Sunday, 8 March 2020

Glass "Ice" sculptures with LED lights and solar panels

I have been making variations of these chipped edge pieces with etched and carved images that I call glass "ice" sculptures for many years. Recently, I worked out the idea I have had for several years of illuminating the glass from below with a small LED light.


In conjunction with a small solar panel, the battery is recharged d
uring the day and a light sensor in the solar panel turns the light on at night and off in the morning. With a polished surface on the base of the glass, the LED is able to project light well up into the 19mm (3/4") thick glass, highlighting the texture of the relief carved images.

Experimenting with various tools and techniques over the years, I can create very fine detail with mostly industrial grade equipment (wet sanding belts, sandblast abrasives, industrial diamond grinding bits, etc.).

Many of these techniques are easily scaled up for work on doors, windows and other larger pieces. See my other blog posts or my website ( for architectural glass pieces.

Although these pieces can be enjoyed with ambient light (as in this photo above with natural daylight), or with light from a nearby table lamp (below):

With the light from the LED below the glass, the images really stand out at night, particularly against the dark of a window as a background.

For a better effect with wider designs, I am using two solar panels and light assemblies in the base:

I will be selling these pieces by direct mail order (they are 15cm to 30cm (6" to 12") tall) and can packed for safe shipment. Contact me by email: for new designs, details and pricing, or by phone: (250) 320-3392 to make an appointment to visit me at my Shuswap Lake studio (south central B.C., Canada). 

New pieces can be seen on Instagram @chuckstj

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

"Fourth Dimensional Time Piece #1"


"Our" star certainly lined up for this unexpected surprise on Dec. 22, 2019.

Sitting inside, I noticed the low angled sunlight peeking through the clouds in the late afternoon and skimming across the deck through the the glass door. Remembering the "Fourth Dimensional Time Piece #1" in its glass box just outside the door, I stepped out on the deck and saw that by turning the whole plinth with the "time piece", I was just in time to orient the lens to focus the rays of the sun onto the pyramidal form - once again in the serendipitous fashion I have experienced many times in past years.

Originally, the components of this piece were playing with the idea of 'scaling', in which the actual shapes you are seeing can be interpreted (understood/misunderstood) to be an image of something either very large or very small. Without a 'context' to place them in, the mind,
being a pattern seeking  organ, will try to interpret the images or textures as something comprehensible.  

Plato identified five geometric solids in his view of the universe: the cube, the tetrahedron, the octahedron, the dodecahedron and the icosahedron. I referenced these shapes in the corners of the stone base with the tetrahedron and cube, with the sphere representing the other three (roughly 'spherical') shapes.   

By moving the hand held lens over various parts of the piece, micro or macroscopic vistas can be imagined. The "interstellar space" of the trapped air bubbles in the layers of fused glass, or the "landscapey" texture of the polished stone. Viewing the chaotic surface of the cast brass pyramidal form with its liquid or 'flame melted' effect reminds me of the visual texture of clouds.

I had mounted the lens to the pyramidal form at the distance of the focal length of that lens, anticipating that a light could be arranged to create something like this effect. I am surprised how often the effect has been achieved in a variety of placements.

Although this was an effect I could imagine, the random kinetic effects of light through glass (focussed, refracted or transmitted) is a continual fascination for me. As familiar and yet ever changing as watching light on water, shapes in clouds or the flames of a fire.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

"Smoke and mirror" (a device for burning a candle at both ends)

Now for something "completely practical"...if you are going to burn a candle at both ends, a proper device is important.

This piece resulted from the rare time that someone says, "Hey Chuck, I've got this piece (of junk) that I thought you might like...", that I actually did like! (Thanks Chris O.!).

Some repairs and alterations were executed and after some evolutions of that, this is the result.

Originally a smoking side table, I started with the "smoke and mirror" idea. Slumping a piece of streaky white and clear glass and mounting it in one of the existing four holes for the smoke idea and adding a small mirror in another one got me started. Using a pre-formed stainless steel dish for the water, I was also thinking of the air, earth, water and fire themes and hit on the idea of burning a candle at both ends.

I fashioned a holder for the candle using one of the original metal inserts (for ashes?), adding some copper and brass pieces to catch the dripping wax.

I restored the lighting in the central glass 'globe' and made a tile and mortar 'riser' to create more 'weight' (both visually and physically), as well as making it a more stable piece.

It is important to remember that when burning candles at both ends, danger is being courted. Only operate the candle when fully rested and in a sober state of mind, with proper fire control procedures in place. Safety first!

Monday, 6 August 2018

"Transom" window

"Transom" windows were the horizontal rectangular stained glass panels above bedroom doors in many Victorian era homes. They were hinged on the bottom to tilt into the room for ventilation when the door below them was closed.

This is  a modern interpretation of that idea. Installed in an interior wall, it doesn't need to open for venting, but shows off the variable effects of light through a stained glass window very effectively.

The wall it is mounted in separates the dining room and the hallway that leads to an under the stairs sleeping alcove and to the bathroom. The light on either side is dramatically different whether day or night or with natural or artificial light.

During the day (or primarily with artificial light on the dining room side), light reflecting off the surface of the glass makes the darker shades almost opaque. Walking around to the other side, the dark glass can be seen to be a translucent aqua, with highlights on parts of the clear beveled glass.

The variable effects of light on other colours of glass can be seen between the upper and lower narrow edge pieces in this view.

Another view shows the variety of textures and 'imperfections' (air bubbles and  striations) in the hand blown stained glass. These give a vibrancy and variation to the shadows cast by light through the glass that cannot be matched by the machine roller textures of production glass. These are some of the subtle details that can make a glass panel a pleasure to live with over many years, with the enjoyment of surprise at seeing the variable effects of light. 

