Fundraising Wisdom From a Woman With Heart

6039 Miller-Dwan Solvey House Donor Wall

Pat burnsDuring an interview with our writer/researcher, a delightful client of ours, Pat Burns, president of the Miller-Dwan Foundation, had some compelling things to say about philanthropy and how she works with her Donors. Her insights are both wise and touching, and I want to share them with you.  (The photos accompanying this blog are from the Donor Art Glass projects we did for Pat at Solvey Hospice House and the Amberwing Center for children, teens, young adults and families struggling to cope with mental health and substance use. Both are located in Duluth, Minnesota.

What prompted you to choose an artist like Christina to do your Donor Recognition as opposed to one of the other Recognition companies?

There's a marked difference in the artistry. We felt the project demanded the ability to not just make an intellectual connection with people, it needed to make an emotional and spiritual connection. The engagement of donors in philanthropy is really one that comes from the heart, and unfortunately so many recognition systems come only from the head. They are only about, "Here's your name on the wall, isn't that wonderful, look at you, you did so much." They don't get what philanthropy is all about.

Philanthropy is really an act of love.
Love needs to be communicated with an emotional and spiritual underpinning. It needs to be recognized in a way that is loving and beautiful and reflects the greater part of us. It needs to be inspirational, to come from a place that isn't simply intellectual. Philanthropy isn't just from the mind, it isn't just about show, it's about a grander purpose. Christina as an artist has a way of expressing that grander purpose that exists behind the philanthropy.

Some folks dismiss philanthropists as people who just want big tax write offs.

What we are truly talking about is philanthropy is in its purest form — and when I am working with people, I don't want it to be about the tax benefit. My experience is that people want to be part of something bigger. They really want a deep engagement in things that they believe in. A simple name list doesn't convey that level of engagement. It doesn't go to a deeper belief system.

If donors are just doing it for tax purposes, our job is to remind them of the grandness of the act so that the next time they step forward to do it, they get this inner stirring that says, "This is really bigger than deductions, really a part of something bigger and more important. I am about changing the world."


The artistry in Christina's Donor Recognition elevates the philanthropic act and helps people really understand the grandness of it. That's where everybody else doing Recognition pales in comparison.

So there's a way in which you use Christina's recognition to teach people the real meaning of their gift. I bet they love that!

People are so moved, they cry in front of these Donor Walls. I'll tell you, after we did the first project with Christina's Donor Wall, it was a WHOLE lot easier to do the second one. People GET IT when you go out and talk with them about it -- especially the Donor Wall Christina did for Amberwing.

Campaign donor wall 1 at Amberwing

Our text was, "Love is a little word. People make it big." That's what it's about. They were very moved. And the design — it was a grand presentation of this universe that the Donors were having impact on. They become more important in the universe — and they ARE more important in the universe because they are doing something for hundreds of people who they don't really know, who they may never meet.

I think especially for the hospice project and the kids' mental health project we did, people were really engaged with their hearts in the giving. If I had done a dry and boring Donor Wall, they probably would have been fine with it because that's what they are used to seeing everywhere else. But because we did something different — something deeper — it elevated everything about the act of giving, it elevated everything the community had come together to do.

Photo 3
What's really cool is that the families who come in to use these facilities are inspired by these walls, especially the kids. Our kids' mental health project is using the Donor Walls now as part of their program. They have added a mindfulness piece to the program so that they go and stand before the Donor Wall with the universe and the dewdrops and the fish and the stars and everything.

Then they read through Maya Angelou's poem, they talk about the poem, they talk about having these people [the Donors] care so much about them that they created this facility where they [the kids] can come receive care.

Strong women
               strong men
          protect the children
                     tend the ailing,
               care for the aged
and in fact,
          the entire world. 
                                      —Maya Angelou

They look at the Donor names and the text and the facilitators use that to say to these children, "This is a part of healing because this community loves you." A bunch of names on the wall would never do that. I am deeply grateful that we have Christina's work here. To do anything less would be to diminish all the work that went into creating this facility.

*          *          *

Thank you, Pat. It was an honor to be a part of your loving and healing mission.

Christina blue sig

The Great Healers: Gratitude and Beauty

Nightingale Award

Recently I was asked to reflect on some fascinating questions: How does the Donor Recognition work we do for healthcare institutions directly contribute to their quality of care? Do our installations affect patient outcomes, and if so, how?

These questions were on the application for the Nightingale Product Design Awards, which honor excellence and innovation in healthcare products. They are sponsored by the Center for Health Design, the Healthcare Design Conference and Contract magazine.  

I'll share my answers with you in a moment, but  first I want to announce that we WON the Nightingale Silver Award for Architectural Products! It was a unique experience for me, "pitting" our luminous carved crystal against products like privacy curtains, nurses stations and antimicrobial drawer pulls. 

Christina in booth - Nightingale Award -003

One of the Nightingale judges examines our work at the Healthcare Design Conference last weekend.

