Making a Move (and Taking a Break)

Portland at night by Jim Nix
Photo by Jim Nix from his blog Nomadic Pursuits

We have finally completed the long-contemplated move of our Studio from the rolling hills of California wine country to Portland, Oregon, home to exciting new ventures, lots of young talent, and other wonderful resources.

It's also a lot easier to fly in and out of, which is a real benefit to our new and existing clients who come to see their pieces during the design or sandblasting stage. 

Our new contact information is Amri Studio, 826-B NW 18th Ave., Portland, OR 97209; tel 503 488-5638; fax 503 980-1316. No change to email or website. I'll talk more about our new Portland team, assets, and resources in a later blog.

Taking a Break to Rest and Reflect

On Monday, July 27, we begin our Studio’s our annual two-week summer closure (reopening Monday, August 10).

This is a time for the entire staff (including me!) to rest, renew, and refresh our spirits -- and think deeply about the meaning of what we do. Sometimes in the rush of day-to-day deadlines we don't allow ourselves enough time to focus on anything but the details and getting the job done on time.

But when we have a chance to step back and breathe, we remember the big picture and are inspired anew. Let me tell you one of my very favorite stories about the difference between the coping with the immediate task and the big picture way of doing our work.

St. Paul's painting

 Watercolor of St. Paul’s Cathedral by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd

In 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed most of the city and reduced venerable Old St. Paul’s Cathedral to charred timber and rubble. The famous architect Sir Christopher Wren was hired to design a new church. After many plans and revisions, construction finally began in 1677 when Thomas Strong, Wren's master stonemason, laid the first stone of the new cathedral.

St Paul's plans

Sir Thomas Wren’s plans for the dome of St. Paul’s

One day Sir Christopher was surveying the progress the men were making on his huge creation. He stopped to speak to one of the stonecutters, and asked the man what he was doing.

“I’m cutting blocks of stone,” the he replied, a big testily. “Each one the same as the next. And the next. And the next. Every bloody stone just exactly the same.”

Sir Christopher wisely moved on. He approached a second stonecutter and asked the man what he was doing.

“Why, sir, I’m earning a living to feed my family,” he replied, apparently puzzled that anyone should need to ask.

Then Sir Christopher spotted a third stonecutter, very intent on his work. “What are you doing, good sir?” asked the architect.

The man looked up at him. He was covered with stone dust and his hands were heavily callused. He looked tired, but he looked satisfied, too.

 “I am building a monument to the glory of God,” he said with a deeply furrowed smile.


Two photos at left by Gabriel Harber; at right, detail from Donor Wall we created at the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences in Charleston, WV 

The joy and satisfaction we take in our work depends in very large part on the context in which we hold that work.  For me, designing and carving architectural art glass and stone -- or working in etched metal or porcelain enamel -- is not just about sandblasting tiny lines and curves into panels of crystal, or even about running a successful small business in a field I love.

Christina cropped at trade showIt’s about creating timeless works of art that deeply honor the donors, institutions, and staff members who together are doing vital and heartfelt work to make our world a better place. I feel honored myself to be a part of their endeavors.

And that’s what I’ll be thinking about in the coming two weeks as I rest, relax and refresh my energies for an exciting autumn in our new Studio in Portland.

Christina color sig-1


Monument-Quality, But Easy to Update

Some of the first questions I am asked by administrators planning a new Donor Wall are: How will we update it? And how will we cost-effectively maintain it? More and more of our clients are also asking, How do we keep the beauty of a custom wall AND have flexibility and ease of updating?

We have developed several successful design strategies that enable very easy updates. Let me give you a quick rundown with examples. 

001Donor Walls from left: St. Mary’s Hospital, Reno; Center for Child and Family
Advocacy, Columbus, OH; Miami Project for the Cure of Paralysis

 We can create designs, like those above, consisting of separate crystal plaques and including many invitational BLANKS set in place during the Dedication. As more donors contribute, you ship us the plaques and the names, and we carve them and ship them back for easy mounting.

002Sunset Center for the Arts, Carmel, CA     M.I.N.D. Institute, U.C.- Davis

We can create a mural, like those above, leaving space on certain panels for your estimated number of names to come. We train your local staff to easily take down these carved crystal panel(s) and pack them into our return crate. (This usually takes less than two hours.) You put up a friendly “placeholder” sign we make for you that tells your public that you have more generous community support coming soon! (The panel is returned with the new names within about ten business days.) You can do this on a scheduled, once-a-year basis to help you with planning and to encourage your donors to get on board!

 003Olives and olive branches at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, San Francisco
We can create a two-layer system, like the one above, where the crystal front name panels are removed by your staff in under an hour and shipped to us for new names to be added. This can be done either once a year or more often. We design the wall so that even when the name panels are out being updated, the art glass layer looks beautiful! For example, in the close-up at right, above, when the Donor name panels are temporarily removed, the beautiful olive branches will remain in place.

004Crystal Donor Wall with removable, printed back-mounted name panels

We can create a two-layer system, like the Donor and Welcome Wall we did for Children’s Hospital Boston, above, where a second, back layer is mounted behind the front carved and etched ART GLASS mural. This second layer consists of fire-polished acrylic panels, digitally screen-printed with Donor names that look like they have been etched. You discard the old acrylic panels and get new panels each year. It will take your staff a few hours to slot the new panels into place.



Here is a diagram showing how we engineer walls such as this.

006 Donor Wall at Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula, Monterey, California

5  You can choose a COMBINATION system, like the six-panel Donor Wall above, that includes both options #3 and #4.This means you can honor your TOP TIER Donors with their names carved in a permanent layer of crystal and recognize other categories of donors on printed, fire-polished acrylic panels that can be swapped out for inexpensive updating. (In the photo above, panel #2 has TOP TIER permanent carved names, while panels 3 through 6 feature a removable back layer of names on acrylic.)

Or, for simplicity’s sake, we can create engraved metal nameplates that clip easily in and out of our beautiful illuminated ART GLASS systems. (These nameplates cost less than carved glass to replace for updating.)

Finally, we can team with a company that provides easy magnetic (or other material) name strips and place them ALONGSIDE our exquisite carved and etched Art Glass panels. (Most of these companies are SIGN companies that have limited custom-art design capacity, and they do not create artisan-quality permanent, monument-style art, so our working in tandem with them is a good way to upgrade their standard offerings.)

We find that our clients usually have two choices: easy (but uninspired) donor signage, or, more artistic but not easily updateable plaques.

We do it differently: We offer both beauty and affordable ease!

Christina sig for BLOG


1.     We can create a two-layer system, as above, where the front name panels are easily removed by your staff in under an hour and shipped to us for new names to be added. This can be done either once a year or more often. We design the wall so that even when the name panels are out being updated, the art glass layer looks beautiful! For example, in the close-up at right, above, when the Donor name panels are temporarily removed, the beautiful olive branches remain in place.