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

Designing for Devout Organizations

OaksChristian-cropped This week I am at the National Catholic Development Conference in Chicago, where Catholic fundraisers from across the nation are gathered to network and find new and better ways of achieving their goals.

We have done quite a bit of work for religious institutions over the years and we understand the deeply devotional nature of creating custom Donor Recognition and Tributes for them. But we also appreciate that nowadays even religious organizations find themselves having to compete for the attention of their audience and potential donors.

That’s why every Donor Wall we create serves a number of purposes in addition to deeply honoring, unifying and celebrating the institution's founders, staff, clientele and community of donors. Each of our walls also functions as:

  • An identity and values statement
  • A work of art
  • A luminous educational tool
  • The vehicle for a warm public relations message
  • An architectural enhancement
  • A wayfinding landmark

I thought it might be useful for conference attendees to see a detailed example of this kind of Donor Wall, so our graphic designer Shuchi worked with our writer, Margot, to create a lovely little booklet showcasing the Donor and Heritage Walls we did last year for St. Mary's Hospital in Colorado.

Shuchi has also put the booklet online so you can enjoy here. Its pages turn automatically, but by clicking on it, you can view the booklet in full screen, page back and forth, email it to others, or print it. If you'd like a professionally printed copy, just email us with your name and mailing address, and tell us how many copies you'd like.

There's a quote we used in this project that applies to the dedicated men and women I am visiting with here at the conference, all of whom are striving in tight economic times to bring their good works to the attention of interested donors.

Give me persons of prayer
and they will be capable of anything.

Christina sig




P.S. The lovely sculpture pictured at the top of this post is actually a Donor Wall at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, California. Five overlapping panels of crystal, deep-carved by hand, are edge-lit by LEDs, literally illuminating the names of hundreds of donors that radiate from the central gold and white cross. This "Donor Wall" symbolically reflects the identity of this remarkably fast-growing school: It, too, dramatically “rises out of the ground.” For more on this piece, visit the Oaks Christian School page on our website.

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

Keeping It Simple

Harmony and grace…depend on simplicity.

Although we pride ourselves on our multi-piece, highly artistic donor walls and art glass murals, sometimes a client comes to us seeking something more modest, but still elegant and eye-catching.

At the recent show of the American Association of Museums, several visitors to our booth were captivated by a photograph of our own Amri Studio Wall of Honor. They were drawn to how simple and flexible, yet sophisticated, such a wall can be. It glows with the soft, white-on-white look of alabaster.

New names can be easily added -– indeed, entire rows or columns of plaques can be attached when the need arises. As one museum executive remarked, “Names can be removed, too.” This would be useful if you were honoring an employee of the year, for example.

Artwork for the Miami Alumni wall

We are currently doing a Donor Wall like this for the new Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Alumni Center at the University of Miami. In addition to the carved crystal plaques with donor names, we are etching their beautiful hand-drawn architectural rendering into the frosted background to tie all the names together.

Our own Amri Studio Wall of Honor recognizes and thanks people who have made significant longtime contributions to our Studio’s success. It consists of 32 glass plaques (for now) lit by MR16 halogen spotlights.

The text is deep V-carved and certain words are filled with with copper- and gold-leafing. The text highlights names, awards the Studio has won and inspiring quotations. Each crystal plaque is 8.5 x 6.5” and held in place by cylindrical museum-mount hardware custom machined for us in brushed steel.

We did a comparable Employee Recognition wall for the high-tech giant Raychem. We consulted on and fabricated this Technical Hall of Fame with Mark Anderson Design Group (now Anderson Anderson Architects of San Francisco and Seattle), who created the design.

The wall consists of elegant, interchangeable and updateable crystal plaques with honorees’ names interspersed with inspirational quotations and artistically carved department icons.

You can see the scale of the beautiful 3-D V-cut letterforms by the life-sized pencil pointing at the word INNOVATION, a key word for the team at Raychem.

We're in the News

We’re excited! We’ve just had our work featured in the May issue of Signs of the Times magazine. You can see the page online by clicking here.

Senior Associate Editor Steve Aust did a very nice piece – with photos -- on our Donor Recognition Wall in the Marriott Library at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Signs of the Times, which has been publishing since 1906, aims to educate and inspire graphics and signage professionals worldwide. We're honored to be in their pages!

A Culture of Honoring, Part I

The aspect of my work that touches my heart most deeply is being part of what I call a culture of honoring. We are brought on board when a client wants to deeply thank and honor its donors for their generous support. But for many years now, our studio has innovated Donor Walls that go beyond a mere “accountant’s list” of the names of big, medium and smaller donors.

We understand that the entire community that contributes to an institution’s success needs to be honored. That why we weave into our artwork the institution’s identity -- you might say we "crystalize " the heart, mind and spirit of the organization -- along with the donors’ names.

The result is an Art Glass Mural that has something to interest every visitor who passes. At the University of Utah Hospital, for example, the Donor Wall (above) consists of beautifully etched and gold-leaf-filled leaves of their local aspen trees along with a gratitude statement, inspirational quotes and over 1200 donors’ names. Says Mary Lou McCaa, of the Hospital Foundation, “It’s wonderful when you go in the hospital and see people standing there staring at your Donor Wall. Just taking it all in.”

