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.

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