Almost! Acuity Installation, the last step, part 1

And so, after three and a half months of constant work and preparations we had the Acuity installation extension ready to go.

Bellemead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster,Hillsborough NJ 08844
We are going to fill this truck!

10 Pallets composed of 8 double-tall boxes each, measuring 4′ x 4 x 7′ plus the two metal spheres were assembled on our loading dock and carefully maneuvered onto an air ride trailer. For this kind of installation we simply hire the entirety of a truck. Moving this fragile load and coordinating the meetings between the glass and ourselves and the crews onsite can be a tricky thing. So, working with one driving team and their representatives can simplify things for us. This time, our driver was great and stayed in contact with us throughout the 48 hours that the transit took. He even stopped to text and see that we were ok when a storm caused flight delays on what he anticipated would be our route. And do you know what? It was a good thing he did, because we were delayed! It is a pleasure to work with people who are so considerate and care so much about their job. (thanks Mekonen!)

Bellemead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster,Hillsborough NJ 08844
Bob moving one of the many pallets for the installation as we create a little art logjam on the loading dock.

Here we are unloading the truck… This was a whole lot of glass to move and get sorted. Each box contained pieces assigned to a specific sphere, and further to a panel on the sphere. Much time was spent jockeying these all into position. We were very grateful for the continuous and thoughtful help of Kurt Lodl, the Director of Facility Projects.

Bellemead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster,Hillsborough NJ 08844
The spheres that looked so giant in the studio look cute in this space. But, they’re about to get nearly 6′ wider!

 

Although the staff here is pretty well qualified in hanging glass from ceilings… these spheres were big and also heavy!

 

Bellemead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster,Hillsborough NJ 08844
Alfredo and Bob the riggers from Hennes standing behind their lifts and making plans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily for us, we had two great riggers from Hennes. Alfredo and Bob were great and we were glad to have them there taking care of the hanging of the spheres. Initially, the spheres are suspended only about 5′ off the floor. This allowed us to start hanging the spheres from down low.

Bellemead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster,Hillsborough NJ 08844
The first sphere of this installation with the first panel installed. Only 39 panels and ooooh, about 2,886 pieces of glass to go.

 

 

Having the sphere within reach of the ground is a great deal easier than working on the scaffolds or lifts. After a few panels we began to get into the swing of things and find our flow.

 

 

 

 

 

Bellemead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster,Hillsborough NJ 08844
and this is how we know where to put things…

 

 

 

That first day of hanging pieces was very long. Although we had tested and retested and trouble shot everything over and over back at the shop and this was even the second time we had installed these spheres for Acuity, there were still some nervous moments. But before long, our progress was evident even to our professional worrier and our system had proved itself.

 

 

Bellemead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster,Hillsborough NJ 08844

The bottom panels of the first sphere completed, it looks ready to float away on a deep sea current.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this image you can see the second sphere in its temporary position further down the hall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The end of day one…

Bellemead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster,Hillsborough NJ 08844
Coming to the end of a day… See? it is always fascinating to look at!

About two years ago we finished the installation of one of the previous blog topics: this set of sculptures in the lobby of Embassy Suites at LAX.

These sculptures (they are spot lit from below instead of lit from within) were designed to bring some color and light to this very large, very tall atrium.

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

Although the space is not too high to hang them from the ceiling, due to earthquake considerations, it was determined that they wold be most secure if mounted on these metal poles.
Recently we we flew back out to LA to set do a little work on these three pieces and thought it would be a good time to update that blog…

 
The atrium of the hotel had undergone a huge renovation during the intervening years. And, although the sculptures were often draped the dust had accumulated through the renovating and redecorating process. This type of cleaning isn’t often necessary, but after such a messy and complex renovation it is often a good idea to finish the redecorating process with a deep clean of the work. And so, with the cleaning and re-hang already on the table we began talking about any changes that the hotel might wish to make.

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

The atrium had been changed over from a warm pale gold tone to be subtle ecru with warm dark wood and blue accents. The colors of the glass still functioned beautifully in place. In the morning they glow like little suns and in the evening, when the glass ceiling above is dark and the sculptures are lit from below, they create a warm, cozy feeling inside the giant space of the atrium. But, this was an ideal opportunity to add just that kind of touch that finishes a space.

 

 

In consultation with the designers and decorators, investors and management we chose to integrate a small amount of blue into the sculptures. To do this we worked in two colors of blue. These blues, when viewed in various lighting conditions, blend the blues of the new accent colors thoroughly into the glass.

