A special section of USGlass magazine
Painted Glass Takes Center Stage in Recent
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
“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
Ellen Rogers is the editor of Decorative Glass magazine.
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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