I believe deeply that our Art Glass pieces are every bit as important in a hospital as these more obviously practical products. And that's what I explained to the Nightingale panel of architects, facility designers and interior designers who were the judges. 

Our Donor Recognition not only honors our clients’ most generous donors, it inspires new donations that become the capital and operating costs of the whole hospital. Heartfelt, top-quality Donor Recognition is pivotal in building and maintaining these institutions as a community asset.

University of Utah - Eccles for email insertion-1

Our Donor Wall at the Eccles Critical Care Pavilion in Salt Lake City reads, "We are all members of a single family, the family of humankind."

In addition, the exquisite imagery and inspiring words on our artwork promote confidence in patients and a high sense of self-worth in professional and support staff. Our luminous panels also transmit, celebrate and reaffirm a hospital’s mission and values. They help brand an institution -- a vital contribution in today’s competitive market.

Jewish Center Close Up

Donor Wall with olive leaves at San Francisco's Jewish Family and Children's Services

Evidence-Based Design has shown that fine art -- especially when it includes beautiful images from nature, as ours does -- contributes significantly to a patient’s recovery by measurably reducing stress and pain. Dr. Upali Nanda, one of the leading researchers in Evidence-based Design, writes, “Viewing artwork with appropriate nature content has been seen to reduce stress and pain perception, as measured by physiological outcomes such as blood pressure, heart-rate, and skin conductance, in addition to self-report measures.

Jain Malkin, the renowned healthcare interior designer, says, "Real art -- as opposed to decorative art -- touches the soul and reaches the viewer emotionally. It expresses energy, life force, and has deep spiritual meaning that can help the viewer transform pain and suffering to reach a higher state of consciousness."

Each of our pieces of chisel-cut and etched Art Glass is designed as a work of fine art that transmits inspiring messages of spirituality and gratitude. Gratitude has a documented impact on physical and emotional health.

Girl and butterfly crop

Detail of inspirational images and text on our Donor Wall at Children's Hospital Boston

The positive effect of integrating one-of-a-kind, inspirational fine artwork into hospital lobbies was testified to by keynote speaker Knut Bergsland in his keynote at the Healthcare Design Conference in 2005. In describing the impact of hospital lobbies on actual health outcomes and the development of goodwill in patients, families, visitors and staff entering a medical facility, he said, “People’s first impressions when they walk into a building have a disproportionate impact on the rest of their experience there."

Our products are also the vehicles for inspirational messages, welcoming patients and their families as they enter the hospital, and setting a positive and reassuring tone for their whole visit.

I am honored that the team of judges for the Nightingale Awards recognized the important and multifaceted role our Donor Recognition plays in the field of healthcare.

I want to close by saying that I love what I do! I love listening to clients tell me what they need, I love designing, I love honoring the generous souls who support healthcare institutions, and most of all I love that our Art Glass is helping patients heal and return home quickly to their families.

A heartfelt thank you to all our clients for giving us the opportunity to do this work,

Christina sig cropped

Benefits of Becoming a Naming Donor

Marriott tribute
Tribute to Willard and Alice Marriott at the Marriott Library, University of Utah. This double-layer plaque includes formal photos of the couple, and a larger image showing the pair as young sweethearts.

I was working with the Donor Relations Officer of a new hospital the other day, helping her find the right words for a proposal she was going to make to a prospective Naming Donor. We have done a lot of Naming and Major Donor Tributes over the years, and I was happy to share with her the specific benefits such philanthropists enjoy when they are appropriately -- and generously -- honored.

Here's an easy bulleted list you can share with
your Donors or Development team. (If you'd like a nicely formatted version with photos -- suitable as a Donor handout -- email me at

  • Positions the Donor as a host and sponsor of the institution, welcoming patients or students, visitors, families, and staff when they walk in the door
  • Presents the Donor as a benefactor and humanitarian who truly cares about the well-being of the people who use the institution
  • Enables the Donor to share their wisdom and inspiration with the many thousands of visitors who will pause to enjoy the artwork and read the Donor’s words
  • Humanizes the philanthropist and sends a message that not only honors the Donor’s gift, it forges a long-term relationship from which Donor and institution will benefit
  • The Naming Donor Tribute we create will reflect the shared values of the institution and the Donor: It will be both visionary and enduring, a work of art created with exquisite attention to detail and hand-crafted from the highest quality materials. It will embody excellence, integrity, team-work, caring and respect.

 Here are several more examples of custom Naming Donor Tributes we have created to give you (and your Donors) an idea of what's possible.