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

 

 

After taking all of the glass down, we cleaned each piece with glass cleaner and soft cloths and then began to re-hang the chandelier. As we re-hung the pieces we intermixed the two blue tones and the new blue plates in proportion with the red and yellow and orange that comprised the originals.

 

 

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

Overall the effect is striking. At night, when the chandelier is lit from below, the effect is much more dramatic than before. And during the day the bright spots of blue definitely catch your eye and connect the glass more closely to the accents scattered throughout the great atrium space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

We’re recently begun tagging posts on a new app called Fyuse. This app allows us to show you a great 3-dimensional view of a chandelier. It’s free and a whole lot of fun. If you download it, just search for the hashtag #bellemeadhotglass. Hope to see you there!

The day we got the call part 5

Why is it so hot, it’s April!

The next day after the Acuity team had gone, It was time to get to work. We had proven we could do the Job. All the production and assembly issues had been worked out. We had one sphere nearly completed and now it was all about organization, logistics and hard work. I had calculated about 12,000 pieces of glass and 85,000 welds and pieces of metal to be cut for all of the seven sisters. and if there wasn’t enough on our plates, we had a film crew due to arrive from PBS, MPTV (Milwaukee public television). It was the 20th of April and it was getting hot, like mid to high 80’s and by the end of the week it was going to be in the 90’s. the weather never stopped us from working, but when the temp got up into the 90’s the hot shop typically would go to around 100-125. and it would get pretty unbearable. the key was to drink lots of water. and I would use a trick I learned from my days as a golfer. If you keep a towel in a cooler full of ice, about every 30 minutes or so you could take the towel and wring it out, put it over your head for about 30 seconds and breathe in that cold air. when done just put the towel back in the cooler and you were good to go for another 30 minutes. It worked unbelievably well. So we put ourselves on a schedule. I simply figured the number of work days between the installation date and our start date and we had our work schedule pretty much mapped out If we made 100 pieces a day we would have enough glass for our August Installation. Luckily the 3 larger spheres were due in late August. The 4 smaller ones were due in September, which gave us a break and a chance to clear out our shop before beginning the second phase. Even with a  5,000 sq. ft. building it wasn’t enough space to handle all seven spheres.

Robert Robert Kuster Belle, Mead Hot Glass, Hillsborough New Jersey,Parx Casino Belle, Mead Hot Glass, Hillsborough New Jersey,
Robert Kuster Belle, Mead Hot Glass, Hillsborough New Jersey,Parx Casino

Act naturally.

The day the film crew arrived it was 95 degrees. and I was in no mood to be slowed down by anyone. when it’s that hot out the only thing you think about in the morning is when can I stop. so even before we began they arrived. We had a short meeting about how things would go and then we started. The only problem was I had never been filmed professionally before and was quite nervous about the process and so I asked Lois our producer if she had any pointers for budding film stars and she said “just act naturally” and you’ll be great. and so I did just that and before long it was like they weren’t even there. by day three we had all gone out to dinner a couple of times and we’re having a blast. It wasn’t until a few months later when I saw some edited clips on a high def. monitor that I realized why so much work, effort and resources goes into producing even a 1/2 hour film. Seeing myself on that screen was really cool.

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

Our arrival in Sheboygan

 

The plan was to load the 60 Foot air ride FedEx tractor trailer. with the first three metal spheres our tools welder, misc. equipment and the 6000 pieces of red, yellow and orange glass. get on a plane the next morning and the truck would be waiting for us when we got there. So far so good we arrived 15 minutes before the trucks arrival. the only problem was It had also been there a few hours earlier and we were missing a crate. This was a problem because everything we shipped we needed to do the installation. With a lot of fussing and me nearly in panic mode we figured out that the missing crate was all our tools and the welding machine. So with about an hour of calls later we we’re able to buy or rent everything we needed.

Later that day we found out what happened. the shipment was refused because no one was expecting it. It was returned to the terminal, unloaded and somewhere along the missing crate was separated never to be found again. fortunately we were able to file a claim with FedEx and we we’re paid for our missing equipment.

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

Let the assembly begin.

 

Once we had everything we needed. we had to thing about protecting the floor. which was made of 2 x 2 foot squares of marble. and because we we’re one of the last crews to arrive it was our job to see that nothing was damaged. we protected the floor with 4 x 8 x 1/4 inch sheets of Masonite two layers thick. next we brought all the metal sphere parts up through the freight elevator. then the glass was brought in. fortunately we had a system of labeling the boxes so we knew which box went with which sphere. we had 5 different lengths. 6 diameters and 3 colors. and each panel had a specific arrangement and if something got used up be  While Chris began welding the sphere together the rest of us started sorting the glass. once that was done we were able to organize the glass by each of the twenty triangular sections that made up the sphere. It all went like clockwork, we completely assembled all 3 of the 15 foot sisters. including cleanup in just 5 days. we were all very proud.

