Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Great Seal of the State of California - Etched Glass Art

An appellate court in Santa Ana, CA was looking to have the Great Seal of the State of California made with etched glass, which would replace a seal that they didn't like.  After discussing the work they wanted, I supplied a sample etching of my work and a section of the figure area.

Sample etched glass - Great Seal of CA
Sample etched glass - Great Seal of CA

They received it and wanted to move forward with the full seal.  A 3/8" thick Starphire glass was requested at 40" diameter.  Starphire is a low iron glass that results with a high clarity and color transmission.  The sample was made with regular float glass, which you will notice has a green tint when looking along the edge.

Once I had images of the Great Seal, I was able to draw it out and make a vector image.  The vector is used for a plotter which cuts out a vinyl mask.  Since the image will be carved from the backside, the image is done in reverse.  I transfer it to the glass and then hand cut areas that need extra attention.  Hand cutting is an option for the entire mask, but invariably increases the cost.
Vinyl mask on glass - map drawing for etching
The mask is laid out on the glass and a map drawing is printed out and placed along side the glass.  The map helps with numbering and the order that the vinyl will be peeled away.  The first areas up are the deepest sandblasting.

The etched glass goes from the deepest etching and is peeled layer by layer.  A flat frost and the shading areas are sandblasted mostly at the last stages.

Sandblasting Great Seal of California - deep carving

Etched glass carving of Great Seal - Minerva section
Etched glass sandblasted - section detail with Minerva
Having 3/8" thick glass it is generally safe to carve up to half the thickness.  However, the deeper you go has to be adjusted in the direction of the spray.  You also have to bear in mind the details and relationships between lines, etc. in how the depths will carry into each other.

Detail image of etched glass upper section
Finishing up the sandblasting the rest of the vinyl mask is peeled away.  The glass is cleaned and checked over.  Some detailed pictures are taken.  Photographing glass is always tricky, especially with larger artworks.

The seal depicts several defining images and symbols: 

The Roman goddess, Minerva, hold a shield and spear.  A bear is at her feet.

Detail image of etched glass lower section
The motto "Eureka" and the text of the Great Seal of the State of California wraps around the border.  31 stars are carved over Minerva's head representing when California was admitted into statehood.

Sailing and a steam ship float across the waterways with mountains in the background.

A miner digs for gold and the landscape around him has rocks, wheat sheaths, and other terrain.

Great Seal of CA - etched art glass for courthouse d├ęcor
If interested in a custom feature, please contact me at to discuss a state seal or other etched art glass for your courthouse or government building.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Etched Glass Coasters - How Does He Do That? - Part Two

You can see that each glass piece has been peeled in a different order.  The vinyl resist on the left shows the center as the negative image to the image shown on the right.  All four in the set will have one element that is changed to give a subtle unique appearance to each coaster.

After the artwork has been peeled for the first stage it goes to the sandblasting booth or cabinet.  The coasters are a good fit for doing them here to keep the abrasive (aluminum oxide 220 grit) contained and directly reusable.

The picture on the left above shows me holding the glass, but in most instances I have it against the back easel wall like the image on the right above.  The sand drops through a mesh underneath and is recycled through the siphon feed blaster.  The pressure is set higher for carving and lower when I do more detailed shading effects or I need to go slower.  there are always adjustment variables to each project depending on the details.

The next stage is back to weeding or peeling the area that I want to sandblast.  In this instance it is a light shading to offset the deeper carving in contrast, but still give the surrounding area a solid look by not leaving it clear.  The technique in shading is more like airbrushing.  You can control it to make faded effects or you can make it a flat frosted area.

Once the layers of vinyl are removed, it goes back into the sandblasting cabinet for it's final etching stage.  It will then get brushed off to remove excess grit, rinsed and peeled completely to reveal the entire image.

The last step is then to give it a final cleaning from fingerprints or residues from the adhesives and look it over completely while also viewing the alignment of the 3d layered effect.  I can then add the 3M Bumpon furniture protector pads to the bottom of the glass, and again clean it if necessary.

If it's new work, the glass coaster will go to the photography stage.  For this I have photographed each individually and put them side by side.  The end results are what are now online for sale in my ImaginedGlass.

To shop my premade items please go to  To visit other works and to "like" my page, you can go to  Email me for custom glass:  These links will open in a new window.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Introduction to Imagined Glass - Etched Design Accents

Imagined Glass - Decorative Etched Art Glass

A quick snapshot about me. My name is Brian.  I'm married and have two wonderful children.  I have been working as a glass artist for the past fifteen plus years.  Before now it has mostly been working for others.  Well, I do still work for another company, Radiant Arts, Inc., as a stained glass artist - designing, painting on glass, fabricating, and installing church, business and mausoleum windows.

I've begun a new adventure in my career, and I have no idea where it will take me.  It just needs to blossom further.  So far it has been a simple and relaxed idea, and I have found great support by others that enjoy my glass skills.  I appreciate everyone that has shared my pieces, commented, and even had me make something special for them.  I hope it continues to grow in that direction.

Anyway, this blog is meant to display some of my art glass and to share various influences that come from other artists, places, objects or whatever muse decides to draw my attention.  I want to also have it help develop my business, as well as, connect with others in what makes the difference between the warmth in craftsmanship behind a piece compared to the colder attraction of buying something off any shelf in any town.

I may not have a constant stream of posts, but I hope you enjoy what comes.  I encourage you to interact with me through comments and email questions.  I sincerely appreciate all the "likes", +1s, sharing and connecting to me and my glass work.

Best Regards,

Brian Laughlin
Imagined Glass

~ Other sites of interest my work is featured on or for sale: Website, DeviantArt, Facebook, LinkedIn

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Etched Glass Coasters - How Does He Do That? - Part One

I created a set of CelticSpiral etched glass coasters and wanted to share the general idea of what goes into making them.  These are not as involved as some of the other more complex vinyl cut and hand cut stenciling or other detailed images I do, but they still take time with the steps.  It also gives an understanding to how these decorative art coasters are made and how they can be different from one to the next.

Any art coaster (window, tabletop, etc.) starts with a design or image idea.  These were made from a Book of Kells design.  After it had been made into a vector art and cut out on the vinyl cutter, it was ready to be laid out and pressed on the glass and sandblasted.  Not every stencil is cut on the plotter.  I have done many works for churches, businesses and residences that have been hand cut and in many stages of sandblasting.

The vinyl has a transfer tape I put over it. After it is positioned, the back sticky side is removed and firmly attached to the glass.  What is going to be deepest in the glass will be blasted first.  Each step after the vinyl stencil will be peeled (known as weeding) and etched to the various depths for carving, frosted, or shaded areas or left on to keep clear.  The stencil may be numbered and/or a printed map of the design image will be used to guide the order it is peeled labeling it accordingly.

The first round of weeding is done.  Since both sides of this coaster are being etched, they were peeled together.  In this case the front is a flat frosting while the backside of the glass starts with a carved sandblasting.

Next post:

EtchedGlass Coasters - How Does He Do That? - Part Two

You will see the comparison between the other peeled coasters and the last few stages involved in this etching process.

To shop my premade items please go to  To visit other works and to "like" my page, you can go to  Email me for custom glass:  These links will open in a new window.