Detail from the Donor Wall at the University of Utah Hospital

We foster a culture of honoring within our own Studio by thanking and recognizing our team members. One way I do this is by adding the names of significant longtime individual contributors to our Amri Studio Wall of Honor, which is mounted in our graphic design room. The wall consists of 32 glass plaques. Deep, V-carved, copper- and gold-leaf-filled text highlights names, awards the Studio has won and inspiring quotations. As you can see, our Wall of Honor is designed so that it can easily be expanded with new names.

We pride ourselves on being a "turnkey" Studio that provides our clients with every service from initial consulting to design and fabrication through lighting, cabinetry and complete installation. Today I want to honor everyone whose work goes into getting our huge glass and crystal walls installed at the client’s site. These are the people who drive or fly with me all over the country to ensure that our Art Glass is carefully hung and lit. They are a multi-talented crew and they rarely get much public acknowledgment. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about them even a tenth as much as I enjoy working with them!

Before an installation even begins, we turn to our longtime cabinetmaker, Terry Holleman. Terry is a hugely talented individual who designs, engineers and makes all the custom hardwood and Corion/metal lami LED mounting brackets, cabinetry and wall surrounds for the crystal plaques and murals we create. He is the owner and lead designer for Holleman and Company Cabinetry in Sonoma, CA. He is also a gifted fine-art painter. You can see his work at his website.

As permanent as our Art Glass panels look once they are installed, they can actually be mounted in hidden swiveling steel brackets for ease of access when it’s time to add new donor names onto a second easily updated crystal or clear acrylic layer. I want to give special honoring to the man who has designed, prototyped and machined all of our specialty metal components over the years. Fred Oberti was a brilliant, funny and talented machinist and a true gentleman. He passed away this year and I sorely miss him. Even during his last illness Fred insisted on finishing a final important project with us. THANK YOU, FRED!

Fred’s swiveling brackets have to embrace an extra challenge because we use programmed LEDs to illuminate our Art Glass Walls. The hinges and other hardware that attach to the crystal panels must allow room for the LED wiring to run through them without impeding their function.

This brings me to our lighting wizard and electronic engineer, Tim Feldman, who has worked with us for decades. Tim creates custom-made strips of colored LED edgelights, which he can program to shift on a timed cycle or in response to the approach of a viewer. His work adds a whole new dimension to our carved and etched glass walls. Tim is the owner of Electric Algorithms in Davis, CA. He has created software and hardware for firms such as IDEO, eInstruction Corporation, D&P and Hewlett-Packard.

With the brackets milled, the hardware machined, and the lighting programmed, the final pieces are in place for an installation. Our on-site install team is led by Charly Rinn, a talented and successful millwork designer and fabricator in his own right, who has been my lead installer for over 16 years. Charly has worked with me on just about every major installation I’ve done.

He is the owner and founder of Exceptional Wood Products in Geyserville, CA. His firm does high-level, award-winning, contemporary and historic architectural woodwork, including stairs, molding, columns, wainscoting, cornices, door surrounds and cabinetry. Charly also designs and builds our custom shipping crates for the thousands of square feet of crystal panels we ship nationwide.

Joe and Charly at the installation for Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula.
Below, Joe and Christina Amri.

Charly has two assistants who work with him. Joe Delgado is a carpenter par excellence. In a past life Joe was a gourmet chef, so when we’re on the road, I put him in charge of finding places for us all to eat. (He’s a genius at decoding the menus in sushi restaurants.)

Installing the wood brackets on a Donor Wall at Marriott Library at the University of Utah

Another wonderful member of our install team is Jason Montgomery, a furniture maker based in Portland, OR. Jason is also a gifted musician who plays guitar and stand-up bass professionally. I am in awe of the multitalented folks I work with!

Charly and Tim in Monterey

We’ve made a recent addition to some of our install trips -- our talented new process photographer, Gabriel Harber of Oakland, CA, who gets some amazing shots of everything that goes on during an installation -- and of the folks who do it. He has a real gift for capturing the telling moment. Most of the photos in this post are Gabriel’s work.

These are the folks who make it possible for our carefully designed and carved crystal panels to be mounted in hospitals, universities, and businesses across the country. Their jobs aren’t always easy (like the day -- pictured above -- when temperatures of 17 below caused a water main to burst in the lobby of a hospital where they were installing a huge crystal mural), but they invariably handle everything that comes up with professionalism, grace and good-natured humor.

Donor Wall at the University of Virginia

Lastly, I want to honor Bob Davidson, who took on one of our first, largest and most complex installations: the University of Virginia School of Medicine. A talented artist, art professor, architect and contractor, Bob guided, engineered, ran and collaboratively supported all the initial growth at our Studio. He built our sandblasting booths, the racks that hold our huge panels of glass, our glass-moving trolley, and even our second-story mezzanine. Without Bob’s loving and generous support, his amazing creativity and his problem solving skills, our Studio would not be here today!

I thank you ALL for your talent and your heart. This loyal "band of brothers" has taught me everything I know about installation, enabling me to speak authoritatively to our clients. They have supported and admired the workmanship and art of our endeavor. And they have adventured with me through late-night airports big and small since we first expanded to creating truly large-scale Donor Walls 18 years ago. You are the best!