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

Although I didn’t know it at the time, our lives would never be the same….Part One

We got the call sometime in the fall of 2003, I remember it was very warm, perhaps it was still September? I was just coming in from a run after a day’s work in the hotshop.  As I walked up the driveway Sheila met me outside and said she’d received a call from someone named Ben Salzmann.  He his wife and had been shopping in downtown Madison she had noticed one of the chandeliers in a local gallery.  Knowing that her husband was looking for art for his new corporate headquarters, and liking the look of my chandelier she suggested it. Ben contacted us   and explaining he was looking for art for the new headquarters he was building in Sheboygan, WI for his company Acuity, he asked for some information on our company.

Seven Sisters of Acuity Belle Mead Hot Glass Robert Kuster
Seven Sisters of Acuity Belle Mead Hot Glass Robert Kuster

Calls of this nature were fairly typical at the time. There are often many enquiries before it’s decided that a project is the right fit for all parties; and I learned early on not to count my chickens before they were hatched. About a week later Ben called back and said he received the info we sent him and asked if we could propose some ideas for the space if he sent us some 3Dimensionsal renderings. If my memory serves the main part of the building was about 150′ long by about 70′ wide and 65′ high at the peak. The ends of the hall were gigantic glass walls facing East and West allowing the room to flood with morning and evening light.

019 (3)

Ben said that he wanted two or three sculptures about 8′ to 10′ feet long by whatever width would work for the space. Although this certainly did have my attention, there still no chickens to count. We worked quickly to produce three sets of renderings which fundamentally were enlargements of smaller works I had done. The first rendering was 3 long tapered chandeliers done in a multi-colored fashion, the second rendering was a somewhat ovoid shape in tones of blue and green and the third was three spheres of varying sizes in a blend of red, yellow and orange. The third rendering was a hit. Ben told us he loved the third rendering with the red, yellow and orange evoking the fiery sun in the windows. The only problem, he felt, was the sizes were all wrong. He wasn’t sure what it was about the sizes that he didn’t like but he said he would like to think about it for a few days.

Over the next two weeks I didn’t get much sleep. I paced around wondering what it was exactly that Ben didn’t like about the spheres. Also, how would I tackle a job that, if I landed it would be so much bigger than anything I had ever done before. When the phone finally did ring the answer shocked me. They were too small! That’s right.  The spheres were too small; Ben wanted them bigger, and instead of 6′ to 8′ he wanted them 10′ to 11′. Internally, my response was no way. I couldn’t get my head around the 6′ to 8′ size, how was I possibly going to make them bigger? But, after I thought about it for a couple of days and with some encouragement from family and employees, I figured “I can do this”.

Belle Mead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster, Hillsborough NJ 08844
Belle Mead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster, Hillsborough NJ 08844

Funnily enough, that wasn’t the end of it. Just a couple of days later Ben called back again and upped the ante to no less than 15 feet in diameter and all the same size. My response was exactly the same as before. There’s no way can I pull this off, I though, not to mention the fact that the engineer for the building said the load limit was 15,000 lbs for all three spheres.  And now again, on paper there was no way this was going to work… (Part Two Next Week)

Inside Looking Out

I’ve written before about how flowers have been part of my fascination with glass from the very beginning.  This has always played into one of my other great interests: gardens.  Over the years I’ve integrated glass into the outdoor spaces in my life in numerous ways.  From simple yard decorations such as finials, butterfly and birdfeeders and baths, to more complicated sculptural fountains and chandeliers.

 

Belle Mead Hot Glass, Hillsborough NJ 08844, Robert Kuste
Belle Mead Hot Glass, Hillsborough NJ 08844, Robert Kuste

One of the benefits of displaying art in the outdoors is that almost as a side effect we look at the area around the art differently.  Doing that intentionally we can create focal points that cause us to look deeper into our environment.  The changing feel of an installation highlights the landscapes transition through the seasons.  It is endlessly interesting to see how an installation appears as it contrasts first against the winter spareness and then against lush foliage in spring.

 

 

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

We often use glass to bring the outside in; the Sealife series of chandeliers, floral chandeliers and many of the specific color palettes we create with our customers reference the outdoor spaces surrounding their indoor locations.  But, we can’t forget the option of bringing the indoors out.   Bringing design elements into the garden and blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor living spaces unites both spaces.  Even in climates where this isn’t possible to do in actuality, visually it works beautifully; creating a harmony and making all spaces feel tied together.

