Working with SERA Architects, Portland Hotel Development wanted to commission artwork for the back wall of The Nines Hotel reception desk in Portland, OR: a special feature that would act as a dividing wall between the hotel reception area and the more public atrium, which hosts the restaurant Urban Farmer. The artwork needed to transmit light, be visually and audibly private, be optimally visible from both the reception side and atrium side, and realize the artist’s vision full-scale.
Kiln-glass was the natural choice to achieve these objectives. It transmits and reflects light, provides privacy via customizable levels of opacity, and, through various glass forms, application and firing methods, can translate artistic visions nearly verbatim.
Paige Powell acted as art consultant, proposing Portland sculptor Ellen George design this reception wall. George designed and made a small sculpture of individual polymer clay disks, photographed and digitally manipulated the sculpture, and sent files of cartoon images to us at Bullseye Studio to use as templates. We took these templates and printed them out to actual size in order to place the colored disks into artwork panels precisely according to the artist’s designs.
The process was to kilnform oblong disks of translucent white glass (large-scale replicas of the disk elements in George’s sculpture) and “paint” them with various colors of blue and purple glass powders. Each disk was painted on both sides so the artwork would function from the reception area and the restaurant. After the powder was fused to the disks, they were layered within a body of crushed glass (frit) in order to introduce dimension into the design. The population of small bubbles trapped by the frit created diffusion, which provided both privacy and a sense of depth within the artwork.
The result is a stunning set of six kiln-glass panels covering an area approximately 9’ x 15’, installed in three tracks so that the panels slightly overlap. The reception side is backlit, while the atrium side, the dominantly lit side, is illuminated by natural daylight.
“The frosty, bubbly glass with the lighting has a mysterious, atmospheric feeling – thick, raw edges give the piece a handmade sculptural feel that is important.” – Ellen George