Pre-2000 and various commissions

Charles Gabriel Glassworks_multi-stage surface etching on glass_dolphin mirror

Most of these photos are works from “the last century”… The first pictures are example of surface etching, primarily on mirrored glass. These were hand-drawn images onto a resist-covered glass. Then the mask was cut by hand and removed in stages during a very controlled blast. Using pressure and distance, I worked my way down from highlights (or white areas) to the clear glass – which would become the “dark” portions of the work. This was a challenge and easy to ruin with one slight over-blast. I generally don’t do this type of process anymore, as Ive moved on to sculpting thicker material. Im including these simply as a reference to the time spent with the medium, and as samples of interest to anyone who might want to know more. Working in a fairly unique medium presented several interesting requests over the years, some of which I did take photos of and will include here. Again, these are more samples of technique than anything else. They were all fun and each presented its own set of challenges.


Dolphins: I went to the old-fashioned library and took out some picture books with various dolphin photos (-before the internet of everything showed dolphins on our eyeglasses). I hand-drew several different animals from different pictures (probably mixing up species in the process, who knows?) and made a composition of poses. Having been cruelly deprived of my own pet dolphins as a kid, the photos were critical for me to reference their shading and colours (albeit in b&w). I did them one at a time and shaded lightly over ones in the background until i built up a pod. A gaggle of bubbles was designed to give some movement and then I framed the work (48″ x 48″) with a circle, as if the viewer was looking through a portal.

dolphin mirror croppedand stuff

World renowned automotive restorer, Rudy, commissioned a piece back in 1990 with both a convertible, and a gullwing version of the iconic ’55 SL. Heres a detail from the work on a mirrored glass.

finished mercedes mirrorb

“Leviathan ”  This was just to try and use light shading to suggest a bulky mass. I used a photo from a National Geographic as a reference to draw from – because i never got a whale as a kid, either..

humpback mirror

The brief for this commission was detailed. The glass spanned 4 antique doors in a heritage building and we used hand-poured crimson-coloured flash glass to do it. When the flash surface colour was blasted through, the etch was white and stood out really nicely. The client was specific in her wishes; there was to be figures in period dress, a castle that included similar physical elements to Warwick, Windsor, and several others (if possible), and in the background she’d like it if I could squeeze in Sir Francis Drake’s “Golden Hind”. Starving glass etcher says: “no problem..!” 🙂

quamichan inn3 copy

This one we started with “an Arbutus tree and maybe an eagle sitting in it…”. I was having a super hard time getting the arbutus to work, so I focused on the bird. One thing led to another and the design morphed (a bit) into whats pictured here… Not too much Arbutus – bit more eagle.

 Hiebert full sketch on mask  DSCN1516 DSCN1522 DSCN1605 Eagle Doorlites installed2

Dragon sketches Prelim sketches for Rick’s ‘Dragon Window’

Hah! The dragon window…! Well, at the time the floor in my old Econoline was pretty much missing and the outside didn’t look much better, either. I managed to rivet some sheet metal down on the floor and blob fibreglass on top to stop all the road dirt and exhaust getting inside, but I wasnt confident about doing real “aesthetic” bodywork at all. So, I made a trade with Rick at Alpha wherby I would do “a dragon on his El Camino window” and he’d cheer up the old work van. After a few sketches, of various “dragonny” creatures, I opted for a ‘coiled-sort-of-snakey-type’ that would extend across the horizontal space. It had to include a claw, too, just in case it wasnt clear that it was a dragon… Anyhow, heres the final sketch in black ball point on the masking-tape-covered glass for the window. This was then hand-cut and removed in stages during the blast (- working from ‘white’ to ‘clear’). Then, theres a finished shot showing a detail from the etching. Oh yeah, the van got a sweet reprieve for several more runny seasons until the electrical started getting cheeky.. 😉

dragon sketch blasted dragon copyright

Way back in ’94, i lived in my studio space above a welding shop in a sketchy part of town. After a couple of breakins, I traded work with Bobby the welder downstairs to make up some bars for my windows to keep the vermin out. In exchange, I designed him a “Chrome Happy Sun” for his new plating business. Heres an early sketch, and a detail of the finished hand-painted work (approx 24″ x 30″) on one of two plywood signs I made him.

 chrome happy sun sketch1 copy happysun

A very nice lady with a 6′ carved totem in her entry hall, named “Gabi”, needed some privacy glass for her new bath window. We decided to try and make a carved likeness of Gabi, and so heres how it happened:

GABI Process 

Here are just a few other random shots…

Butterfly 3 stages Soldier DSCN1582

Terry wanted a “scary grizzly” mirror above the sink…naturally

Grizzly Mirror

gullwing page2 heron page mermaid page mermaid sketch page

Another awesome barter years later when I built a shop at a ‘real house’. My excavator friend, Steve, wanted to give his friend something cool, so I made a mirror with a picture of his friend’s flatbed rig on it in exchange for digging out my site. (Inset shows pen-sketch on masking tape)

Mike Adrian horiz page

This was the process for one panel of ten I did for Ken’s sign shop (Garside Displays). They were making donor appreciation walls for two local hospitals.

nurse head page

Patti wanted a phoenix for her entry doors. I’d never seen one in real life – so I just made it up… When she sold the house and moved, the doors went with…!

phoenix doorlite with #Patti Penn's Phoenix Process Page   Phoenix head sun on outside copy cropPhoenix doorlites page2

Johnny just wanted skulls on his sidelights. He now lived in a quiet cul-de-sac and didn’t want anyone thinking he’d grown up (because industrial saw-blade-yard-art just screams conformity). Here’s a detail of the final skulls and some prelim sketches of various ideas for the space.

skulls page skullsprelim page


phone pix 440

Once in awhile, Numpty takes a break and goes for a hike. Here’s a nice day out at Lake Louise…

Thanks for your interest, -C

June 25, 2000 charles project No Comments

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