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.


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.

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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!

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

Seeing Ourselves Through Others' Eyes

Flight of fancy article

We got a wonderful gift in the mail today -- the June issue of Healthcare Design magazine, with an article by Contributing Editor Richard Peck about our Donor Wall at the renowned Children's Hospital Boston!

Boston children's full wall
, as it is called, covers the latest in architecture and interior design for healthcare facilities, and we are honored to appear in their pages. Richard Peck did an excellent job of describing this complicated project and helping HCD's readers really "see" our dynamic crystal wall with its many graphic elements and technical wizardry, including computer-programmed and interactive lighting.

Child reaching We love doing Donor Recognition at children's hospitals because it gives us a chance to put JOY as well as GRATITUDE and an institution's values and identity into our Art Glass. We want the hospital's "little" patients to be entertained and diverted by the images they see -- in this case, kites seeming to change color and fly across the glass, butterflies, and a delightful child reaching for the sky.

As the head of the Studio's amazing team of artists and artisans, I was very pleased to see several of our folks mentioned by name in the article. It especially touched my heart that our late machinist, Fred Oberti, was singled out for his custom-designed steel pivots, which enable the glass panels to swing open so the list of donor names mounted behind them can be accessed for updates. Up to 1,000 names a year can be changed out this way. 

Children's Hospital Boston 9 DF

Art panels in pivot position (prior to installation of Donor name panels behind)

"This functionality was a big deal for us," said Janet Cady, President of Children’s Hospital Trust. "Being able to move names of donors in and out of the donor wall...was an integral benefit of the project."

Butterfly cropped

Moth in crysalis only For the full story, read Richard Peck's excellent article, entitled "Flight of Fancy," or visit YouTube for a great video that the Children's Hospital Boston development team made about this unique project!

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The Delight of Designing for Museums

CA at HCD showI am in Houston this week at the amazing annual expo of the American Association of Museums. Among the wealth of technical exhibits -- such as lighting, display hardware and catalog printing -- there are fascinating booths sponsored by companies that create replicas of our primitive ancestors, life-sized dinosaur skeletons and exotic mammals. What an eyeful!

We have done quite a bit of Art Glass and Donor Recognition for museums in our 35-plus years in the "gratitude business," as I call it. These projects have been some of my favorites, and I thought you'd enjoy seeing just a few. (The links will take you to our website, where you'll find more photos and detailed descriptions of each project.)

Clay Performing Arts with onlooker
A striking carved and etched dancer (from an original image by famed photographer Lois Greenfield) glows in changing day-to-night LED colors at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston, WV. We created a combination Donor Recognition-Art Glass mural in the theater lobby. The design also features a "diamond necklace" of fractals trailing across the crystal panels -- a visual reference to the children’s discovery museum attached to the theater. I'm proud to say that this installation was the winner of a Creativity 35 Award of Distinction!


We also used dramatic photography in this National Baseball Hall of Fame Tribute to the great Buck O’Neil, a player, scout and coach who paved the way for African-Americans in major league baseball. O’Neil was known as a consummate gentleman both on and off the field. It was a special treat to select vintage photos of him -- and of the ballpark he called home -- and render them in etched crystal. We use a proprietary technique to develop and convert photographs into a fine DPI (dot per inch) etchable matrix that we then use to create permanent monument-style, highly readable and realistic 3-D images and portraits.

St. joseph with viewer horizontal
At St. Joseph Medical Center in Baltimore, we created a Heritage Wall that uses images and artifacts from the hospital's long history to create a permanent lobby exhibit of seven niches of carved and etched crystal. The panels not only celebrate the founding and growth of the hospital, they thank the institution's donors while serving as powerful branding and identity statements in the competitive Baltimore healthcare market.

Museum of Fine Arts

At the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, FL, we were asked to create a Donor Recognition wall to serve as an eye-catching piece of art in their lobby. Because the museum is known for its dramatic collection of Steuben glass, we aimed to create an Art Glass piece that showed off the elegance and timelessness of deep V-cut carving in crystal.

