Transparent Reflections

Having decided that many of the available colour options were not beneficial to the cause of steering my work away from being deemed ‘craft’ I embarked on a quest to find unusually coloured filament.

Eventually I found a clear plastic ABS was available relatively cheaply and decided to try some out with my insect making.

Interestingly I discovered that this colourless filament was much more fluid than the coloured variety which I might imagine has something to do with a lack of pigmentation having an impact on the plastic’s molecular structure. I was familiar with such plastics, having worked with clear acrylic back in my product design days having loved its fibre-optic like nature, drawing the light to its very edges and appearing to light up.

I hadn’t actually settled on making a spider when I started this insect, I’d actually intended to make a Wasp but found that the shape I was making was better suited to becoming a Spider instead.

Once the main body was complete the legs were drawn and ‘welded’ onto the main body. It was at this point that the Spider became less transparent and more translucent do to the various kinks, joins and layered material causing the light to behave differently and the plastic appear translucent.

Now that I had my Spider I needed to do something with it as I was not being content at just letting it be and risk it getting damaged if left in its current, translucent state – an ideal candidate to camouflage into any surface and be sat on!

I remembered that I had a wooden box lurking somewhere in my studio that was waiting to be given purpose. The box had originally started life as a cheap, balsa wood storage box. It was, rather humbly, given a dark and seemingly warm stain during its production that left it to unsuspectingly blend into any atmosphere it was placed.

The storage compartments were removed and the Spider was test fitted in the box where I found that although it contrasted greatly against the box it was totally dwarfed by the box and looked rather limp and pathetic on its own. This seemed rather uncharacteristic of a real world Spider and in continuing my long running investigation into the discomfort of the viewer I set about making a web inside the box. This would serve a two-fold purpose, firstly in making the Spider appear larger and much more threatening whilst also providing an anchor point to secure the spider.


I feel that this avenue of investigation has, for the most part, been a success. The subtle tones of the box compliment the clear plastic drawing well and the drawing appears to change depending on how much light is feeding into the box. This results in a drawing of a Spider that can become more or less visible amongst its web depending on not only how much light but also its position in relation to the front of the box. Direct light appears to hide the spider best whereas if the light is coming from an angle the drawing retains some shadow, allowing the viewer to see the Spider. In many ways my latest drawing acts as a sun dial.

Perhaps one aspect in which I was unsuccessful is that my Spider is only very loosely based on a Spider, taking a generalised form. This has resulted in a few cases of viewers being unable to determine just what the mass of plastic they are looking is meant to be. One such comment I received was “Spider? It looks like a whale or Zeppelin”. So perhaps a more refined and more considered approach should be taken when making my insects, a closer attention to detail may resolve this. That being said, the mental image of a tiny Airship in a box is quite amusing!


I do feel that I will further investigate the use of transparent/translucent plastic in my drawing. There is a quality about such material and the way it catches the light that is entirely mesmerising as David Geary explains:

“The attraction of transparent material is that it appeals to us on different levels simultaneously. To illustrate the character of transparency in a general way, let us imagine we have before us a large crystal of clear quartz. It appeals to our sensual nature with its fragility, its sparkling light-flooded quality and elemental clarity of colour, as in Topaz, Amethyst or Rose Quartz. It appeals to our intellectual and spiritual side with its mysterious or paradoxical effects, it seems both substantial and insubstantial. It refracts and reflects light at the same time. It contains change, uncertainty, and yet clarity. Because it so engages our perceptions, a crystal can address our imagination in special ways that no opaque material can” (Geary, 2006).

It is the qualities Geary describes that I see within my own transparent sculpture; it almost appears to be both solid and liquid at the same time, as if the outer layer is solid but the inner layer has yet to settle and take on a solid form. In this respect it appears to give life to my work. The ‘sparkling’ nature of the material not only highlights the delicacy of my drawing but also appears to add a sense of movement, as if the spider is actually breathing. The lack of colour appears to provide a clarity in my work when seen in the correct lighting conditions.


I did see how the drawing changed when the door of the box is opened. This appears much more confrontational to viewers but also happens to make the box feel smaller at the same time. As Bachelard deduced, a closed chest holds more than an open one.

Until next time.



Geary, D. (2006) Transparency in Art. Available at: (Accessed: 30 August 2016).


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