Falling Flowers

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

 

And Now for Something Completely Different…

A local customer came to us looking for a chandelier that would add lots of light to the space and have a vibrant and fun feel.  The family wanted the area to be brightly lit, but also to avoid boring ceiling spots, unsightly and glaring bare bulbs and run of the mill pendant lamps…

 

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

 

This style of hanging plate or flower chandelier can add both light and color to a space.  After looking through the many glass plates hanging on the wall in the hotshop and going through the images on the website we sat down together and our customers chose just the right size, shape and color for their space…

 

***image of Bob and Scott at the glory***

 

We worked with the finish on the hardware in the rest of the home to build a canopy for this new piece in our metal shop.  It is important that all of the elements of a room tie together visually.  And that is the advantage we have, in making everything here we are able to create each aspect of a design in order to fit best in the space.

 

 

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

 

The canopy we are using here is a grained steel surface that will be easy to care for and attractive in the space.  In our metal shop we can create a huge variety of finishes to evoke whatever feel is most appropriate for the space….

 

 

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

In the end we had a beautiful and functional lighting element that adds lots of light while still functioning as a design element.  Created especially for the space with the full input of the homeowner, we’re sure they’ll enjoy it for years to come.  We certainly enjoyed the process of making it.

The Orangerie?

Orangerie? can you say that in a sentence?

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

I mentioned in an earlier post about how I was inspired to take up glassblowing because of my experience watching a glassblower in Venice make a flower. And, I’ve told you about how I went to Venice and watched the amazing floral chandeliers come to life there.This post is about how a flower chandelier I made quite a few years ago and about making a set of 4 sconces to complement it and it’s current installation in the owners new home.

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

Owners often move their chandeliers from one home to another. But this move would add four sconces to the room where the chandelier would be displayed. The owners gave us a very specific commission. Working together the husband and wife team came up with a sketch and a good description. They called for a bouquet of flowers wrapped in deep blue and finished in Satin brass. Although their Chandelier has only yellow tulips they wanted to use the bouquet to introduce more of our flowers and colors into the room. This is exactly the kind of creative work that we love to develop and so, several weeks ago we went to work honing the design.

Finding exactly the right shape for the blue base of the sconce was an interesting process as we worked on creating the twisted tail at the base of the cone and creating enough and yet not too much room for all the lighting inside.  The brass also took some experimentation.  We do almost all of the metal work we need right here in the shop.  But we don’t work with brass very often and we wanted the finish to co-ordinate perfectly with the fixtures that were in the home already.

 

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

 

 

Eventually, everything was just where it should be with the sconces and the long-suffering owners were finally ready for installation.  They were building their dream home and had been through a long and complicated construction process. Everyone was finally ready for the installation.  We would be hanging the existing chandelier and the four sconces all in the same day.  The house was almost finished, but just barely.  Electricians were putting on finishing touches and painters and plaster finishers were carefully inspecting.

 

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

Up until this point, we had not seen any images of the space.  Although we had color samples and had spoken at length regarding the feel of the space and the elements that would occupy it that first sight was breath-taking.

 

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

 

This room was created as an orangerie.  Although we can just buy an orange or a lemon at the grocery store nowadays, these beautiful rooms were once a refuge for those who could afford them.  In the days when winter time nutrition was a struggle, a bright and sunny room like this would be used to keep citrus trees safe through the winter.  This perfect jewel box of a room is finished in Venetian plaster which will acutally become limestone over time.  It is an amazing thing to see all of these ancient building and decorating techniques preserved and put into use in a room like this. Every detail in the space is a delight and our modern style of blown glass somehow looks right at home. The fact that the owners chose my work so many years ago because of their love of the glass flowers which I learned watching in Venice makes it all fit togther perfectly

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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

The Day We Got The Call, Part Two

After all the design particulars were sorted out and the size and shape and general arrangement of the red, yellow and orange pieces were chosen, we were ready to move forward. Now it would be my job to figure out how to make everything work. My biggest issue would be weight. Each 15 foot sphere had to be less than 5,000 lbs. I made a plan for each sphere to have an internal metal structure that would be 9 foot in diameter.  Individual glass pieces would attach to the outer surface  and vary between 24″ and 36″ in length.  The final sphere would be 9 feet of internal metal framework and then 3 feet on each side of blown glass pieces.  This would give me the final dimensions of 15 feet.

