Volume 47, Issue 3 - March 2012

Decorative Glass
A special section of USGlass magazine

Colorful Expressions
Painted Glass Takes Center Stage in Recent Projects
by Ellen Rogers

Freeform and colorful—that’s what Wright Runstad & Company was looking for in an art glass wall. The Seattle-based company owns Consolidated Technology Services, the data arm of Washington State.

“The client requested organic imagery as a relief to the technical nature of the business being conducted in the building,” says artist Guy Kemper of the Olympia, Wash., project, which opened last August.

Kentuckian Kemper created three glass walls, “Secret Garden,” a lobby wall, which stands 17.5 feet wide by 14.5 feet tall; “Stellar Wind,” a mezzanine wall that’s 12.5 feet wide by 14 feet high; and “For Laurel,” a niche window, which is 3 feet wide by 12 feet tall. All glass walls are interior and backlit.

“Secret Garden” provides a bug’s-eye view of one’s lawn, says Kemper.

“The blades of grass are 13 feet tall. There are dew splatters, spider webs and small flowers, making a dense, three-dimensional fabric. The grass is shades of green and blue, the richly textured background is peach, the splatters of dew are white and soft grey-blue and the flowers are red and pink,” he says. “This is an arresting work that gives a warm welcome to those entering the building.”

Located directly above “Secret Garden,” is its mezzanine-level companion, “Stellar Wind.” Kemper says while Secret Garden is earthbound, “Stellar Wind is more celestial, recalling an intergalactic shoot-out from Star Wars.

“It has streaks of dark and grey violet-blues that are suggestive of comets, floating feathers or overhanging trees. There is a similarly warm background with splatters as in “Secret Garden.” Small, shaded and textured green dots are scattered across the surface to add contrast and visual interest. The chaotic foreground is in tension with the peaceful, sunset tones of the background,” he explains.

The blades of grass are 13 feet tall. There are dew splatters, spider webs and small flowers, making a dense, three-dimensional fabric. The grass is shades of green and blue, the richly textured background is peach, the splatters of dew are white and soft grey-blue and the flowers are red and pink.
—Guy Kemper, artist

Speaking of the third wall called “For Laurel,” Kemper says it recalls fresh-cut flowers and the mood of springtime. The yellow background suggests early spring light, the chartreuse tendrils speak of new growth, the black lines are the old branches of winter, red and violet splashes give the feeling of spring bursting forth.

“Wright Runstad generally has a prominent place in their buildings for fresh cut flowers. This window intends to replace that reality with the feeling of fresh cut flowers in glass,” says Kemper. “It is a happy tangle of color at the end of the long hallway off the entrance lobby.” He adds that he named the painting after his daughter. “The two of us were watercolor painting and chatting together when I painted the work.”

The windows are made from blown glass laminated with a two-part silicone in several layers. The base glass is 10-mm tempered that has been painted with vitreous enamels and fired. There is a bottom layer of blown glass laminated as the canvas to this 10-mm clear glass.

“In the two larger installations, this is an aurora double flash glass made with gold to get the pink tone. The yellow window is a selenium double flash that has been etched with acid to reveal brushstrokes,” says Kemper. “The colored flash of base layers has been sandblasted away for overlying shapes to be laminated on top with no mixing of colors. These pieces have also been sandblasted and enameled, and had more pieces of glass laminated to them. In all, there are six surfaces, or layers, of treatment in the two larger works.”

The glass blowing took several weeks and panel fabrication took approximately seven months. The windows were installed in June 2011.

“These windows were extremely difficult to make and are the most technically complicated work I have ever done,” says Kemper. “I consider them a crowning achievement in my catalog.”

As Kemper explains, the two larger windows are made from several layers of blown glass laminated together with a two-part silicone, then glued to a carrier sheet of 10-mm clear tempered glass.

“In all, there are four layers of glass: three blown layers plus the clear carrier, with six layers of treatment,” he says.

Some of the glass materials were also posed challenges.

“We discovered early in the fabrication process that the aurora glass was a fickle material. It turned orange and matte when etched with acid and then brown if it was fired in a kiln after being painted with vitreous enamels,” says Kemper. “To maintain the coral pink tone of the material, we therefore had to figure out a way to achieve the multi-layered result without etching or firing the glass as anticipated. So we applied the additional tones of vitreous enamels to the clear carrier sheet before tempering, then etched away the enamel where the blue or green foreground shapes would be laminated above, so they could retain their pure colors. We sandblasted away these same foreground shapes from the aurora flashed layer before gluing the layers on top.”

Next, Kemper says once all layers were laminated, resist was again applied to the entire work and the expressive “splashes” were cut away with a razor and then sandblasted across the surface. Tinted automobile lacquer was airbrushed into the surface for shading.

“To my knowledge, this was the first time such diverse techniques were utilized in realizing a piece of art glass. It is also highly unusual for so many layers of treatment to be used, drawing on a technique first developed by Tiffany in the 19th century to create highly three-dimensional work,” he says. “Most of the techniques utilized in these pieces are centuries old, from blowing the glass in layers to hand working and applying all the other details. This is what gives the material its sensuousness and raw power.”

Ellen Rogers is the editor of Decorative Glass magazine. Email her at erogers@glass.com. Follow her on Twitter @DG_magazine and read her blog at www.decorativeglassmag.com.

Ellen Rogers is a contributing editor for USGlass magazine and editor of Decorative Glass magazine.

© Copyright 2012 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.