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!

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 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, 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.

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…

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.