Burney cropped

Tribute to a beloved doctor at Nebraska Medical Center, given by his wife. The decorative element on the right side is a detail from the wallpaper in Dr. Burney's bedroom when he was a child.
Batchelor collage.tif

This double-layer Tribute honors George Batchelor, Naming Donor for the Batchelor Children's Research Institute in Miami. The top layer of the Tribute, at left, shows the philanthropist today, at age 80.
The second layer, shown at right using different lighting, is a portrait of the aeronautical industry leader in his 20s as a young pilot.
Eccles cropped

Tribute to George and Dolores Eccles at the Eccles Critical Care Pavilion, University of Utah. Again, the double layer strategy allows us to show
the donor couple in formal portraits and in a fun-loving moment
from their early years together. This kind of Tribute is especially
appreciated in a hospital setting, where patients and families are
delightfully diverted by the sight of a joyful image.
Blocks - awards

Donor Awards in a building block motif with gold-filled Donor names and initials

If you would like us to send you a digital portfolio of our Donor Tributes, contact me at We also have a pdf showing our Donor Awards if you're looking for something simpler.

Places the Donor’s name in one of the most prominent locations in the building

Positions the Donor as a host and sponsor of the institution, welcoming patients/students, visitors, families, and staff when they walk in the door

Presents the Donor as a benefactor and humanitarian who truly cares about the well-being of the people who use the institution

Enables the Donor to share their wisdom and inspiration with the many thousands of visitors who will pause to enjoy the artwork and read the Donor’s words

Humanizes the philanthropist and sends a message that not only honors the Donor’s gift, it forges a long-term relationship from which Donor and institution will benefit

The Naming Donor Tribute we create will reflect the shared values of the institution and the Donor: It will be both visionary and enduring, a work of art created with exquisite attention to detail and hand-crafted from the highest quality materials. It will embody excellence, integrity, team-work, caring and respect.


Christina sig cropped


Giving Thanks for 'Acts of Light'

Decorative Glass Magazine blog TOP

Love of glass and love of gratitude combined this week in a blog post by Patricia Linthicum in her "Designers on Design" column on the Decorative Glass Magazine website.

Patricia contacted me with the wonderful idea of doing a blog this week about giving thanks in glass, and asked me about our work creating luminous carved crystal Donor Walls and Tributes that express gratitude to an institution's generous benefactors.

FAITH carving from GinsburgI talked with her about my belief that each donor gift is an "act of light" intended to heal, inspire, illuminate, or educate, and that I see our illuminated crystal Donor Walls as acts of light that are given in return, "completing" the circle.

To me -- and to the men and women who work at Amri Studio -- each piece of carefully designed and carved glass we create is an act of devotion and service — an " act of light" that literally illuminates others' philanthropic and educational acts of light.

In her post, Patricia featured the stunning Naming Donor Tribute we created for Florida Hospital Cardiovascular Institute (pictured above, on her blog) and I explained the multi-level symbolism of the spiral-shaped "Donor Wall" we created. To enjoy Patricia's full post, click here.

Christina sig cropped

Heartfelt Recognition, Carved in Stone

I thought you’d enjoy seeing something completely different from us here at Amri Studio -- breathtakingly beautiful carving in stone! We are not only the deepest glass carvers in the country, but we shape and detail the designs with great sensitivity, precision and artisanship. We have carried that skill into the world of stone.

Marble word detail

Marble olive branch detailHere are some detail shots from a project that just went out the door. It is white marble, with delicate sparkling veins of crystal. You may be surprised to hear that we have been carving stone for more than 20 years. After all, it is the centuries-old tradition of exquisite, hand-chisel-cut stone that inspired us to carve permanent monument-quality “transparent stone” — that is, glass.

We have led the way in today’s deep-carved thick glass and crystal. I am an avid admirer of the ancient Greek bas-relief friezes and statuary, and more modern pieces such as the poetic words carved into the Lincoln monument.

East_frieze of Parthenon @ 72 dpiDetail of bas-relief carving from the Elgin Marbles,
originally on the east frieze of the Parthenon

Mass General Hospital graphicWe did several marvelous pieces of black Quaker slate honoring the Naming Donors for the Ellison Building at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The plaques were done in deep-carved v-cut letterforms that were then filled with 23k gold. The effect of the black and gold together was striking and elegant.

 At right is the graphic design of the Mass General plaque (I apologize for not having actual photos of it!) As you can see, the plaque featured a keyhole-cut 6-inch opening in which we inlaid a carved glass motif of the architectural rendering of their building. It is a perfect example of the melding and honoring of the “old” with the “new.”

Stone carving - acorn CROPPED
Here’s another example of our stone carving, which we created for the recent American Healthcare Philanthropy conference. On this piece of carrera marble, we created a stone Alphabet book “page” but with deep-carved classic v-cut lettering, then added an acorn with oak leaves attached. These graphic elements are nearly 5 inches high and are side-lit here by a halogen spotlight.

In addition to marble and slate, we do deep, bas-relief carving in granite, alabaster and limestone. These pieces are beautiful when used inside (as at Mass General) or outside, in healing gardens, meditation walks, Donor Walls and other memorials.

Marble wing detailHow might how our elegant carved stone might serve your needs? We can carve any motif into stone -- flowers, vines, birds – in fact, anything you see in our glass! Silver leaf or copper/gold add elegant and gleaming accents added tastefully into the carving.