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

 

The internal sphere would be built like a geodesic dome, with twenty individual triangular, curved panels that would bolt together onsite to create the sphere.   The sphere design had come to us through the work of a local engineer named Olaf Pederson.  The engineering was worth every penny, instead of attempting a design and hoping it would work, Olaf ran the numbers and proved it. And, as it turned out the design would have withstood an increase in weights by a factor of eight before there was any deflection. Through much trial and error we had determined that each individual panel would hold 100 individual pieces of glass of varying lengths and widths.  This would create the fullness on the surface that we were looking for.  So each panel was fitted with 100 pins of steel welded in place to hold the glass in position.  Again I did the math: 20 Panels x 100 pieces of glass = 2,000 pieces of glass per sphere. Up until this point all of the larger pieces of glass I had made had each weighed upwards of 5 pounds.  The metal spheres were weighing in at 800 lbs. That weight plus 2000 pieces of glass weighing 5 lbs each would have left me with a total weight of 10,800 lbs per sphere! This was more than twice as heavy as the limit set by the engineers for the building.  Even if I thinned the glass mounted to each sphere by 50% -it would still be too heavy.  This was so depressing; I had gotten the job of a lifetime and I couldn’t figure out how to pull it off.

 

After losing a couple of nights sleep from worry I finally slept a solid eight hours from sheer exhaustion.  Waking up I finally felt refreshed and rested and I determined to see what I could do to get the weight of the glass down.  Slowly but surely, over the next week or so and after a few hundred pieces of glass I began to make 3 foot long pieces of glass that weighed less than 2 pounds! We kept practicing and they began to look better and better until we had a form I found really pleasing.  Now the 2,000 glass pieces and the metal frame came in at a svelte 4,800 lbs! It was truly a great day for me and once again- no sleep! But, this time it was just that I was too excited.

The next day, I began another set of calculations… We needed a total of 6,000 pieces of glass for all three spheres.  We would have to cut and weld 15,000 individual pieces of metal for each of the three spheres. Each piece of glass was going to need to be firmly attached to the sphere.  I did not like the idea of tying each piece off to the sphere with wire.  And, although I felt considerable pressure of time, I believed it would be best to take a moment and come up with an elegant solution.  While we moved other areas of the project forward I kept trying new ideas Thomas Edison style. After many prototypes of wire and forms I finally found an elegant solution.  I made a little clip that reminds me of a grasshoppers leg.  With a loop at each end of an L shape spring that will hold the glass at one end and the sphere at the other while tensioning the glass up into the sphere. Adding a neoprene washer and a protective polyethylene sleeve to each metal pin we greatly reduced any stress on the glass. And with each piece of glass firmly in place on its own designated pin we ensured that the glass at the bottom of the sphere would not bear the weight of the glass at the top of the sphere.

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

Next we began to puzzle out the different diameters and lengths of glass.  It was important to me that at any angle a person would see the glass and not through to the metal sphere.  Through trial and error we adjusted a pattern of placing the glass. Because of its shape each of the curved triangular panels has pins that are closer together at the edges and further way as you near the center of the panel. Adjusting the fit using different diameters and lengths of glass we created a layout. Once that was done it was simple work to replicate it over the other panels, creating the uniform appearance I was determined to achieve.

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

One of the things that helped Acuity in their decision to hire me, an unknown, for this project, was my willingness to do a full scale mock-up sphere for their approval.  With all of the above questions settled I started to work on that first sphere.  This after all, would be when the project was really secured.

Big Tree, Old Tree, Dead Tree, New Tree

Trees don’t live forever, but a little while longer would be nice.

It’s always saddened me to see a tree die, whatever the reason. Trees give us shade, replenish our oxygen and they are home to countless creatures. They give us endless cycles of alternating beauty in the spring and fall. So, when the end is near I have always had a difficult time letting go, this applies especially to the big ones. I have personally tapped the maple trees on my properties for over 25 years. I know the trees I live with and have watched their lives over time.