Belle Mead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster, Hillsborough NJ 08844
Belle Mead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster, Hillsborough NJ 08844
Belle Mead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster, Hillsborough NJ 08844
Belle Mead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster, Hillsborough NJ 08844

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belle Mead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster, Hillsborough NJ 08844
Belle Mead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster, Hillsborough NJ 08844

One of the most amazing properties of glass is it’s durability.  What other material has such staying power?  The medieval windows of stained glass appear to us with their colors intact. Using the climate considerations and good design as a framework and a guide we create sculptures that will stay for all seasons.  When stopping by the studio people often ask about the glass garden here and how it fared during the hurricanes this area has experience in recent years.  The truth is, we’ve done very well.  We’ve never taken anything down in preparation, but rather let it hang as a test.

 

Belle Mead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster, Hillsborough NJ 08844
Belle Mead Hot Glass, Robert Kuster, Hillsborough NJ 08844

 

 

 

 

 

As the weather warms up, we are starting to work again on the garden here at the shop, integrating new things into the existing landscape, experimenting, and creating new areas for as yet unmade installations.  We’re looking forward to integrating glass plates into stone walls, retrofitting some sculptures with LED lighting and honing the process on some completely new sculptural concepts that we’ve never experimented with before.

Enjoy your garden, we’ll keep you posted…

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

Honey I Shrunk the Plates!

Little size big Possibilities

Some artist like to “go big”. Jeff Koons sculpts giant balloon animals. Christo and Jeanne-Claude drape huge public buildings in fabric. After many successful installations of large glass-scapes incorporating some fairly big blown glass plates filling areas as expansive as 2,500 square feet, I wondered about the possibilities that would be inherent only in “going-small”. And that is how the “Scatter” series began. This series of both large and small groupings appears like flowers blossoms tossed into the breeze to scatter naturally as they fall or a a gathering of butterflies.

mini plates 01

The individual plates are lightweight and simple to install. In custom colors, they add a spark to spaces both large and small, indoors and out. They are low profile; sitting relatively flush against the wall (about 1″). They are as perfect for stairways, kitchens, bathrooms, hallways and other high traffic areas as they are for clustering in quiet meditative spaces. They are unaffected by moisture and other out-door elements, and so are an excellent choice for more exposed areas where textile and paper arts might suffer.

In small groupings they create an intimate feel, like a small vase of flowers, in a corner by a favorite chair, in a powder room or on a patio. In larger groupings they can create the organic feeling of a flock of birds wheeling or a drift of flowers on a hillside.

Bellemead Hot Glass Mini plate series
Bellemead Hot Glass
Mini plate series

Due to the adaptability of the in-house designed mounting system these plate compositions can mount to almost any surface in a home or business. And, because of the light weight of the individual pieces and our special mounting system these plate compositions can float right up the wall and onto the ceiling seamlessly.

These “Scatter” forms measure from 4″ to 5″ and are always custom made. If you would like more information about a grouping for your space, please contact us.

Small

The Lotus Series

A chandelier Inspired by A Yoga practice

About  seven years ago Janet and I met at her studio In Balance, a center dedicated to well being. She was running the business out of a rather small 1000 square foot building. This was not a lot of space for all of the activities she was running. The yoga room was 15′ x 25′. If there were more than 6 people in the room it felt crowded. After a year the building seemed to shrink and it was time to grow the business.

Fortunately, the property had another building and the owners wanted to sell. So, throwing caution to the wind we purchased the property. With the second building’s additional 2000 square feet Janet had room to grow her business. And we began the arduous process of gutting, then rebuilding the space for her purposes. The main focus of the new building was going to be yoga. At 25 by 45 feet the new yoga room seemed huge. I installed a sprung floor, a cool technology that was originally designed for dancers and gymnasts. This, combined with a radiant heated floor and pristine white walls created a perfect studio. But something was missing, this was a special space and needed something extra special in it. I felt the lighting needed work so I began to look for inspiration.

 

Looking for inspiration

One day on a family outing to the Grounds for Sculpture in Trenton NJ, there it was. A beautiful lotus flower in a pond, one of a hundred or so, captured the feel I was looking for. The blossom that caught my eye was a beautiful shade of purple. The rest was easy, and the next day I began work on a pair of 48 inch diameter glass lotus blossoms.

