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Beveled Glass Boxes

Robert Stewart creates sculptural art boxes by hand-beveling sections of glass.

Learning a craft directly from master artisans, using tools that have been around for centuries, working for years to perfect every small aspect of a craft and keeping an art form alive--these are all things that apply to Robert Stewart. He works in fine-art glass, hand-beveling sections of glass that, when combined, create beautiful and sculptural art boxes.

Each box begins the same way, with a design from which a pattern is made. The pattern is very important for the mathematics of the piece; if one section is even slightly off, the panels won't fit correctly and the piece could be ruined. The pattern is then used to cut the sections of glass. Each section is then ground with a rough grinder. At this point the angle of the bevel and the shape of the piece are created. This grinder is a large plate of steel with a rough face that works almost like a sander on wood. The glass then moves to another level of grinding, a much smoother grade that refines the bevels and removes the marks left by the rough grinding.

The glass moves to yet another level of grinding; this time a grinding stone is used. This particular stone has been used for glass work since 1906, and it removes all the grinding marks. From the stone, the glass pieces move to a cork wheel to remove all the stone marks, and from there, it moves to a felt wheel--the final level of refinement. Each level takes the glass one step closer to perfect and is worked by hand.

With all of the glass pieces finished, it is time to construct the box. Solder is used to not only provide the skeleton of the box and join the glass, but Stewart also uses it decoratively, adding custom edges or other interest to the piece. A patina is then added to the metal and the piece is cleaned, finishing the box.

Hand beveling glass is an art form that has almost died out; Stewart is one of the few artisans left. His tools come from various countries and range from 50 to 100 years old. These tools aren’t made anymore, so Stewart has had to get them from families that have passed them down through the generations. His work feels as timeless as his tools. They evoke a feeling of sculpture, even though they are working boxes, and each one shows the care and time that this man has put into them.

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