The crystal panels are edge-lit by strips of LEDs hidden in custom brackets at top and bottom. Crystal acts like a fiber optic, so when light is directed at the edge of a panel, it travels through the glass, highlighting the carving and making its message visible from quite a distance.

Designing for museums is a fascinating process. It gives us the chance to show our unique ability to create stunningly beautiful Art Glass that also serves practical purposes by providing information, identity statements and Donor Recognition.

If you happen to be in the Houston area, MuseumExpo 2011 runs through the 25th. I hope you'll stop by booth 1604 and say hi! 

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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.

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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,

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Photographs by Gabriel Harber and Studio staff and consultants

A Historic Naming Opportunity!

Sarahsaurus Here's a really original idea for Donor Recognition! The Austin (TX) Statesman-American reported recently that 73-year-old philanthropist Sarah Butler, who led the drive to raise $1 million for the popular "Dino Pit" at the Austin Nature and Science Center, has been honored by having a newly identified dinosaur named after her!

The bones of the 14-foot-long, 250-pound Jurassic-Period dinosaur were discovered in northern Arizona in 1997. They are estimated to be 190 million years old.

Mrs. Butler is a major supporter of Austin-area arts organizations, including Ballet Austin and the Blanton Museum of Art, but I'm willing to bet she's never experienced Donor Recognition like this before!

For the full (and very enjoyable) story, click here.

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Photo courtesy of the Austin Statesman-American

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!

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Photos courtesy Prentice Women's Hospital and Stephen Price

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.

Food for Thought, Food for the Spirit

In a letter written to Christina Amri last summer, a longtime registered nurse talks about the effect of an Amri Donor Wall on patients and staff at his hospital.

Dear Christina and Team,

I saw your work for the first time last February at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, when you were just finishing up the installation of a crystal Donor Wall.

Stephen looking at CHOMP I was on duty that day as a registered nurse specializing in palliative care, and stopped by the lobby to see what was going on.  As the glass was revealed, it literally took my breath away.

In the weeks to come, as I walked by the Donor Wall each day, I saw people pause, bow their heads or sit in reverence before the panel, even cry.  Passersby touched it in wonderment, in memory of a loved one, or as a way of bringing them back to their bigger purpose as health care workers or members of a community.

Chomp0457 The Donor Wall is 6 feet high by 18 feet wide and lit by programmed LEDs

The theme of giving leapt off the glass to remind me of the importance of my work as a nurse and its true reward.  I have moved since that day, but before I left Community Hospital I took a man facing a terminal diagnosis to see the Donor Wall. He cried at the beauty of it. Then he asked if I would bring him back to see it again. The spiritual nourishment that this piece of art provided him replaced the food he was no longer able digest. It gave him the courage to get out of bed the next day despite his dying body.

Viewers enjoying the wall This brief story speaks to the power of your inspired work. I cannot say eloquently enough how important your exquisite pieces are out there in the world.

In its highest form, art reminds us of the sacred and binds us to life itself. If there was nothing of beauty, I would find it difficult to make sense of the often day-to-day grind of life, especially when working with the ill and dying.

CHOMP egret

                                                All photos by Gabriel Harber

You and your team turn out striking work that touches the hearts and minds of thousands of people, as I have seen myself. Your beautiful wall in Monterey continues to touch people deeply. As a nurse, I thank all of you for the sake of the many patients and their families who are fed by your work.

Steven Price, R.N.
Sebastopol, CA

Note: I wrote in depth about the Donor Wall at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in an earlier post entitled "Designing Deep Meaning Into Donor Art."  Also, the hospital magazine has written an article about their new Donor Wall. You can read it here. 