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

Hurricane Sandy was especially hard on the trees here. I think I lost at least 20 mature trees during the storm and afterwards from storm damage. After the storm I had the large trees that were left standing trimmed and pruned.  Those that couldn’t make it were trimmed and left standing in place.  In some cases I had the bark removed.  Seeing the beautiful grain, the whorls and burls of the trees growth is an amazing peek into its life cycle and endlessly fascinating.

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

After the Trimming

Over the last 26 years as a glassblower I’ve handled many large projects. Often, after completion we would find our self with a group of extra pieces which wind up taking up space and collecting dust in our studio. These are the spares we create to be ready for whatever might happen in transport and installation. So when it came time to make decisions about what to do with all the extras we weren’t “stumped” for long. Put it in the trees!

 

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

 

I remembered years ago an old friend of mine (Dave Bush) started hanging empty blue wine bottles from tree limbs. Or more accurately, he would slide the open end over a branch and create a beautiful blue bottle tree sculpture to glisten in the sun. With those charming bottle trees in mind and using what is at hand we now simply go through our supply of extras and decorate those beautiful old trees; adding a few extra years to what would ordinarily have been the end.

Naples

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

Sea Life Series

Inspired By The Sea

Every so often a client comes to us  with a very clear vision of what it is that they want. In this case the couple came from a small seaside town in Europe, they were building a summer house near Miami Beach Florida. The couple asked  if we could design a pair of custom chandeliers and two pairs of wall sconces that would evoke their love and memories of their seaside village back home.

 

We began the process with a color pallet that is light yet colorful. We started with various shades and opacities of white then began adding light blues, greens and seashell pink along with some accents of deeper blues.

The next step was to add in the sea life. These sculptural details add the life to the Sea Life theme. These include sea shells, seahorses, starfish, and some organic shapes that reference jellyfish and coral. Once all these choices had been made we started on the mock-up samples for approval.

This next part of the process is the portion we seem to enjoy the most. Composing the piece, we work each day at a pace that allows us to test our ideas as we go along, building, then changing, standing back to take a look and then making adjustments, fine-tuning the balance of color and then continuing until the piece is ready.  In this case this portion of the work took about a month.

 

The results were amazing, a complex visualization that looked like a coral reef  bursting with life. The clients were thrilled, and so were we. We continue to make this style of chandelier for other clients with no two ever ending up the same. With every new version we have the added benefit of our clients input, making each one a very special and unique piece.

Parx Casino Part One

Our Next large Scale Work

 

Our next big job came from the people at Parks Casino. This one was interesting on a few levels. First, it was a challenge because there was a fast approaching deadline. We were approached with the project in June and were expected to deliver in November.Usually a project of this size can use two months just deciding the basics such as size,colors, and the look and feel of the project. There are usually at least three rounds of back and fourth decision making before production starts. But in this case the owners were very hands on and were able to move things along nicely.

 

The scope of the job was simple enough, 2 chandeliers measuring 15’L x 10’W x 8’H and one larger chandelier measuring 18’L x 12′ W x 10′ H to be centered between the two smaller ones. This was the first time we had incorporated the two elements of the horns shapes and glass plates together. There were a lot of issues to resolve to make these pieces work together. In previous installations the horns had generally just hung from the framework of the chandelier. What we had to figure out was how to cantilever the plates off of that framework and articulate them so that they could be positioned just where we wanted them. What I came up with was a telescoping, double-jointed gizmo that we could bolt to the frame and then extend out and position precisely, mounting the plate at the end of the arm and further articulating the angle of the plate in its socket at the end of the arm.  The horn shapes could then be hung to flow out around the plates as you see in the pictures.

Another challenge in this project was organizing the installation. Because we didn’t belong to the union involved in the construction we had union members come to the studio and learn our installation process so that they could assemble the chandeliers onsite. We created a process together and the job came together smoothly.

Then, came the real test! Around July we were asked to produce Tapestry.  This work is composed of three ceiling panels measuring 45′ x 16′ filled with about eight hundred individually blown glass plates each measuring between 24″ to 40″ in diameter. Again, this all had to be engineered, produced and delivered by November. With the Casino opening scheduled for sometime in December our team went from six to nine people overnight. We worked seven day weeks from July to November to bring the project in on time. I don’t think I had a single day off, but in the end, the owners were thrilled with our work.