Monday, 14 August 2017

Bedroom door: Wood, copper and zinc

When I was designing our house, I planned for etched glass doors in the bathrooms (see my July 2013 post on those doors) and thought I would do something related to those designs for the adjacent bedroom doors.

My wife really likes the bathroom doors, but was quick and clear to state that she didn't want light coming through the bedroom door! Oh. I was literally back at the drawing board.

So I worked up an idea I had been thinking about as a variation on glass doors. Using 3mm (1/8") thick birch plywood with the traditional zinc channels (called "cames" in the stained glass industry) used for leaded glass, I could make a panel to insert into the door that was opaque and had many options for design. The final design included copper and zinc cames along with an opaque black glass with the stained and varnished wood.

The solid black glass is a nice contrast to the wood, adding a glossy surface to reflect light (even some green from the gardens!). The copper has a warm tome that will darken with age, adding more contrast between the different metals.

Traditionally constructed stained glass doors (or with clear or beveled glass) often used zinc cames. I have repaired some that were 75 years or more old, as the solder joints get fatigued over years of use and then crack, making a weak spot in the panel. One factor for that is the weight of the glass itself flexes the door panel as it is swung closed. Rather than try to make a really rigid door panel, experience has lead to allowing the door to flex a little, which avoids breaking the glass if the door is closed abruptly. If broken solder joints allow too much flex, then the glass can break - which is usually why I have been repairing them.

This door, being made mostly with a thin wood, is very light and will flex less than a similar design  made with all glass. This should allow it to remain intact for many years of use.

And it definitely stops the light from getting through..

Thursday, 2 March 2017

"A moment in time"

The last year has been busy, a lot of that time being taken up by this glass wall installation that I recently completed.

"A moment in time" is installed at the Sacred Space room at the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, B.C., Canada. Located on the first floor of the hospital, it is open to the public 24 hours a day.

As with any installation, details can take much more time than initially anticipated. When the project is larger, these details are multiplied and can add weeks or months to complete. One detail (that is invisible to the viewer) is the horizontal join between the stained glass panels. In wanting to make this as narrow as possible, I worked through several design ideas before deciding on soldering several 1/8" X 3/8" (.31cm X .92cm) brass bars into a "T" formation, giving enough strength to stiffen the edge of the glass panels, without being too visually distracting. This is covered with an extra zinc border channel laminated onto the lower edge of the upper panel.

Another detail that took longer was the join between the bottom etched glass pieces (3/4" / 19mm thick) and the lower stained glass panels. As this is not standard interface of glass panels, the fitting of the lead to the sculpted edge of the etched glass to meet the stained glass took some effort to fit together. I am happy with the resulting effect of the exposed part of the etched glass being able to catch the light and reflect the patterns from the polished, faceted edge of the etched glass.

In preparation for installing the glass, I had to remove a view obscuring vinyl that was in place since the room was built. This was much more difficult to remove than I had anticipated. I learned a technique of wetting the vinyl with soap and water and covering it for a couple of hours.This worked  better than trying to do it "dry", but was still a chore to remove.

Looking at the completed project, I am very happy with the results. As with all stained glass, the balance of interior to exterior illumination highlights the variable aspects of colour and texture of the different glasses. Anticipating the effects of different lighting is part of the challenge and joy of working with glass.

It was a rare privilege to have the opportunity to create a large scale art glass installation in Kamloops. I hope the public recognizes and appreciates the support to public art by the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation and enjoys this space for years to come.

Artist's Statement on Design:

This gathering space has been in use for seven years as a place for healing, recovery and celebration of those moments in time when lives are altered, for any and all members of our community.

These cycles of life and the forces that bring them into being are reflected in the "wave form" that flows through the colours and form lines of the stained glass. These shapes also relate to the physical landscape of the hills and valleys we live our lives in.

The lower section of etched and carved glass represents the glacial past; the ice with its inclusions of rock and debris that carved out those hills and valleys, referencing the forces that shape our lives, with the grit and toil of every event we live through.

As a pebble dropped in a pond (visually represented by the rounded shapes carved into the "glacial glass"), the effects of life's events ripple out to change ourselves and our communities - from "A moment in time".

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Frameless Glass Showers

"Frameless" glass showers have become the new standard in elegant glass installations. I recently familiarized myself with some of the the techniques and options available for several installations that I was contracted to do.

With a variety of engineered "glass clamps", hinges, stabilizing hardware and tempered glass, a wide variety of designs can be realized. These installations allow the tile, stone and etched glass to be enjoyed from inside and outside the shower area.

I recently installed glass in three showers (two with no etching on the glass), using these techniques. One is a "neo-angle" design (a corner installation with the door set at a 45 degree angle to the walls) with a steam option that required floor to ceiling glass.

The second installation used a newly designed post system that stabilizes the glass panels where one edge doesn't reach the ceiling or wall. A frameless shower door can then be hinged off a stabilized panel, making a visually clean and structurally sound installation.

Here's a detail photo of the stabilizing posts:

While those two installations did not have any etching on the glass, I did exercise my affection for Great Blue Herons once again, in the third installation.

The pebbled stone floor works well with the heron, reeds and water design, the etching contrasting well with the dark tiles on the walls.

The reeds and feathers were delicately etched on the surface of the tempered glass using the sandblast etching process, creating a layerd effect. A soft surface texture was achieved by using a fine abrasive, resulting in a permanent image that is easy to keep clean.

The new hardware available for frameless glass showers allows me more options to offer clients, expanding on the techniques I have learned over twenty-five years of creating glass designs.