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

A Pause for Thought

On Saturday we begin our Studio’s annual two-week summer closure, a time for the entire staff to rest, renew, refresh, and think deeply about the meaning of what we do. Sometimes in the rush of day-to-day deadlines -– we just completed shipping six different Donor Recognition projects! –- we have to stay focused on the details to get everything done.

But when we have a chance to step back and breathe, we always remember the big picture. Let me tell you a story that speaks to this.

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

In 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed most of the city and reduced its 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. Thomas Strong, Wren's master stonemason, laid the first stone of the new cathedral.

Christopher Wren’s plans for the dome of St. Paul’s

One day Sir Christopher was surveying the progress the men were making. He stopped at one stonecutter and asked him what he was doing.

“I’m cutting blocks of stone,” the man said, a bit 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, I’m earning a living to feed my family,” he replied, apparently puzzled that anyone, least of all the boss, 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.

Photos at left by Gabriel Harber

The joy and satisfaction we take in our work depends in large part on the context in which we hold that work. For me, designing and carving architectural art glass 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.

It’s about creating timeless works of art that deeply honor the donors, institutions and staff members who are making vital and heartfelt contributions toward the betterment of our world. I myself feel honored 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 the Studio. We'll be back at work on Monday, August 9, ready to hear about your new projects!

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!

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.

Two Great Shows

I recently got back from two exciting trade shows, one in Los Angeles and one in Washington, D.C.

The American Association of Museums Show, held in L.A., is attended by museum curators, designer, architects and fundraisers from all over the world. We talked to some fascinating people, including two young women from the Mongolian Art Museum in Ulan Bator who are looking at developing international financial support for a museum that would preserve their amazing cultural heritage.

The second show was the annual convention put on by SEGD, the Society for Environmental Graphic Design. This group is a global community of people who are "working at the intersection of communication design and the built environment."

Their members, including our Studio, create environmental graphics such as donor recognition (like our 3-D crystal tribute to the Ginsburg family at Florida Hospital, above), wayfinding systems, architectural graphics, signage, exhibit design, and retail and store design.

It's a talented group of people and I got to meet them and take in lots of great ideas, products, and designs.

Designing Deep Meaning Into Donor Art

"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."

--Jain Malkin, leading healthcare interior designer

When my team of graphic designers and I begin a carved crystal Donor Wall, we approach the work as artists. We are not looking to create something that is merely pretty. We are creating real art, so we start by focusing on the deep meaning of the piece, and we choose for images and symbols that will convey that meaning. Of course, we also add straightforward elements -- a formal appreciation statement, donor names and giving levels, and inspirational quotes.

But often the silent language of the symbolism speaks as loudly to viewers as the literal words we carve into the surface of the crystal. This is because we choose symbols and images rich with associations to our cultural and spiritual history.

“Christina Amri fell into a different category than any of the other donor recognition companies I’m familiar with. Her work is so creative. When I first saw her art, I realized you can have so much more than just names on a wall.”

--Mary Lou McCaa, University Hospital Foundation, University of Utah

A good example of how we design deep meaning into our art glass is our recent installation of a Donor Wall at Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula. Let me show you that mural and walk you through why we chose the images and symbols you’ll see.
The process began when Amy Goodman, curator for the hospital’s extraordinary art collection, CEO Steve Packer (far right), Foundation head Al Alvarez (far left), and hospital Board members engaged in a very thoughtful dialogue with designer Arlene Rhoden and myself as artists.

This and most of the other photos in this post are by the talented Gabriel Harber

At first glance, the 10-by-18-foot wall of carved and etched glass appears to be simply an image of Monterey Bay, its blue waters sparkling with sunlight and a snowy white egret lifting into flight on the left side of the mural. Had we been designing this wall for display in a private home, a scene of great natural beauty might have been enough. But to create a true work of art, there must be a deeper meaning.

In this case, our Donor Wall needed to symbolize the dedication, skill and vision of the hospital staff as well as the caring, vision and generosity of its donors. The wall, to be situated in the main lobby of the building, also needed to set a positive and reassuring tone for patients and their families entering the hospital.

