Tribute to a Lovely “Lady”

Notre dame full view

Last spring, we were asked by Kim Cardosi and Ted Kiper of Cardosi Kiper Design Group to translate a photograph of the University of Notre Dame into a large Art Glass piece that would both honor the institution and welcome visitors to their new Development building.

Together, we considered a number of different photographs, and, because Notre Dame is known for the beauty of its campus, we settled on a magnificent aerial view that includes many of the school’s landmark buildings  ––  most notably the historic Main Building with its famous Gold Dome and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart with its lovely Neo-Gothic spire.  

Commencement program from 1891
showing the Main Building

These two buildings – each over 100 years old –  symbolize the dual facets of Notre Dame’s time-honored aspiration: to expand knowledge and deepen belief.

For our part, we decided to carve the aerial photo into three wide crystal panels using a variety of techniques.  The name of the university would be deep V-carved on the front of the crystal, then filled with 23-karat gold leaf. Gold symbolizes strength and wisdom, both attributes of this revered institution.  

 Dither scoop out closeup 
Detail showing the gold letter and tiny scooped-out "dots"
in the carved crystal photograph

The photograph itself - converted by our designers into an array of tiny dots, just as it would be converted into dots for printing – was to be carved on the back of the crystal. We do this by sandblasting each tiny “dot” of the photo, scooping out tiny particles of the crystal to create little bowl shapes that catch the light dramatically. 

 Brick highlightsBrick patterns and window details highlighted by deep carving

To increase the impact of the photo and render it a true work of art, we selected specific details in the photo for special treatments. For example, we picked out leaves in some of the trees, creating an overall pattern that would be pleasing to the eye. We also chose to add texture to the piece by picking out the brickwork on certain buildings and the diamond-shaped tiles on the Golden Dome.

 Approval sheetThe pink areas in this Design Worksheet show which details
 in the aerial photograph were to be highlighted

 Other details were chosen for this treatment because of their importance, such as the famous statue of St. Mary crowning the dome of the Main Building and the cross atop the Basilica. In addition, we consulted the original 19th century architectural drawings to see which lines and features in the designs were given most prominence by the architect. These we also gave special treatment.

  Front closeup

    The “whiter” lines are where we carved and incised pinlines to emphasize certain features of the building.

 Another step we took in converting the aerial photograph into a work of Art Glass was to retouch the photo to remove any distracting traces of 21st century life, such as cars and vans in a parking lot, air conditioners sticking out of windows, trash receptacles, and a lone tractor. Our goal was to create an image of this illustrious university that was timeless.

  Full wall use this one.bmpThe finished wall is 5 feet high by 16 feet wide. It is lit by LEDs from the top and bottom. The center panel is 5 feet high by 8 feet wide.

Ted Kiper was on hand to facilitate when our team arrived to install the panels, and he made a video of the project.

Our special thanks goes to Notre Dame’s project manager, Julie Boynton, who provided phenomenal facilitation. She arranged for a crane to bring our huge crate of carved glass in through a third-floor window and provided millworkers and others to help us do the installation.

This was a huge – and hugely rewarding – project to create. I worked with our graphic designer Caroline to develop the finished design, and computer-photo guru Bruce helped convert the photos (and remove those pesky air conditioners). Our expert sandblaster Patti did all the etching, carving, scooping and lettering; Leo did the challenging and precise layout, Tam gently laid in the gold-leafing.

Thanks to everyone involved for their great effort – and to the people at Notre Dame for giving us the opportunity to create this magnificent piece of Art Glass.

Christina sig



Photos courtesy of Ted Kiper, Charly Rinn and the University of Notre Dame