Several folks in the memorialization industry are talking with us now and some of our healthcare clients are looking at additions to their hospital Donor areas and healing gardens. Carved stone markers make wonderful permanent and weatherproof landscape enhancements and Donor Recognition for those whose gifts went to creating places of solace like these!

Christina color sig

Photograph of Parthenon frieze: © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

Honoring the Architect's Intent

One of our important goals when we create a work of Donor Art is to ensure that it echoes and enhances the architecture of the building in which it will be displayed. I thought you'd enjoy seeing some examples of installations where the gesture of the carefully crafted exteriors and interiors of the building are reflected in our design for the Donor Art.

Prentice collage

This state-of-the-art hospital was designed by architectural partners VOA and OWP/P to be a "family-oriented, feminine building.” To blend seamlessly with the architects' design intent, we used delicately curving, gold-filled ginkgo leaves to adorn a carved-crystal Tribute to the Naming Donor, Abra Rockefeller Prentice Wilkin. The lobby, where the Tribute is installed, feels more like it belongs to a beautiful hotel than a healthcare facility! 

Ginsburg collage
To honor Naming Donor Alan Ginsburg and the Ginsburg Family Foundation, we were asked to create a Tribute to Ginsburg's late wife, Harriet, and their son, Jeffrey, for the new Ginsburg Tower at Florida Hospital Cardiovascular Institute. Our freestanding Art Glass Donor Tribute in the lobby of the building echoes HuntonBrady’s award-winning design with its breathtaking circular tower. Our Art Glass Tribute -- a spiral "grove" that visitors can actually walk into -- was awarded first place in the Unique Signs category at the 2009 International Sign Contest, sponsored by Signs of the Times magazine.

CHOMP collage
Lastly, I want to show you a wonderful opportunity we had to create a Donor Recognition solution for a hospital that was designed by one of the most famous names in modern architecture. In 1962, Edward Durell Stone was commissioned to design a hospital on Monterey Peninsula, one of the world's most beautiful places. He used an iconic pattern of concentric squares throughout the building, both inside and outside. Today, the hospital uses that icon for its logo.

In designing the Donor Recogntion, we wanted to feature imagery that would reflect the community’s love for its natural surroundings and mesh with the iconic design. Along the bottom of the crystal panels, we used floating bars of DNA sequences that mirrored the shape of Stone's decorative squares. In keeping with the Monterey Bay nature theme, we then had those bars morph into patterns of light dappling on sunlit waters where an egret is poised for flight.

As an artist, I find it a real privilege to create designs that enhance the work of truly talented architects.

Christina sig cropped

Thank You for a Wonderful Year!

8035 St mrys pointing Art condenses the experience we all have as human beings, and, by forming it, makes it significant. We all have an in-built need for harmony and the structures that create harmony. Basically, art is an affirmation of life.

This is the time of year when I look back on what we've achieved and am filled with gratitude for the chance to work with some extraordinary institutions and equally extraordinary people. In 2010, we created Donor Recognition Art for huge medical research institutions and a 12-bed hospice, for a major university and a small but fast-growing community college in the Ozarks. We carved and etched single panels for some clients, and 100-foot-long crystal murals for others. 

Each of these projects was deeply meaningful for me and my staff. Without exception, we were enlarged by the people we worked with, the causes we learned about, and the challenges we met.  Thank you all for the opportunity to practice our art and celebrate your patients, clients, staff members and community of donors! We feel truly blessed!

Here is a quick tour of this year's projects, organized by the purpose of the project.

Donor Recognition Art

8035 St Marys Janitor

8035 St Marys_rose At St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, CO, cascading garlands of roses were carefully carved into eighteen crystal panels, while an etched rosary of pearls and gold-leafed beads led visitors from the lobby into the heart of the building. St. Mary’s deeply held values were carved into the crystal along with the names over 900 donors.

10144 Computer History museum_overview
A crystal wall with individual Donor plaques stretches along a hallway at the amazing Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley. This type of wall is extremely flexible, allowing for many new Donors at a wide range of giving levels.

 8033 chomp_overview

8033 chomp_bird The themes of nature and medical science merge in this Donor Recognition System at the Community Hospital of the Montery Peninsula in Monterey, CA. Floating bars of DNA sequences stacked along the bottom of the crystal panels morph beautifully into patterns of light dappling sunlit waters where an egret is poised for flight.

We are always delighted when we are asked back to an institution with whom we have worked before, and this was the case at the Eccles Critical Care Pavilion of the University of Utah Hospital. In 2002-2003, we created a very large Donor Recognition System for them, on which we carved the names of some 2,800 Donors -- every single person who made a donation, from local philanthropists to the hospital janitor!

9105 Eccles_overview
This year we created a smaller "sister" wall to honor yet more donors, who funded the hospital's airy new two-story lobby. In creating this new wall, we used the same materials –- carved crystal and gold-leafing -– the same theme, and the same design vocabulary so that the two walls would have artistic unity.

