Volume 35, Number 7, July 2000
Scratching the Surface
Sandblasting Offers Profitability,
and Flexibility for Glass Shops
by Butch Young and Rita Long
Outlining the Possibilities
Sandblasting is an art that extends the beauty of glass, while taking nothing away from its functionality. In fact, it can improve function by creating privacy, reducing solar heat or adding a visual focal point. Sandblasted glass, be it etched or carved, can perform all of these duties, and at the same time serve as an art piece. Where other design elements rely predominantly on color, texture or materials to create a theme, sandblasted glass creates the opportunity to enjoy an almost infinite variety of images and designs. Any line drawing can be translated on to glass, meaning that no matter what the theme, glass can be etched to match. Borders, scenes or icons in abstract, graphic, representational or even realistic styles are all possible. Sandblasting on glass can subtly mirror a pattern from elsewhere, helping to tie a scheme together. Or, a piece of architectural glass can stand out as the focal point, designed to play off of other items in the room.
Because of its unique relationship with light, glass is ideally suited to take center stage in a home. Naturally, the eye moves to glass, because of illumination and for the visual information it displays. Sandblasted images introduced into architectural settings enjoy a natural radiance and prominence. Glass, by its transparency, creates its own unique spatial frame. Sandblasting can make glass seem even more ethereal, by either floating images in space or by connecting to other visual elements in the room.
Young sandblasted this fireplace screen at an Albuquerque residential project to look like pieces of pottery.
While any room will benefit from the properties of sandblasting, no room of the house benefits more than the bathroom. Images or stripes can offer privacy on the shower stall; entire landscapes can grace block walls, installed as screens and dividers; and half-walls set around toilets and bidets, create a quiet atmosphere.
Sandblasting focuses the eye elsewhere, obscuring less visually interesting details. Quite often, open expanses of mirror can be brought down to size with designs and borders, tying in with other elements in the room, making them seem more immediate.
Topics for designs can be inspired from almost anywhere. For example, a client might want the tile design of a sink backsplash carried through to the mirror that rests above. Likewise, glass block partition walls around a hot tub could be adorned with various depictions of tropical fish, and a shower door and its adjacent stall panels might be decorated with a representation of the clients particular interest.
Glass can be sandblasted to create a theme for a room such as this bathrooms
Set in Stone
There are many benefits for a glass shop offering sandblasting services. Perhaps one of the most favorable advantages for the glass shop, is the opportunity to up-sell. Selling sandblasting as one aspect of the full range of products your glass shop offers is a value-added service that increases profitability without increasing inventory. A sampling of sandblasted products enhances any portfolio, and diversifies showrooms, setting the shop apart from the competition. Once a customer sees the options available, his or her imagination can run wild. Sandblasting gives the opportunity to enhance the beauty and functionality of a home with detailing, privacy or even commissioning a true work of art.
When searching for a sandblaster to form a joint partnership, both professional and artistic considerations come into play. In order to keep customer satisfaction high, a sandblaster must have the artistic gift to successfully execute a broad range of images, and at the same time, be capable of a collaborative effort. He or she should have the ability to coordinate smoothly with your shops production timetable.
An Albuquerque, N.M., home features Navajo-themed sandblasted art.
Making a Mark
More and more glass shops around the country are meeting that challenge by installing their own sandblasting equipment in their fabrication areas, in order to offer in-house sandblasting services. This helps maximize the product lines visibility and flexibility, while keeping the bottleneck problems that can come from farming out work to a minimum.
Even if you arent able to find an expert sandblaster to employ right away, or if you are hesitant about building a clientele to justify the expense of the initial investment, the ease and simplicity of sandblasting equipment still offers a profitable entry for most any glass shop. With only a few hours training, anyone can learn the rudiments of sandblasting. Spending one to two days with a sandblasting consultant will help you have both your equipment and your employees up and running, offering professional etching to your customers. Solid frosting, straight line borders, dish grooves and even stencil patterns can be offered in-house immediately.
But perhaps what is best about collaborating with a sandblaster, is the excitement it generates. As happy as your customer may be with your product, the interest soon fades. Not so with a piece of custom, sandblasted glass. That work will become something your customers will point out to everyone who visits. Glass that has been personalized by sandblasting becomes a conversation piece that will have your customer dropping your business name for a lifetime. Its like a calling card that leaves a favorable impression of your work, long after your installers have gone.
Butch Young is a master carver who has sandblasted glass for almost 15 years. She has extended her talents into the realm of architectural, commercial and residential custom glass, as well as translating the works of prominent artists on to glass. Rita Long has worked with her for seven years and co-authors Butchs columns for GlassArt and A&E magazines. They live and work in the Albuquerque area.
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