Editors’ Spotlight: The Glass Guru, Inc, part 2

| 0

Bob Thompson

and His Fabulous Glass from Around the World

(Bob is not only a member of our guild…..but spent most of his life working with incredible glass products from all over the world that were used in mostly architectural projects. He lives in Portland OR and has also been a longtime supporter of our guild plus done classes with and purchased glass art from many of our members. He is sharing some of his unique history with glass here. We will break this story and photos into three parts over the next three newsletters. The last section will show his more recent innovative use of mostly non fusible glass using special UV glues.) (Note from Greta: I had seen some clear holographic glass out in the garden area at OHSU years ago and always wondered about it, It was so pretty and unusual….and it turned out to be one of Bob’s holographic products! Mystery solved!)

Bob Thompson, our Glass Guru

I have always been an independent, confident and risk-taking sort and this seemed an opportunity too good to pass up, the time was right and it gave me a chance to finally take charge of my own destiny. I bought the glass inventory, took the computers, peripherals, AutoCad software, along with my pick-up truck and glass rack and, at 55, launched, head long into the glass business. I joined a couple of Canadian interior designers I had met, a local interior designer I had done some nice glass projects with and a contractor to open a kitchen and bath show room and design center in a small storefront on the Main street of downtown Tigard.

From this relatively humble beginning, I ended up, ten years later, doing three-quarters of a million dollars in decorative glass, shipped all over the country, Canada and Hawaii and importing some $50,000 worth of glass at a time from Japan. One factor in my favor, was that the Asahi rep. on the East Coast, who had been hard at work marketing to the professionals all this time, decided to get married and move to Paris.
This left me as the sole distributor in the country. Whenever a firm was looking for some of this wonderful glass, they were routed straight to me.

Raindrop textured glass
Patterened and holographic glass

Since Asahi had no real interest in the American market, I had to produce the catalogs, promotional material and samples to educate and help my customers realize the variety of manufactured decorative glass that existed around the world. There were also a number of processes that could be applied to the glass to make it do anything their creative vision demanded. As my knowledge, confidence and breadth of resources grew, so did my inventory, selection and capability increase to be able to supply an ever-expanding menu of glass and services.

It was amazing to discover that there were over 250 patterns of textured glass on the market as well as beautiful acid-etched patterns from Spain and Japan, plus an array of back-printed, back-painted and laminated patterns from Japan. The U.S. had stopped doing acid etching on glass in the 60’s due to environmental restrictions, which left sandblasting as the only obscuring process available. Unfortunately, this was a maintenance nightmare as it opened up the ‘pores’ of the glass to dirt, grease, fingerprints, etc. Fortunately, Asahi had two different textures, a ‘Soft’ and coarser ,‘Plain’, of acid etched, clear glass which I was happy to supply years before it became part of the main stream glass market.

Along the way, I also discovered the availability of ‘privacy’ panels made with iridescent marbles, 3-D glass tiles from Czechoslovakia, cast glass art panels from Murano, Italy, holographic, light refracting, laminated glass, electro-chromic glass that would darken at the touch of a button and glass that looked like marble or wood grain. We also developed the capability to laminate fabric, paper and screen wire between the glass and found people with the ability to laminate vinyl wall covering patterns behind the glass, slump large panels for shower enclosures and privacy panels and silvering the backs of the textured and colored float glass.

For me, it was like the ‘Golden Age’ of creative glass projects and I did a house where all the interior doors were done with ‘1/2” Cross-Reeded’ glass and one with laminated glass with silver squares, bank teller side panels for a wonderful bank in Manzanita, OR., and a large residential exercise room with an entire wall of ‘Peach Mirror’ made from Spanish ‘Pink Rosa’ glass that reflected the outside landscape and always made you look gorgeous like you had just stepped out of the tanning booth.
I was the Maestro, orchestrating projects such as a condo next to the Sellwood Bridge where all the surfaces in the large, white carpeted bedroom were done with a deep green, back-painted, surface reflecting glass including the fireplace surround, closet doors and stereo speakers. The fixtures in the bathroom were gold-plated.

Rainbow holographic
Textured clear glass

A similar project was the kitchen in a house out in the country near Hillsboro where all the cabinets, appliances and back splashes were done in a medium blue, beveled, back-painted, surface reflecting glass that expanded the space and reflected the fields and surrounding farmland. Commercial projects included the dark blue, sandblasted panels in the Police Memorial Plaza next to the Hawthorn Bridge, ‘Opal 80’ glass in the Ed Carpenter installation inside the Salem Cinemas in Salem and the glass tower in front of City Hall in Orlando, FL., also by Ed Carpenter, with both ‘Opal 40 and Opal 80’ glass.

This unique glass by Asahi, discovered by chance in Singapore trying to match a competitor’s glass, is a glowing blue that transmits a ‘sunshine yellow’ light in the transparent version and a baby blue glass that transmits a deep, opal-fire orange light in the opaque version. Asahi made 1000 cases of this glass and swore to never make it again because of the highly corrosive effect on the glass tanks.
I used the opaque version again to surround the entire conference area of the BMC Software headquarters in Houston, TX. and as the top of a steel and glass conference table I designed and had constructed for an architectural firm. I sold some to David Hutchhausen for use in his laminated glass constructions done with a glue developed for NASA and shown at an exhibit in the Bellevue Art Museum. Finally, I used up all that Asahi had available and now have the last remaining remnants in the World.

More textures and patterns

I did the personnel shelters at the Economy Parking area at the Portland Airport and the glass around the conference room of the Delta Crown Room lounge at the airport. This was done with an acid etched ‘Blind Glass’ pattern from Asahi where you can’t see straight through the glass, but can at a 45 degree angle. This was supposed to be a prototype installation for Delta’s lounges throughout the country. I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, the project got scrubbed after a couple decided to have an amorous frolic on the conference table, not realizing that they were on full display at an angle. Management was mortified and another good project was foiled by human nature.

I did the glass for the Donor Board and inset into the floor for the Engineering Building at OSU and the historic photos on gold reflective, back-coated glass inset into the walls of the main TriMet light rail station in Hillsboro with valuable help from Gil Reynolds. There were ‘Azurelite’, crackle glass counters for the Neil Kelly showroom and cobalt blue panels in a construction company office that I ‘cracked’ with a center point punch on the lower edge, so the resulting pattern propagated into a tree form. There was the lounge at SeaTac done with some dichroic glass, a black tile bathroom countertop with dichroic blue glass tiles at the intersections, Street of Dreams houses where a boy’s shower door had marbles applied, Murano panels along the top of an interior shower in a townhouse in the Pearl District and many more that have faded from mind.