Volume 47, Issue 7 - July 2012


Size Matters
Decorative Glass Shines in Small-Scale Applications
by Ellen Rogers

Making a lasting first-impression doesn’t have to be a budget buster when it comes to architectural glass. In fact, it’s a nice perk you get when using decorative glass. Though the products might cost a bit more than standard clear glass, you can make a big impact with a small amount. For example, designers and owners could spend thousands on a painted or sculpted piece of wall art or they could spend a fraction of that on a decorative glass feature and achieve that sought-after wow-effect.

liquidoranges STUDIO is just one company that has gotten involved with a few projects that used relatively small amounts of decorative glass that resulted in a huge impression. The Sharon, Mass.-based company utilizes a fabrication process involving laminating decorative interlayers between lites of glass. Company president Reese Schroeder says the process the company employs is similar for all its art glass applications, with differences in glass thickness, artwork positioning and combining the art interlayer with other filters for effect. Two recent projects involved a glass countertop for a home’s guest chef kitchen (the third kitchen in the home) as well as a 60-inch diameter clock face for a Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia. While both projects used a relatively small amount of glass, the impact is big.

In each project, Schroeder says there were specific requirements and aesthetics the glass needed to provide.

“With the counter, the owner was passionate about art and wanted an art experience his guests would remember,” says Schroeder. “They were very particular about all the materials going into their guest chef kitchen and the glass countertop had to both tie in and add to the colorations.”

He continues, “What began as a cold call with the client walking into our shop with a question evolved into ultimately becoming trusted experts and artists for their vision.”

For the clock face, he says this had to be a very rich, warm experience with lots of detail in the glass. This project was a direct collaboration between liquidoranges STUDIO and their client, Medfield, Mass.-based Electric Time Co.’s, David Cournoyer, vice president of design, who provided the CAD drawings and reviewed all test panels.

Topping Off
The artwork for the countertop was a somewhat-by-chance decision; Schroeder had originally created it for another use back in 2002.

“It was hanging in my office when the client visited, and it became the basis for the entire design,” Schroeder says. The client then commissioned liquidoranges to expand upon the artwork and create the complete countertop. The company worked to create the artwork digitally, using professional graphics software.

“We rarely use found images or photographs due to limitations in resolution,” says Schroeder. “Our artworks are transmitted to RGB laser, which exposes them to a photosensitive PET film. Using vector-based digital files we can achieve up to 4000 dpi resolution.” He adds that the company also collaborates with other artists, accepting their artwork digitally for adaptation to its technology.

The glass countertop consists of three layers of 3/8-inch PPG Starphire tempered glass with white PVB between lites two and three, with the decorative art interlayer between lites one and two so that it “floats” inside. The countertop sits on an LED light panel providing fully dimmable illumination of the artwork.

“The effect of this is three-dimensional, as the bottom illumination lights up the counter evenly, and the top lighting passes through the clear glass to the art interlayer, projecting its image onto the white below as an exact duplicate but offset a bit,” he says. “It’s a beautiful, depth-creating technique for making the artwork come alive.”

The countertop glass was constructed as an L configuration, with two lites each approximately 108 inches long by 18 inches wide and 1.25-inch total thickness.

“The countertop was very challenging as it had to be exposed as an object of art, in addition to serving a function. That required precision polishing of all edgework, including the 45-degree miter between the two pieces,” he says. “Creation of the artwork for interlayer production was a lengthy process as the design is made of thousands of random lines, each in a slightly different color, all connected and passing through the larger square design elements to create a tapestry effect.”

The artwork took two weeks to produce and a week of adjustments after the client saw it.

“Everything was hand-laminated in the clean room and it took about a week before the pieces were ready for the autoclave,” says Schroeder.

Advantage Glass of Cranston, R.I., was responsible for the countertop installation.

“We have been asked to do installations around the country, but we always encourage our clients to use local installers who have everything they need close by,” says Schroeder, who is also a registered architect. This architectural background, he says, has been an important resource when it comes to understanding the installation process.

“We will not release a glass project for production until we have thoroughly reviewed how it is intended to be installed. There are many building code requirements that come into play with glass, as well as structural implications due to weights and mounting methods,” he says. “It is very important that these beautiful glass works are reviewed with the knowledge and experience of an architect or engineer, familiar with attachment detailing, loading, glass thickness, deflection, etc.”

To create the clock face, liquidoranges worked closely with Electric Time Co., which provided the concept in AutoCad line work format. The resulting artwork was based on the Mecca Clock Tower in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, at the private residence of a crown prince.

“We were given creative license to fully develop the concept into a finished piece taking the line work and building all the colors, gradients, shadowing and other artwork,” says Schroeder. The artwork was laminated using clear PVB on both sides for a completely transparent effect.

The decorative laminated glass clock face consists of two layers of ¼-inch PPG Starphire tempered glass with Saflex UV clear on both sides of the artwork.

“Electric Time Co. positioned our laminated glass face over white acrylic as an independent diffuser for its LED illumination,” adds Schroeder.

While the countertop took only a few weeks to bring together, the clock was a bit more intensive. Schroeder says it took three months, as the company started by producing 12-inch test samples to make sure the colors would respond correctly with the LEDs.

“Once we had the colors correct, photos of the samples were sent to Saudi Arabia for final approval. The actual layup took an afternoon with four people,” he says.

Also, at 60 inches, it exceeded the company’s ability to produce the art interlayer in one piece.

“We had to hand-lay the two pieces together side by side precisely aligned in the clean room and, without disturbing them, continue with the PVB and top glass. We did it five times before we got it exactly right,” he says. “Every decorative art glass project has its challenges and rewards. One thing we have been very fortunate to maintain with all our work is direct dialogue with the client or the architect. Without that, our most valuable asset to our clients is lost. The most successful projects are those where we build lasting relationships.”

Detail Oriented
Small-scale decorative projects, such as this countertop and clock, are just two examples of what can be achieved through the use of decorative glazing. Even without the use of walls and walls and walls of glass, the designers and owners still made a big impact.

“These two art glass projects have incredible detail that can only be appreciated up close,” says Schroeder. “While we do bigger, grander projects, the success of every project is all about scale. It is the scale of the art relative to the viewer. We could easily do super-large works of incredible detail, but that detail and effort will be lost. Works of this scale are a lot of fun for us because we really get to push our creativity and our technology to the limits, and the results are obvious and appreciated.”

Ellen Rogers is a contributing editor for USGlass magazine and editor of Decorative Glass magazine. Email her at erogers@glass.com and follow her on Twitter @DG_Magazine.

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