Glass Master of the Universe…

Recently while scrolling through my Facebook feed I came across a video of a young glassblower.  This up-and-coming young man started in my shop quite a few yeears ago.  And, having been absorbed in my own work, I was startled to see how much he has developed as an artist.

from Jakes Treasure Series of Vases...
from Jake’s Treasure Series of Vases…

In about 2004 or 2005, a father began dropping in to the shop. He said he had a son who passionately wanted to learn to blow glass. And he said his son would do anything, sweep, tidy, pack, if he could just get a chance to be around glass. Mike (the father) told me his son didn’t care if he got paid, he was just on fire to learn about glass. Well, we weren’t hiring at that moment; but, Mike continued to drop by and get to know us all over at the shop. And then, one day, we had an opening and Jake Pfiefer was hired. I have never had an unpaid member of staff. I do believe that if a person is willing to work they should be paid for their efforts.

For the next few years Jake worked hard in the cold-working shop processing and packing the glass we had made the day before. But, he always kept his eye on the hotshop. Eventually, Jake’s persistence paid off again and he began to work in the hotshop. First, he worked putting the little glass loops on each ornament or chandelier piece. This is the first rung on the ladder in the hotshop; it’s not a big step up, but it got him in the hotshop.


Over time, as with most employees who are ambitious, Jake moved on to bigger and better things. This doesn’t always happen, most people who start in glass give up somewhere along the way. For many reasons glass is a very difficult medium to master. The pitfalls can be enormous. The heat in summer alone is enough to bar the way for many people. The expense of working in glass is daunting, as is the ability to master technique and find proper instruction and training. But, as is true with so many things, there are always a few who rise to the top and achieve a level unimagined just a few years before. Sometimes they rise because of some innate ability, luck and opportunity certainly have something to do with it and sheer determination will often bring success. Sometimes, its a combination of all three.

It has been many years since Jake left us to continue on his path as a glass artist. I had never really stopped to imagine how far he would get. Over the years I’ve followed his progress though friends and social media but although I was glad to hear he was still at it and proud of what I knew of his progress it wasn’t until the other day that I got to see how far his work has progressed. Jake has assembled a body of work that utilizes many difficult and complex techniques that only work when done well. He has developed true command over the forms he creates and a great sense of color. Who knows, maybe he will be the next “Glass Master of the Universe” ?



(special thanks to all the staff who have worked with Belle Mead Hot Glass over the years, all success and never stop trying to be the next “Glass Master of the Universe”)



Here is that video of Jake, take a look!

Coming up next?

  • installations in Florida
  • Instllations in LA
  • Installations in Wisconsin

And, “how to train your dragon” or “maintaining a glass furnace!”


Goings on at Bellemead Hot Glass

For this post I thought I would just check in with an update about the  current shop goings-on…



Corning Museum of Glass
Corning Museum of Glass

We all took off to visit the Corning Museum of Glass last Sunday and watched Lino Tagliapietra create a few amazing pieces with his talented team.  It is always a pleasure to see a master at work and the team he has assembled is fantastic in their own right.



Lino Tagliapietra and tema at a demonstration in Corning Museum of Glass Amphitear

Lino Tagliapietra and tema at a demonstration in Corning Museum of Glass Amphiteater
Lino Tagliapietra and tema at a demonstration in Corning Museum of Glass Amphiteater




is it doneLino has always been a natural teacher. There was never a skill or process that was off-limits.  He had a passion for sharing information and combined with his warm personality his workshops fostered my love of glass.  One of the most important things I learned from Lino was his method of using these 3 things; the form of the vessel, the color and the technique.  He taught me to combine any two of these elements and leave one out.  This way the piece never becomes too artificial…  It was great to see him working on new forms years later and I came away inspired for some new projects myself.







