The glass insect project aims to help a traditional glass enterprise to achieve transformation of design ideas with new methods provided and to establish its unique product brand. After on-the-spot investigation, I found several problems the enterprise faced with. First, the severe situation of aging works has made it incapable of innovation. The average age is about 40 years old, the youngest 30. With the nearing retirement of the older works and insufficient employment of young apprentices, the craft is left vanishing and the factory unpromising. Second, sales market is shrinking due to domestic policy. Only small-scale foreign orders of ornaments barely keep the factory running. Third, the unhealthy price competition has created a vicious circle, in which the efforts of most factories to drive a hard bargain on cost price are worsening each other’s prospects. Small businesses are struggling to keep up and end up closed, while large factories are resting on their laurels. Few can turn a considerable profit. Besides, the fossilized way of thinking makes the enterprise a stick in the mud——basics are treated as core technology, out-of-fashion styles are still being produced, and heavily relies on required orders without self-styled brand. Last, outdated facilities contribute to inefficiency and safety issues. The equipment for lamp workers has been used for a dozen years under potential risk. Moreover old facilities make it harder to control temperature and consume more oxygen and gas, increasing costs indirectly.
Design a brand new product with workers, facilities, material and techniques available in the factory without causing extra financial burden. Under the limitation of grim economic reality, I enjoy it even more to copy with a certain project.
Design plan: four stages
Form and structure of insect: Focus on insect production of transparent glass based on actual proportion of insect. Show workers the knowledge of insect’s body structure and joint relation to ensure lifelike products of two or three kinds.
Color scheme of insect: This stage aims to show the transparent texture and rich gradation of glass rather than imitate the color of insect. Pursue uniformity in shape but artistic expression in color. The experiments of color scheme are meant to carry out various samples crystal bright.
Combination of stage 1 and 2: Combine the body part with ideal color scheme samples and produce two or three more kinds of insect with the frangibility of glass solved.
Packaging design: It is not easy to design a package of concise beauty and easy to transport at the same time. Two anticipative solutions are as follows. First, seal insect within transparent resin. Second, fill the packing box with soft material in case consumers want the insect put on display.
Design process overview:
First, I buy resin-conserved insect specimen to observe and highlight key points. Then I convey my ideas to experienced workers to perform actual production. Constant revision was made to achieve ideal details.
Proceed to next step of butterfly production when single color insect are done. Butterfly production is of a higher level. First, the wing parts are supposed to be light and remain distinctive marks at the same time. Second, they are fragile and the interspaces among joints are narrow allowing not much to operate. It generally takes one or two hours to produce one butterfly.
Adopt the method of multi-color overlap to construct insect body parts, which brings out the gorgeous effect of glass. Different colors through different views create ineffable collocation, but problem arises at the same time that layers of glass become more fragile as the body parts get thicker. This requires concise control of temperature, especially during tempering process. Many color samples come out of the method, only a few collocation are satisfying.
I also have idea about how to shoot glass insect. Products used to be shot in photo studio with staged lighting, but this time I try to make use of the current surroundings of the factory to endow products different connotations. Outcomes are beyond expectation of attempts in places such as glass waste, rust iron sheets and quartz sand heap.
Completion progress stops here due to curriculums in university. I will come back to Shandong to continue this project with the problem of packaging and volume production remains unsolved.
One thing this design project of glass insect has taught me is that Rome is not built in one day. The process before products completed is long and consuming. I groped my way through obscurities and obstacles and conducted lots of experiments to achieve ideal effect. Design product is of less freedom compared with artworks, but they share one thing in common——the spirit of art. Apart from technical issues, teamwork also matters, the ability to get yourself understood and goals achieved. Ideal products only come from cooperation and strengths of each other played. Also, design is always adjusting when impossibilities and possibilities occur during the process. I’d like to express my sincere thanks to those who give me warm support in this project. I gain precious practical experience and I’d like to help design more products for this factory.