20" aqua Lotus Chandelier Robert Kuster
20″ aqua Lotus Chandelier Robert Kuster

Jigs are the key

Just like everything I create I use my systematic approach of succeed and fail. We make the basic decisions for size and color, work on the interface of how the glass attaches to the metal framework. then we begin making a bunch of different sizes and shapes of parts. The next step is to see how they all fit together, put the unusable parts aside for now, then go to round two of making more pieces. Whenever possible we make jigs that allow us to slump or bend a piece to keep the pieces more uniform. The extra step of making jigs takes awhile but if you ever want to make more than one of something they’re a huge help. Just make sure you take lots of notes and don’t forget where you put the jigs. Its amazing how easy it is to forget a small detail or step that was a big time-saver in the past. I found not to long ago that keeping a notebook or journal about a project helps when it comes time to recreate it.

Once we have all the pieces figured out and made it’s time to put the chandelier together. We found that over the years on a piece of this type it’s easier to do the initial assembly upside down on the bench. If everything goes together well we add the lights and do another installation in our gallery. We want to make sure everything fits together properly. More importantly we want to make sure there are no surprises for the client.We photograph the piece, crate it up and ship it out.

In addition to the two purple lotus chandeliers we’ve made a dozen or so red, yellow and orange ones for Fogo de Chou and several of different colors schemes for other clients. We have also made well as a 72 inch by 36 inch Lotus for the dining room of a yacht, which I’m sorry to say I don’t have a picture of.

 

LAX Embassy Suites

Three Sculptures

We were contacted a few months ago by the owner of Embassy Suites LAX  to produce a unique set of glass sculptures. Normally, there wouldn’t be a lot to think about, but they wanted it somewhat earthquake-proof. We had never had any experience with earthquakes, but we had a lot of experience with hurricanes.

Hurricane Sandy, in October of 2012.

Superstorm Sandy did over 68 billion in damages to our area. The funny thing was, at the time we had about 20 glass sculptures hanging outside our studio a couple of miles away. Virtually nothing broke, and I always wondered why. For the past ten years or so, we had been putting glass chandeliers and sculptures outside, and hardly anything ever breaks. They’ve survived many winters and many storms.

I’ve concluded the reason why is the way the glass is attached to the tree, metal frame or armature by a single metal clip which allows the individual pieces to move somewhat freely. There can be as many as 500 pieces of glass. This was the key to selling the sculptures to the people at LAX Embassy Suites. All I had to do was focus on anchoring the steel poles to the concrete floor. We achieved this with a central 3″ diameter column and added three diagonal legs, which gave the structure a 4′ diameter footprint, which is incredibly stable. This was anchored with 1″ x 6″ bolts. The only problem was that the floor was laced with compression rods. These are used to keep the concrete slab in compression and keep it from cracking. So, we had someone come in to do an ultrasound in the areas we would be working in. The rest was business as usual.

 Starting With a Photo

We were sent a couple of photos and given the three locations where they wanted to see the sculptures. The below photos show the original photo, the proposed rendering and the mock-up.

After final approval

After the final approval of the glass plates and color balance, we began the production of the full job, which took about 1 month. Once all the glass pieces had been made and finished we began the process of packaging and building the three crates (48″ x 48″ x 72″). Sometimes I think packing and crating everything takes longer than making the glass, or at least it feels that way. To ship a large project from the East to the West Coast can be a big deal. If anything arrives broken, it can cause big problems. I am absolutely responsible for everything. It doesn’t matter if you have insurance or not, the client doesn’t want to hear the job can’t be completed and ready for the building’s opening in ten days, for instance.

As we were finishing the glass we started designing and engineering the poles and armatures from which the glass hangs. This step is every bit as important as the glass production. The finished height for two of the pieces was 28 feet and the third was about 35 feet, which means we have to make the structures solid enough to permanently hold everything together, but it has to be made modular, so we can ship it. When it’s put together onsite (since it’s this beautiful glass) everyone wants to see. The mounting structure needs to be nearly invisible, though. This balance of function and minimization of the hanging structure is my favorite part of the job because solving those problems are generally the most challenging, and rewarding.

If I had to pick another favorite aspect of my work it would be the collaboration between the client and myself. I always feel a special honor when we are chosen to do a project, because there has to be a trust. The client is going to get what they paid for. My job is to see that they get that, and much more. If there is sleep to be lost, I want it to be mine and not my client’s.

After everything arrived in California we put ourselves on a plane and went to L.A.. This trip was a little extra special, because, in addition to Scott Staats and Kelly Moyers, (without whom nothing would ever get done,) I had the honor of having my beautiful daughter Caroline with us. She proved to be a huge help and I was grateful to have gotten to spend the extra time with her.

In The End

In the end, everything went off without a hitch. Everyone was pleased with our work and because of great communication between the owners, their staff, and us, everything went just as expected. Someday, I’ll write a post about the  communication exchange on one of our larger jobs to show the effort involved in the production of a job of this type and size.