10102 MiamiI Alum_overview
The University of Miami Alumni Association asked us to design Donor Recognition Art that celebrated the Donors who enabled them to build a beautiful new Alumni Center. We created a grid of interlocking crystal panels deep-carved with Donor Names. A rendering of the new Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Alumni Center, designed by the celebrated architect Michael Dennis, serves as the backdrop.

10132 NWACC_overview
At the NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, AR, we carved and etched Donor Recognition Art to honor Donors to their Building for the Future Capital Campaign. We used lacy silhouettes of young trees as the background to the Donor Names. These trees characterize the local landscape near the college and reflect the youth coming to college.

Major Donor Tributes

There are some individuals so blessed -- and so generous -- that they are able to make very large donations to the institutions they believe in. We had the honor this year of creating tributes to three such individuals.
The first was Abra Rockefeller Prentice Wilkins, the Naming Donor for the Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago. Mrs. Wilkins is one of Chicago's most treasured philanthropists and an energetic advocate for women’s health. Her donations first established the hospital, then enabled its expansion and move into a state-of-the-art facility that contains one million square feet of top-notch healthcare for women and children.

10123 Chop Plaque At the renowned Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, we created a tribute to Ruth M. and Tristram C. Colket, Jr., whose lead donation enabled the building of the new Colket Translational Research Building. "Translational research" is medical research that is focused on dramatically shortening the time it takes for a scientific discovery to be "translated" into medicine that can heal people -- and this world-famous hospital is a leader in that field.

10108 Shuster overview
10108 Shuster typography In Ohio, our hearts were touched at the opportunity to create a tribute to Benjamin and Marian Schuster, Naming Donors for the Schuster Heart Hospital. Dr. Schuster is a longtime heart specialist and his wife was a major supporter of the arts in the Dayton area. The Schusters were known in their community almost as much for their love of each other as for their contributions to the community. To honor this aspect of their lives, we overlaid some of Shakespeare's poetry onto the Tribute text we wrote: "My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep. The more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite."

History/Heritage Walls

Also at the Schuster Heart Hospital, which is part of the Kettering Medical Center, we had the opportunity to create a fascinating combination History Wall and Tribute to inventor Charles Kettering, after whom the medical center -- and the town where it is located -- are named.

10107-kettering-sec-A-photo The History Wall consisted of three sections and concluded with photos of Kettering's son, Eugene, and his much-admired wife, Virginia. Charles Kettering was the embodiment of American ingenuity. He is best known for his invention in 1911 of a push-button starter for automobiles -- an innovation that made it possible for women to drive without the help of a well-muscled man to turn the extremely stiff starter crank. By the end of his busy life, Kettering had filed 140 patents, risen to international prominence as an inspiring leader, and become a major philanthropist.

In this History Wall, programmed and colored LEDs light up in sequence to convey a feeling of moving forward — echoing the result of Kettering’s many inventions and the forward-looking work of the Kettering Medical Center.

We created a second and even longer Heritage Walk at St. Mary's Hospital, in a corridor adjacent to the Donor Recognition Art that I described above.  8035 St Marys Corner

6D St Mary's Evolution angle This 100-foot-long carved and etched crystal Heritage Walk weaves together St. Mary's deeply held religious values with the story of its long and colorful history, told in archival photos, words and graphics. Deep, 3-D carved and chisel-cut letterforms and graphic elements "pop" almost holographically. Photographs -- ranging from archival pictures of pioneering nuns to recent pictures of a CareFlight helicopter -- are converted into dots and etched into the crystal using our DPI dither process.

Art Glass

Because we are the deepest carvers of glass and crystal in the country, we are often called upon to create Art Glass installations that are desired for their sheer beauty. This year, we worked with the University of Notre Dame to transform an aerial view of their famous campus into a wall of crystal for their new Alumni Center.

10119 NotreDame_angle overview
I wrote a blog post about this fascinating project in September -- check it out! The post includes a link to a time-lapse video showing us installing this 16-foot-wide mural.

8022 mathews_detail 2 You'll find another fun time-lapse video in my blog about the chapel we created at Prentice Women's Hospital, which I mentioned earlier in this post. The non-denominational Mathews Chapel was built from unused office space, a fact you would never guess when you walk into this sacred space with its "acres" of blossoming almond trees, lit with soft pink LEDs.

8022 mathews_overview

 Lastly, I want to share with you two projects that we have been working on here in the Studio as a way of exploring design and fabrication possibilities. 

9999 Calligraphy A
These graceful calligraphic explorations are a timeless translation of original copperplate engravings that were master’s exemplars of penmanship in 1780's. I think they look amazing rendered in carved crystal.    9999 eyechart_artwork

Another exploration is this eye chart, the design of which is intended to exercise the viewer's third eye. The chart, which was also sourced from an original copperplate engraving, has a lightly frosted background. Delicate V-carved lines and dots, inspired by scientific eyesight diagrams, weave and cascade across the frosted glass. At the bottom, Einstein encourages us to “experience the mysterious –- the source of all true art and all science.”