We also took time to visit some of Corning’s many galleries and hot shops and of course, Corning Museum itself.  It is good to be surrounded by the energy of creative people and Corning is a beautiful town.  Lino’s visit was in advance of this week’s annual Glass Art Society conference and the pieces we watched him create will ultimately be displayed there.  Unfortunately we had to give most of this week’s many activities a miss since we are in the middle of preparing for an installation in August.  Although we were sorry to miss everyone, it is great to be busy in doing what you love…






As tight as our current timeline is, we did take a little time this week for a few Father’s Day commissions.  We have done a few very nice sets of rocks and highball glasses, some desk ornaments and we are about to finish another glass fire pit.  GLASSWARE



It will look similar to the one below and will install on a deck where a real fire might be a very bad idea.






Firepit in courtyard 2

The day we got the call part 4

Our Guests Arrive…


The group of six executives from Acuity was due to arrive in the early morning.  I had rented a Lincoln Navigator to shuttle us all around in, figuring that if I had come this far I should go all in.  And so, nervous but excited and both drooling and lisping I put on a blazer (a twice yearly event) and headed to the Trenton Airport.  They arrived right on time in the company jet (a Gulf 4, I think) and we headed to over to my very spacious new rental.

We spent much of the half-hour ride out to my property talking over the construction project as a whole. I was asked about my progress and I had no sooner started to fill them in than we were there. Because of the position of the house in relation to where we parked, they could not see the sphere suspended from in the two ash trees at first.  We walked about a fifty feet towards the main house and only once we passed that corner did the 15′ sphere come into view.


It seemed like forever while I waited for someone to speak… “Well! What do you think?” I finally asked.  They were simply speechless; I believe I got a unanimous twelve thumbs up and everyone loved it.  All at once everyone began to speak to each other and to me, telling me how excited they were to have my work in the corporate headquarters.  CEO Ben Salzmann said he thought they should do a documentary on the making and the installation of the project.  But, as wonderful and as all of this was, the best was yet to come…


We got the blues…

Belle Mead Hot Glass Robert Kuster Glass Garden Art
Belle Mead Hot Glass Robert Kuster Glass Garden Art

As excited as they were about the three 15′ spheres for the main hall, Ben had a bigger vision.  He wanted to add four slightly smaller spheres, two in each the East and the West wings.  Now, in addition to the spheres of red, yellow and orange, I had assembled several panels of other colors, primarily in blues and greens.  It was important to be sure about the colors before moving forward and these panels would give the executives a chance to see the glass up close and in a grouping of pieces. Ben walked right over to a panel set up in an equal mix of Emerald, Cobalt, Amethyst and Aqua and it was decided right then and there that we would do four more 10′ spheres in colors exactly as I had them laid out.


I’m not afraid of heights, I’m not afraid of heights, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not afraid of heights!!!

Bellemead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster,Hillsborough NJ 08844
Bellemead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster,Hillsborough NJ 08844

On a side note…

A couple of days before the spheres big debut, I had the bright idea of chartering a helicopter and doing a little aerial photography.  I popped into the Princeton airport and scheduled a flight. My pilot had done this kind of flying for real estate photography many times before.  When I told him what I wanted to do he said “no problem” and “have you done this before?”  Thinking to myself “how hard cans this be” I replied “of course”.  Now, as I buckled into the tiniest helicopter I had ever seen, the pilot walked around and removed my door!  “What are you doing?” I exclaimed, which clearly revealed that I had not, in fact, done this before.  He explained that in order to get any decent shots I would have to trust the buckles and lean out of the door to shoot.


As, I began to turn alternating shades of green and white my pilot said ‘Ready?” and off we went.  The trip to my home was only 3-4 miles as the crow flies but when you are nervous and nauseous that can feel like a long way.  I asked the pilot if it was normal for these things to shake so much, it felt as if the whole machine would just vibrate apart well before we got anywhere.  But as we climbed higher and began to move forward a little faster I started to calm down.  It actually became exciting! In about ten minutes we had the sphere in view and I watched as we got closer and closer and it grew bigger and bigger. To be hanging out of this little bubble in the sky and clicking away was truly an adventure I will never forget.

Whats in a name?

On the way back to the Trenton Airport Ben said we should name the installation. At this point I don’t remember who came up with the exact name But, I remember saying Seven Sisters and Ben saying Seven Sisters of Acuity and that was how it got its name.  Dropping Ben and his team off at the airport I felt exhilarated.  Here I was, one day making small gift items and trying to grow my glass business and the next day in a situation that made me feel like the King of the World! Life was Good.



