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.

 

 

 

LOOKING AT ART

 

 

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 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

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)

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

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.

 

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.

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.

Mock-up

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.

Installation

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

SeaWorld in Orlando, FL

In 2004, Belle Mead Hot Glass was asked to complete a display for SeaWorld, Orlando. Robert Kuster, owner, drew inspiration from the architects, designers, and owners of the facility.

Says Kuster, “It was a collaborative effort with each person contributing artistic ideas and creative elements blended with sound mechanical design. We drew inspiration from one another.”

The result, two 18′ x 12′ displays suspended from the ceiling of the main building. Both displays give the impression of life under the sea, allowing visitors to have the sensation of walking beneath the ocean.