9999 eye chart

If you've read this far, I commend you! You can see that we had a wonderful -- and very full -- year. Thank you for being part of it!

May your new year be filled with creative joy and deep satisfaction,

Christina sig cropped



Photographs by Gabriel Harber and Studio staff and consultants

Creating Sacred Space

Your sacred space is where you find yourself again and again.

Two years ago we began a very special project! It was a unique opportunity for us both as consultants and a custom Art Glass studio. We were asked to help transform a large unused office into a sacred space at a state-of-the-art women's hospital.

Our design goal was to create a non-denominational chapel that would blend seamlessly with the architectural intent of the project, which was to construct “a family oriented, feminine building,” as design and architectural partners VOA and OWP/P put it.  

Prentice lobby 9-10The new hospital lobby with its gently curving lines is warm and welcoming

After studying the architect's intention and design, we worked directly with the Foundation (the stewardship arm of the hospital), the healthcare art consultants AAR (American Art Resources) and the Donors themselves. We aimed for an environment that worked with the feminine curves of the building and that lent itself to both solace and celebration. The result was a deeply meaningful architectural surround using illuminated crystal panels carved with symbols of fruitfulness, hope, and calm. 

Lobby from their websiteThe location was Chicago’s esteemed Prentice Women’s Hospital, now in a new million-square-foot, state-of-the-art building. The lobby of this amazing institution looks like it belongs in the most elegant high-end hotel. This is truly one of the most beautiful hospitals I have ever been in! Everything is curved and feminine, soft, spacious, welcoming. It's no mean feat to create a feminine feeling in a 17-story downtown Chicago skyscraper!

New prentice plaque 9-10 For the opening of this esteemed hospital in 2008, we crafted a Donor Tribute to Abra Rockefeller Prentice Wilkins, one of Chicago's most treasured philanthropists and an energetic advocate for women’s health.  Her generous gift of $10 million helped Northwestern Memorial Hospital to split off its women’s health services into this new building, which now includes the largest birthing center in the Midwest.  

The office we would be transforming into a sacred space was on the third floor. Its windows overlooked the lobby two stories below. The chapel  would provide a place of sanctuary, spiritual connection and solitude for those in need of comfort — or just a break from the stress of a busy medical setting.  The naming donors were the delightful Mathews family, and it was to be called the Mathews Chapel.

New prentice wall 9-10
Before I explain the imagery and other details of our work, let’s jump to the really fun part — a time-lapse video of the transformation of the window wall of this empty space into a carved crystal “orchard” 8 feet high by 19 feet wide.
(Our thanks to Tom Prost and Ben Varnau of Movco Media Productions, who created the "video.")


Terry painting

We began our transformation of this space by closing off the noisy view of the cement landscape outside and creating full window coverings in the form of warm, multi-colored backers. Their colors would shine through the etched glass to give it life and allow us to control the quality of light inside the room, thus creating a focused meditative space. (At right, Terry Holleman and I work on painting the backing board.) Terry, who is also our cabinet maker, created exquisite makora hardwood brackets to match the extensive interior paneling on the first two floors of the hospital. These brackets hold the art glass panels top and bottom and house the custom multicolored LEDs we programmed to light up the carved glass. Below the brackets and extending to the floor, we installed cream-colored piano-polished laquered panels.

New blossoms and more 9-10 Detail showing deep-carved flowers surrounded by more lightly etched ones

The chapel is a virtual almond orchard in blossom, softly lit, silent and welcoming. Sitting, praying or meditating in the Mathews Chapel, visitors enjoy the simple beauty and lacy quality of the delicate almond branches and blooms, while feeling embraced in a protective bower of trees. It is as if they are taking sanctuary in "God's garden." Nature is a theme that creates calm and serenity. It is spiritual without being directly connected to any specific denomination or belief system.

Single blossom cropped
Amri Studio graphic designer Arlene and I chose almond trees because they are highly revered in many cultures. They are a symbol for fruitfulness, thus perfectly suited to a women’s health center.
In the Jewish tradition, almond blossoms were the model for the flower cups on the Menorah. The almond itself is an ancient symbol of divine approval or favor. It also suggests the protection of valuable contents by a strong shell. This is a parallel to the function of a hospital, and to the purpose of our body, at the heart of which lies our precious spirit, our sacred light.

Madonna raphael The almond shape has appeared for centuries in artwork as the halo around Christ and the Virgin Mary, as in the detail at right from Raphael's Bridgewater Madonna. This shape is also a mystical statement of the union of heaven and earth, which is the very nature of a chapel.

However, the key to creating a design that someone can return to time and again is that it has genuine depth of meaning. In other words, it is rich with symbols that one can discover for oneself and interpret from one's own particular point of view or mood or need on any given day. Good design has intent and symbolism that "holds" the space, even if the viewer may not be fully conscious of it.