An Amazing Home In Naples Florida

Recently we received a call from a long-time customer of ours from New Jersey.  He dropped in to visit and ask about one of his chandeliers. We spoke initially about changing the profile of the foyer piece in his Naples, Florida home.   This opportunity seemed ideal to do an LED lighting upgrade so that got added in as well.  And then, as we talked over his growing art collection it seemed obvious that this was a perfect time to do a subtle shift in the colors of the piece to add some depth and echo back the colors of other work of mine he has hanging throughout the house. After sorting out exactly where to go with the modifications and after finally getting everything scheduled we headed down to Naples.

Red yellow & orange foyer chandelier Robert Kuster
Red yellow & orange foyer chandelier Robert Kuster

Bill has added nine chandeliers and one sconce from Belle Mead Hot Glass to this residence over the years.  As an artist it is great seeing how each one integrates into the space he chooses for it.  Using color, size and profile as well as the selection of individual shapes that comprise the chandeliers he has created a thematic flow throughout his home and yet each chandelier looks unique and harmonious in its space.  With our team we worked on two of them, adding to them, adjusting the overall shape and upgrading the lighting.

Bills Gold apricot & clear office chandelier
Bills Gold apricot & clear office chandelier

Naples is a beautiful town with gorgeous views of the water and lush tropical foliage. We spent a few days looking around the town of Naples and admiring the galleries and public installations there while visiting with customers who have moved there over the years and stopping in the local galleries. The light and views combined with the art and community for a very inspiring environment.  Our customers graciously took us on a little meet and greet tour and wined and dined us spectacularly. Soon we began talking about bringing the glass collection outside and a conversation about sculpture in the garden began.

Newly reconfigured red yell & orange Chandelier By Robert Kuster
Newly reconfigured red yell & orange Chandelier By Robert Kuster

The homes on the waterfront in Naples have two different faces; one face they show to the street and one to the water.  The challenge would be to bring the themes of the glass inside the home outside into each space while maintaining the different aesthetics that characterize the bright and open water views and the lush and private front yards.  We had some great discussions over potential inspirations as we walked around the town admiring the public art and while sitting at the amazing local restaurants and watching the sky change in the evenings.  And we came away from this trip with a friendly challenge to produce the perfect pieces for the front and back.

72" x 32" Grape chandelier
72″ x 32″ Grape chandelier
Guest room chandelier By Robert Kuster
Guest room chandelier By Robert Kuster
Guest room chandelier By Robert Kuster
Guest room chandelier By Robert Kuster
Stairwell chandelier Robert Kuster
Stairwell chandelier Robert Kuster
Bills Gold apricot & clear office chandelier
Bills Gold apricot & clear office chandelier

Virginia Beach Public Library Glass Fireplace

In the beginning

On or about May 1st Belle Mead Hot Glass was contacted by Neva White Of the Virginia Public Library. She told us that the library had an L shaped fireplace that was originally intended to be an actual working fireplace. The problem was the zoning and permitting process was cost prohibitive, So she wanted to know if we had any thoughts on how we could fill the space. which was a 12 foot by 8 foot long 4 foot high and 36 inches deep. Neva provided us with a couple of photos and an architectural rendering. At some point I was introduced to Matt. Who was helpful in deciding some of the details of the project such as lighting. He thought it would be nice if the installation could be lit from underneath which could simulate a fire effect. What we decided on was a series of about 40 LED strip lights would be controlled using a DMX controller (DMX512, a communications protocol that is most commonly used to control stage lighting and effects). The effect was great each node or  strip was being altered or controlled by the controller to create a fire effect.

What’s next

We spent a few minutes talking about some possibilities. and began the process of making samples. we provided a 1/2 dozen shapes using different colors and techniques.


After a specific style and range of colors was decided upon, we started making a small scale mock-up which led to a full scale piece which we submitted for approval.


A critical  point was that it had to be installed before the end of June.