Glass Factory Visit

We paid a visit to one of our best glass suppliers recently. They’ve been hand blowing glass since the 1940s in West Virginia.

The factory is at the end of rutted road in a series of cool old shed buildings. Though they have over 50 people on staff, the workers were dwarfed by the cavernous space and the mountains of historic molds and equipment.

A four man crew works together at each station.

A gatherer or who gathers up the molten glass at the end of the blowpipe (and will often put a small bubble in the glass with a little puff), the Gaffer who does the lion’s share of the blowing, the blocker who opens and closes the cast iron mold, and the assistant who carries the finished glass to the lehr (a huge oven with a super slow conveyor belt for cooling the glass).

I knew glassblowing was hot work…that is pretty self evident. I didn’t realize how physical it is, however. The glass is heavy, the pipe is heavy, and in the heat, it’s all quite a production.

We looked over some of our work there. They make our large Sorenson lantern glass in this massive cast iron mold.

We were also looking for more profiles to work into some custom jobs. They have a massive, though somewhat uncatalogued, stock of molds.

In one large room they house “The Decorating Department” where a few women painstakingly paint the glass shades with a glass-bearing paint. The shades are then fired in a large kiln. This work isn’t up my alley, aesthetically, but the craft is exceptional.

For glass that doesn’t make the cut, kind of like the nuts that don’t pass Wonka’s squirrel test, there’s the “BAD GLASS” bin.

-David Calligeros

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Interesting Things in the Scrap Pile

I was recently walking past the old Lot’s Road power station in London. This complex supplied power to the London Underground system until about 10 years ago when it was decommissioned. Supposedly now it will be redeveloped as condominiums and shopping and the like, hopefully retaining the original historic shell.

The power plant is right around the corner from our showroom in the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre. In fact, it’s a distinctive and much enjoyed aspect of the view out our windows. (that’s the picture below)

Lots Road power station

On my way to the showroom, I saw down an alley between the old brick buildings something lighting-ish. With a little snooping, no guard on duty… and closer inspection I found a pair of enormous chandeliers leaning on a pile of rubbish and scrappy old fencing. You can gauge their size by the broken ironing board in the background. I have the idea that they were set props or restaurant furnishings. The quality and scale is theatrical, rather than fine.

It took me a good 5 minutes to definitively decide that there was no way, in fact, to cart them off to the showroom or bring them back to Brooklyn. I hope a stronger-backed, British version of me, driving a pick-up truck, also saw and then rescued them before the garbage truck arrived.

-David Calligeros

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New York Law to Limit Light Pollution

With the support of lots of citizen input, the New York State legislature passed a bill that will limit light pollution. This is a piece of legislation supported by the International Dark-Sky Association (www.darksky.org).

The gist of the law is that new exterior lighting installed in new projects should not waste energy, pollute the night sky, or produce glare or light spill. You can read the summary of the bill on the state assembly website: here.

At the moment, the bill is on Governor Cuomo’s desk. If you agree with its aims, give him a call and say so. If you call during business hours, call: 212 681-4580 or see below for more information on reaching the Governor.

It may well make my work more difficult as the regulations may call for design changes in our fixtures. However, it’s a fine idea. This should be a good thing for those of us who like seeing the stars at night and don’t like your neighbors’ flood lights shining in your eyes.

-David Calligeros

To call the Governor’s phone number and let them know that you are in favor of this bill:
During business hours, call 212-681-4580 and tell the person you support bill #A07489. You will be asked for your zip code in NY.

Outside of business hours you can leave a message at 518-474-8390.

Support letter goes to Governor Andrew Cuomo,
Governor of New York State
New York State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Letter in Support of Senate Bill S5275B/Assembly Bill A7489B

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Introducing the Duquette Dandelions

In keeping with Tony Duquettes decorative vision of exploding fireworks, starbursts, sunbursts and super novas, the new Dandelion fixtures by Remains Lighting are another example of his unique point of view. Duquette always insisted that his jeweled brooches could be blown up to become a chandelier… And vice versa….

He loved making beaded chandeliers for his clients and the Dandelion takes his idea of a fixture entirely made of flowers and turns one dandelion seed head into an entire decorative extravaganza. This new illuminated conversation piece for Remains Lighting takes a weed and turns it into one more of Duquette’s extraordinary ‘exclamation points’ for a room.”

- Hutton Wilkinson – President, Tony Duquette, Inc.

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Cast Irony

We restored a set of huge antique light fixtures for Restoration Hardware, which tickles me until I cry.

If you happen to drive down Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich CT, you can’t miss the huge new Restoration Hardware store in the old Greenwich Post Office. I pass that way fairly often on the way back south from our showroom on West Putnam Avenue. I had always admired the three large neoclassical lanterns hanging in the graceful curved neoclassical loggia. In a funny turn of fate, I got to see them up close, inside out, and upside down recently.

Restoration Hardware gutted and remade that historic space into a massive new showroom which opened last month. A friend of ours who consults on lighting design for their architecture projects brought us to the job last fall. We brought them to our workshops in the Brooklyn factory and made a painstaking restoration of the original glass and metalwork. You can see the progress of that work below.

Restoration Hardware's new store in the old Greenwich Post Office

Before restoration

Before: Arriving at Remains Lighting for complete restoration

In the Remains Lighting factory in Brooklyn

After restoration

David Calligeros

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Altar Lamps from the Recoleta Cemetery

Most of the mausoleums in the Recoleta cemetery have simple, dark bronze hanging fixtures. All that I saw were based on ancient (Roman, Greek, or Egyptian) oil lamps. I didn’t see any of them working (electrified or not). I imagine that if there’s anyone who comes to visit the tomb, they may refill the font and light the wick for a few hours.

-David Calligeros

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Recoleta Cemetery: Bronze Sculptural Plaques

Without knowing much beyond the name, address, and reputation for super-coolness of the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, I made sure to find an art supply store on our way to buy a large roll of paper and some dense crayons to make grave rubbings, as is my usual MO. As it turns out, there are very few incised stones, no head stones in the US manner at all, in fact. The only fit subjects for rubbings were some of the bronze plaques, and most of those were challenging because of the high relief.

I wasn’t sure whether such behavior was allowed so I was a little Mission Impossible in the execution, my kids and friend serving as look-outs.

-David Caliigeros

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Recoleta Cemetery, Permanence and Decrepitude

The Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires is the final resting place of the city’s elite. Like Argentina, its fortunes have waned over the past few decades. It’s its decrepitude as much as its ceremonial pomp that makes it interesting to me. Mausoleums in general interest me because of their bare, mundane program. The designers have only to provide space for caskets and urns, beyond that all is symbolism and mythmaking in architecture, light, and sculpture. Without pesky driveways, plumbing, foundations, heating systems, etc. the designers are free to build architectural gestures to their patrons in an unfettered, vast array of historic styles, embellished with sculpture in stone, bronze and plaster, dramatically lit through stained glass and skylights.

Actually, with almost a third of the tombs derelict in some way, some spectacularly derelict, perhaps the architects should have spent a bit more time on their waterproofing plans. Doors hang ajar. Ferns take root; some of the tombs now resemble terrariums. Stained glass skylights crashed from the ceiling drape over altarpieces and coffins now open to the elements.

I love this image of the illuminated (skylit) stairway down to the crypt.

-David Calligeros

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