New kneeler niche 9-10 We also created a miniature "chapel within the Chapel" in an alcove of the room. This area houses both a kneeler and a stand holding beautiful Muslim prayer rugs. An adjustable beam of warm light shines softly down, almost like a shaft of sunlight making its way through branches.

I felt especially honored to be able to work with the hospital on creating this very special chapel. A space or sanctuary created with reverence, intention and great generosity of spirit is an enormous and wonderful offering.  I also had the opportunity to work with some great people. I especially want to honor Steve Falk, head  of Northwestern Memorial Foundation for stewarding this project with such hands-on, high-integrity leadership.

This is the kind of project I feel truly grateful to have been a part of. It is complex and beautiful architecturally and artistically, and in its achievement of client satisfaction and donor relations goals.  The words that spring to mind when I think of it are holy, sacred, extraordinary and from the heart. My heartfelt thanks go to everyone involved! From donor to development team, admin leadership and facility folks, you are the best!

Christina sig



Photos courtesy Prentice Women's Hospital and Stephen Price

A Very Moving Day

Yesterday we finished a delicate, demanding, and very rewarding project: Relocating an extensive 20-foot-long, 8-foot-high crystal Donor Wall, which we created in 2002-2003, to the second story of the elegant and airy new lobby of the University of Utah Hospital’s vastly expanded patient care pavilion.

In addition, we installed a “sister” Donor Wall (above) to honor the generous people who helped fund the new lobby. In creating this new wall, we used the same materials –- carved crystal and gold-leafing -– the same theme and the same design vocabulary so that the two walls would have artistic unity.

The theme we carried over into the new Donor Wall is the aspen tree, which, besides being beloved in the Salt Lake City area, is symbolic of deep cooperation. A quotation on the original wall expresses it perfectly:

"Like a grove of aspens, all seemingly separate trees
but in reality united beneath the soil,
we are all members of a single family,
the family of humankind."


This quote also speaks to the diversity of people needed in a facility of this stature –- donors, medical professionals, support staff and volunteers –- and the dedication to helping others that unites them.

In fact, the original Donor Wall included the names of some 2,800 donors! Every single person who made a donation, from local philanthropists to the hospital janitor, was listed.

The hospital’s new Donor Wall is 10 feet wide by 6.5 feet tall, and is located in a very prominent position, at the top of the escalator leading to the second floor of the beautiful 40-foot-high atrium. It is the first thing you see as you get off the escalator. In addition to the artwork and donor names it has some lovely inspirational quotes, including this one, which really touches my heart.

"We are the leaves of one branch,
the drops of one sea, the flowers of one garden."


From left, Charly, Joe and Jason insert panels into custom brackets

We were delighted to hear that the original Donor Wall was being retained despite all the new construction. As architectural artwork, it is so very unique and interesting. It has stood the test of time as a permanent monument and is well worth the effort of moving it. In addition, as the Major Gifts Officer we originally worked with pointed out to me yesterday, once you promise a donor that they will be permanently recognized, it’s crucial to keep that promise, even if the existing building undergoes renovation.

We also did a moving job (no pun intended) on a Tribute we created in 2003 for George and Dolores Dore Eccles. The Tribute uses formal, contemporary photos of the donors etched into a carved crystal panel that floats over a second crystal panel, which shows a warm and inviting image of the couple dancing together when young.

This is one of my favorite Donor Tributes because it shows the two philanthropists as real people loving and enjoying their lives -– what a cheerful sight for any hospital passerby whose load may need lightening.

Note: The University of Utah Hospital’s new lobby is featured in a fascinating article in Medical Construction & Design magazine about the important role lobbies play in providing visitors with a warm and reassuring welcome. This is even more vital at the University of Utah Hospital, where some 10,000 people enter the lobby every day!

The Artisanship Behind Our Art

True art is created by the human hand. That’s why we use no machine carving, laser etching, or chemical processes to create the Art Glass Donor Walls, Tributes and Signage that we are famous for. All of our award-winning pieces are meticulously carved and etched by hand.

How do you carve and etch a material as delicate as glass? Ironically, it’s done by SANDBLASTING.

Whether we are doing bas-relief carving to create the alabaster look of birds in flight or chisel-carving true V-cut letterforms (a monument-style technique once only possible in stone), the work is all done by directing narrow streams of air-propelled particles (originally, sand was used) to the back or front of thick sheets of crystal and glass.

By altering the speed of the air, the size of the nozzle, the angle at which the nozzle is held, and how long the stream of “sand” is directed at a given area, a marvelous range of different effects can be created.

Christina Wallach Amri began her career over 35 years ago in Paris, where she apprenticed with a fourth-generation family of glass artisans. Among other projects, she worked on restoring the famous stained glass windows of Chartres cathedral.

