VORTEX 17 - Design How To

By Lee Baldwin on August 1st, 2011

Vortex 17 35 in X 35 in, copyright Lee Baldwin 2005


In 2003 I visited Sedona Arizona, home to a number of locations said to focus energy between the Earth and space, called energy vortices. I later dreamed of an energy vortex, the image of what it might be like to actually see one. After an hour of sketching with charcoal and a smudge stick, I had something interesting down on paper.

Influences and Materials

Later I was looking at some of my earlier glass art work, and found one that had a color scheme I liked. The combination of blue and frosted clear glass appealed to me.

Also at that time I had a number of sheets of A.G. Fischer antique glass that was dark blue streaked with clear and white, along with som clear hammered 'hardware' glass.

Design Tools and Steps

I began with Adobe Illustrator, a vector design program, and laid a set of lines and curves over a scan from my charcoal sketch. I copied that design into Adobe Photoshop, and clipped areas from photographs of the raw glass in my studio. This resulted in a fairly convincing layup of the design. It showed how to use the various swirls in the glass itself to support the line drawing, and I could experiement.

When I felt comfortable with the design ideas, I made a full scale TIFF file of the line drawing, and took it to a plotting company in downtown Prescott AZ, where I was living at that time. This provided me with a very clean and uniform line drawing where all the lines were an even 1 mm thick and very black. I could count on the design's outer rectangle being perfectly square as well, since I'd made it on the computer.

Building the Design

So I laid the design up on my light table and attached two strips of brass I-channel to the left and bottom edges. Then I began working the first pieces into the edge strips, cutting them perfectly at the lines of the drawing, which I could see through each piece of glass as I laid it on the illuminated design.

I have always liked to be very precise with my line work, and this is one way to do it. I always tried to cut, not on the line, but on the edge of the line closest to the center of the piece I was trimming. (The thickness of the plotter's design line was about the thickness of the heart of the lead came I was using.) I made good use of a glass grinder doing this. I also wore magnifying glasses!

As the design became filled in with glass, I would stand on a tall stool and look down on the developing work on the light table. That view is very important, as you will see things that way that you cannot when working close up.

When I had worked up to the open top and side edges, I would do a trial fitting of the brass edge strips after each few pieces of glass were added. This helped me to keep the design square and the edges perfectly straight.

This piece is about 35 inches square, weighs about 7 pounds. I had it hung on some fine chain - the links were about 1/4 inch long and the wire diameter was about 2mm, so the piece seemed to float in the air.