Thus, we chose to portray the serene, light-dappled waters of Monterey Bay. Water symbolizes healing (the hospital’s role), it is life-giving, it nourishes our body and spirit. Water is an important symbol in most spiritual beliefs, Western and Eastern alike. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God is called "the fountain of living waters." In addition, water symbolizes wisdom (a reference to the skill of the medical staff).

At Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula, water is also a key feature of the physical environment. Ponds and fountains provide refreshing and relaxing elements inside and outside the buildings. For all of these reasons, we chose to use an expanse of water as the background for our Donor Wall.

The theme of water was picked up again in the deep V-carved quote about generosity from Maya Angelou, words which span nearly the full width of the mural:

When we cast our bread upon the waters,

we can presume that someone downstream
whose face we will never know
will benefit from our action,
as we who are downstream from another
will profit from that grantor’s gift.

Next we wanted to bring in symbols signifying the latest scientific discoveries to express the hospital’s joint mission of compassionate care with cutting-edge medicine. Across the foot of the mural we added short columns of bars, which are stylized images of DNA fragments that have been separated and sorted by size, an essential first step in a creating a genetic profile of an individual.

These floating bars morph beautifully into the patterns of light dappling the sunlit waters. And, because DNA contains our inherited genetic code, this imagery also symbolizes the passing of gifts from one generation to another -- from the hospital’s community leaders and generous donors of the past to those of the future. Lastly, these bars or boxes serve to mirror the distinctive decorative features built into the hospital by its original architect, the renowned Edward Durell Stone.

On the left of the mural, we added the image of an egret spreading its wings either to land or take flight. Incorporating a living creature into the scene brought life, warmth, and a sense of scale to the Donor Wall. It helps viewers connect with the entire mural. Symbolically, birds stand for hope, an important subconscious message for patients and their families. Birds also soar, and the upward movement of the bird portrayed here implies the soaring of thought, spirit and imagination.

Because the egret is shown at the moment it breaks free in flight, it symbolizes Community Hospital’s role as a courageous agent of change and leadership. Immediately to the right, a 23-karat-gold-leafed quotation from local poet Robinson Jeffers ties in with the image:

Lend me the stone strength of the past
and I will lend you the wings of the future,
for I have them.

These inspiring words connect Community Hospital’s tremendous legacy of philanthropy with the promise of an innovative and hope-filled future. They speak to the importance of blending a strong foundation with visionary innovation. (All the quotations we used are from local figures and were collaboratively chosen with help from the hospital foundation. They all “speak to each other” within the design and help form the “graphic landscape.”)

Last of all, and I confess it will be hard to show you here, is the symbolism in the colors and timing of the lighting system we programmed. Soft, multicolored LEDs illuminate the crystal panels in a subtle four-minute cycle patterned after the 24-hour cycle of a day. It begins with the pinks and yellows of sunrise, moves into the brighter light of day, then softens into the turquoise of sunset and the cobalt blue of nighttime. (If you click on the side-by-side image above, you can best see the colors shift in the curving lines at the upper right.)The lighting never shuts off, just as the work of Community Hospital never ends. Both continue day and night, providing healing, inspiration and solace for all who visit.

Al Alvarez, Chief Development Officer of the Community Hospital Foundation, says that patients, staff and volunteers alike are often found standing reverently in front of the wall, “as if they were in church.”

True art, unlike mere graphics, works on many levels. It communicates explicitly and implicitly. It thanks, honors, recognizes, and acclaims. It inspires and it comforts. It touches on our shared history and points toward a mutual and positive future. This is our goal for every work of Donor Art that we create.

P.S. Jain Malkin, whose quote I used at the beginning of this post, is working with us right now on an amazing project. Stay tuned to see what we do with the interactive Kettering Tribute at the beautiful new Schuster Heart Hospital in Kettering, Ohio.

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!