When Christina returned to the U.S. and founded Wallach Glass Studio (now Amri studio), she began developing techniques for etching and carving glass to resemble the timeless and elegant stone monuments she saw in Europe. She also brought her experience and studies as an art major at U.C. Berkeley into the sandblasting cabinet and began truly sculpting in glass. Now we are the deepest bas-relief glass carvers in the U.S., sometimes working on panels as thick as a full inch.

In the late 1990s, with the invention of sophisticated photo manipulation software, Amri Studio began working to find a way to increase the delicacy of its carved lettering and artwork and to etch highly detailed photo portraits in crystal and glass. The biggest hurdle to overcome was the fact that when converting a photo into dots, a process they call dithering, the image loses a lot of detail.

We restore the fine details in a highly skillful, artistic and technical process we’ve developed that takes up to 20 hours per photo. When the resulting image is then carved into crystal or glass, each tiny dot is scooped out by a blast of “sand,” creating a tiny bowl shape. When the sandblasted image is edge-lit by LEDs, the little bowls collect the light as it travels through the crystal (which acts as a fiber optic) and the image looks dramatically three-dimensional.

Thanks to the proprietary techniques we’ve developed for creating our signature chisel-cut, three-dimensional lettering and highly detailed photo portraits, our Art Glass panels -- whether they are Donor Recognition, Tributes or Corporate Signage -- brilliantly catch the light and read crisply at quite a distance with either ambient lighting, spot lighting and/or edge-mounted LEDs.

Christina sig

A Fruitful Year

It has been a fruitful year for us at Amri Studio, and we wanted to take a moment to share some of its visual highlights with you before we close for our annual holiday vacation, Dec. 24 through Jan. 3.

From St. Mary's Hospital Heritage Wall

These projects are so recent, they are not yet on our website.  In fact, one of them was just installed last week. Please read on for a sneak preview . . .

We created a 20-foot long Art Glass Mural and Donor Wall alongside a custom Donor Tribute dedicated to J Willard and Alice Marriott at the ultramodern Marriott Research Library at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.


We had the honor of attending the opening of the new building, which was dedicated by former First Lady Laura Bush.

At Boston Children's Hospital we created an inspiring and playful Donor Wall, which included a custom-programmed Interactive Crystal Plaque placed at child height to entertain young patients.

A quiet seating area became a sacred space, the new Mathews Chapel at Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago, when we enclosed the space and mounted softly lit and exquisitely carved Art Glass panels of blossoming almond trees.

Two dark 100-foot hallways were transformed by an Art Glass Donor Wall and separate Heritage Wall, tracing the stirring history and heartfelt values of St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Cascading roses and a rosary of pearls morph into a dotted line showing the route of a 19th century sea voyage, then into railroad tracks marking a journey crossing the Wild West, and are finally transformed into the beads on a teething ring held by a baby in a nurse's arms. These were the key elements in the largest installation we have ever done. 


Wishing you all the happiest and safest holiday season.  We are looking forward to some exciting projects in 2010!

Christina sig 

More Than Just a Wall

Question }  When is a donor wall . . . not just a wall?

Answer }  When its innovative spiral design breaks free from the limits of two dimensions and becomes a breathtaking piece of free-standing Art Glass Sculpture, dedicated to the memory of the beloved wife and son of a medical center's Major Donor.


Institution: Florida Hospital Cardiovascular Institute in Orlando, part of the Adventist Health System

Donor: The Alan Ginsburg Family Foundation

Source of inspiration: A Biblical quotation provided by the donors:

Faith, it is a tree of life to those that grasp it.


Highlights: 13 crystal panels deep-carved and etched with “Faith” text in eight languages which overlap the vivid images of leafy trees, making the sculpture a memorial grove for the honorees. Panels are mounted in a custom hardwood base and illuminated by soft amber and pink LED's. 

The Meaning Behind the Form: The gently undulating clusters of text visually echo the rhythm of the human heart beat – an apt effect for a cardiovascular facility.

First Place Winner, Unique Signs Category

2009 International Sign Contest sponsored by Signs of the Times magazine

Projects from 2009

As we look back on the many projects we have been privileged to create this year, I think the words that best describe them are "acts of light." I also think this is the perfect way to describe what generous donors do when they make gifts to their favorite institutions: They are truly committing "acts of light" that affect everyone they touch....

light, my light
the world-filling light
the eye-kissing light
heart-sweetening light
. . .
the light is shattered 
into gold on every cloud
my darling
and it scatters gems
in profusion

Donor Tribute and Room Plaques, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences 


Personal Tribute to Heather Pick, Nationwide Children's Hospital


Art Glass, Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York

Art Glass, Mathews Chapel at Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago


Donor Wall and Interactive Art Glass, Children's Hospital Boston

Donor Wall and Donor Tribute, Marriott Library, University of Utah


Heritage Wall, St Mary's Hospital, Grand Junction, CO


Donor Wall, St Mary's Hospital, Grand Junction, CO

Christina sig