, upside down bulbs, moon walkers -- the collection takes inspiration from a number of natural and industrial forms, while still maintaining a distinctive incandescent light bulb look.

The first question I had -- and all of you, too, I suspect -- is "what do you do when they burn out?" Dylan anticipated this and first takes us to task for focusing on a mundane practicality: The emphasis of these art objects is on their sculptural form and lighting quality, not quantity., before saying that you should be able to get somewhere between 100 and 1000 days out of them: This being said, the filament temperature is slightly lower than that of bulbs rated for 25,000 hours, and about the same as other famously long-lived bulbs. The filament thickness is at least 10 times that of a standard 2000 hour bulb. The initial inrush of current from being switched on, and vibration are the worst enemies of these sculptural filaments, since the rate of evaporation is several orders of magnitude lower that a standard bulb. Test bulbs approaching 2500 hours of age are not even beginning to show signs of darkening from this evaporation.

How does he make them? These are lampworked at an oxy-propane (hot!) torch from raw pyrex tubing stock. I do all of the filament winding and glass-to-metal seals on the tungsten (with uranium glass! Oh boy!) myself, as well as the vacuum processing.

I wondered where he got the sockets (or did he make those, too?!). Dylan says
I got the little sockets after begging to every lighting company in the book. Those sympathetic to the cause of Mad Science are occasionally willing to send 'samples'.

It's taken Dylan years to acquire the knowledge to build these. He is a Mad Scientist by career, a daguerreotypist, and, unlike the rest of us (who merely want to be), he actually is an alchemist -- he makes 16th century glass distillation equipment and uses it!

Thanks for sharing these with us, Dylan, and for answering my inquiries. I'm looking forward to what you do next!


Art Donovan said...


Thank you for the post.

Mazuma said...
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