In this series, the artists working at Creative Gateways give us a behind-the-scenes insight into their current works in progress, inspiration and creative challenges. Today, we look at a long and challenging project from Pilisa Rainbow Lady…
A Task of One’s Own
For Creative Gateways and AMusinGlass founder Pilisa Rainbow Lady, 2018 certainly seems to be the year of commissions. Among other things, a new branch of a local restaurant finally opened that featured about a dozen light sconces created by Pilisa and the AMusinGlass studio and Pilisa finished a giant underwater themed door project for one of the studios at Creative Gateways. So what was next? Creating new hand-made glass signage for recently acquired sister gallery Kuivato, of course.
Deciding on Design
Kuivato has been around for decades, and is a staple gallery of Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village. With much excitement, Pilisa and Creative Gateways were able to acquire it after being approached by the former owner. Pilisa and Gallery Director Angela Palmer were full of ideas about how to improve the gallery, which included, among other things, new signs. “We didn’t want to change the name,” says Angela, “because it’s so well-known by people all over the world. But we did want to take the opportunity to update the logo, especially to make it a little more in line with the feel of our Creative Gateways design aesthetic.”
The process of creating a new logo involved discussion and collaboration between Angela, Pilisa, and a hired graphic designer. “The idea was to create a logo that could work for cards and advertisements,” explains Angela, “but that Pilisa could make in glass for the actual signs for the buildings.” Eventually a sleek, simple, and elegant design was arrived upon for an initial template.
Part of the process involved not only general design and font, but what glass would ultimately be used. “We had a catalog from Bullseye Glass that we could look at to hone in on the right color combination,” says Pilisa. “We went with a navy blue on clear streaky mix.” However, upon getting into the project, Pilisa discovered a problem. “Up close, the glass for the lettering looked great. But these were going to be up high on the sides of a building. In that position and from a distance, the letters disappeared, especially with all the sunlight here in Sedona.”
The solution? “I just decided I’d make my own patterned glass, where I could have more control over how dark or light the colors were.” Pilisa took clear sheets of glass and created color patterns on them using various blue crushed glass powders. This was not as straightforward as it sounds, however. “Since I was going to be cutting letters out of this glass, I had to make sure that there was never too big of a gap between colors. I didn’t want some letters being monotone.” She created two different options: one with glass stringers for texture, and one without. The choice was put to a vote that included both Creative Gateways artists and the public at a First Friday event. Ultimately, the decision was made to use the design that did include stringers (option 2, below).
Creating the signs has involved multiple steps. First, Pilisa or her assistant Russell would print the lettering out on paper and put it on the french vanilla glass panel that would serve as the background, to ensure the letters were the appropriate size. Then the custom glass panels were made. The printed lettering would act as a guide to cut each letter out of the glass. Then those cut out letters would be affixed to the backing panel.
But Pilisa didn’t stop there. The border of each sign was decorated with two styles of glass work. On the bottom and top were twisted glass strands. This involved Pilisa taking rigid glass rods and heating them with a torch so that she could actively manipulate them, before letting them cool into their new shape. The corners of the sign were adorned with glass droplets which also were created using a torch.
There were more challenges, however. Three signs needed to be made, but each was a different size (28″x12″ – 48″x20″ – 80″x32″) according to where it was going on the building. “So I couldn’t just re-use the printed lettering, strand sizes, etc. Those had to change with each sign. The general idea was still obviously the same, but things required tweaking the bigger the signs got. For instance, for the smaller sign I could get away with using a single glass strand on the top and bottom. But for the larger signs that wasn’t going to work – using a torch to try to manipulate a single thirty inch strand is much harder than doing so for a strand that’s ten inches.” Additionally, the larger signs had to be made using more than one panel, as the kilns were not big enough to fit a single 48″ or 80″ piece of glass. The challenges continue, but Pilisa keeps meeting them head on, undeterred.
It’s a Sign…
Stay tuned for the final versions of the signs, and be sure to visit Kuivato in the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, open 7 days a week, at 9am!