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.

 

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

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.