Salmon Run

Charles Gabriel_Sculptural Glass_hand-carved and kiln-fired art glass_"Salmon Run"_detail from completed transom glass showing tribal face and fish images with contrasting background texture

carved glass-art glass-architectural glass-kiln fired glass-charles gabriel-glassworks-salmon run-entryway art glass-frosted glass-tempered glass-thermal paned glass-hand made glass panel-tempered glass-polished glass panel Transom detail (click pix to enlarge)


This glasswork was created specifically for the clients and their site installation. The “Salmon Run” design is based on the life cycle of the salmon, in which the fishes life journey begins and ends at the same waterway. The stylized salmon in the design are both swimming away from, and returning to, the river source. The pattern of flowing lines depicting the moving waterway suggest a symmetry and the whole composition is reflected evenly from left to right. This interwoven pattern in the water is a nod to the Celtic knot-work familiar to both clients through ancestral lineage. The equal halves of the composition also suggest the metaphoric balance of life seen in the salmon cycle. The river water lines collect and cross over at the apex, forming a central ‘face’ shape, suggestively tribal in design, and elemental as part of the water flow itself. This face is not entirely distinct, but suggested through the placement of water lines and salmon, creating a focal point to the composition. Viewed from the interior main floor landing, this central figure will appear at eye-level, and invite the eye along the water path downwards to the entry. All elements combine to add a diffused light to the interior space, and frame the solid wood door. A substantial degree of privacy will be achieved by the semi and fully opaque nature of different finishes.

Process :

To compliment the client’s collection of First Nations art inside the house, I did some preliminary sketches of Salmon that included rough designs suggestive of the form lines used by indigenous artists of the Pacific Northwest. This patterning would sit inside of a more Western stylized fish shape.

Fish with images inside

Ultimately, I decided that trying to combine the two styles would serve only to de-value both. So it was literally ‘back to the drawing board’. I still wanted to do a stylized design and incorporate some sort of suggestive tribal element.

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The fish became less detailed, and the “pattern” was created in the space behind them with the water lines – where I would later combine the kiln-fired finish of defined carving, with a multi-staged surface etching to give more depth. I book-matched the design from side to side with an interweave of the waterlines, suggestive of Celtic knot-work, to balance the composition. As the entry door would open into a split-level stairwell, and the transom centered at eye-height from the upper landing, a central image would be a natural focal point. That’s where the river ‘face’ came from – as a meeting point of the two halves.

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I made enlarged versions of my salmon pattern for templates and hand drew the design onto resist-covered glass. (Tip: I used 1/8″ masking tape to create the long continuous lines for the water, and when I was happy with their placement, ran a pen along one edge to commit it to the resist.)

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Using a light along the edge of one panel, prior to kiln firing, highlights the carving detail in the raw blast.


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Once the surface etch work is finished, the panes are sealed into thermal units and are ready for delivery.

Here we go with the install…

Salmon Run Offloading-charles gabriel-glassworks-completed transom-carved glass-kiln worked glass-tempered glass-polished glass-art glass-specialty glass Salmon Run Sidelight Install

(Final onsite installation shots yet to come….)


  1. Joan Foster

    May 1, 2016

    I saw this today and it is an absolute delight. I had a huge emotional response to it. Well done.

    • charles author

      July 20, 2016

      Thanks for the positive feedback, Joan! All the best!

  2. Sharon

    May 1, 2016

    Absolutely exquisite! Many moons ago I installed an Ojibway themed mural on the ceiling of the Mississauga Civic Centre………Spring Sky Mural. Your work exhibits a sensitivity that is very rare!

    • charles author

      July 20, 2016

      Thanks for the kind words, Sharon! Cheers

  3. Moe

    December 23, 2016

    F**king hell Charles that’s gorgeous, lnspiried …I’m lost for words!

    • charles author

      January 4, 2017

      Hehe..”inspired” is good. Thanks- cheers!

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