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2008-04-17 Rev. 2008-11-29, 2009-07-15
Glass & Light Center
Light is the leading requirement of enjoying glass. Localized light adds to the experience with a few exceptions such as paperweights and paperweight style vessels where the detailed inclusions are featured. Lamps, windows, vessels, patterned paperweights, and other glass objects provide additional rewards when spot lighted, up lighted, washed or otherwise provided with feature lighting. This page discusses a few of those methods.
WASH LIGHT - If glass is displayed with many pieces in the same space, be it a set of shelves or across a long shelf, it may not be practical to highlight individual pieces, so that a restricted wash of light attracts the eye to the display compared to the darker surroundings. Because of its "white" characteristics and easy aiming, halogen lighting in the form of high or low voltage floods is a favorite for this purpose. MR-16 low voltage miniature reflector lamps are interchangeable in most fixtures that take them and come in spot, narrow, medium and wide flood in various wattages. Because they are 12 volts, safe for contact, the housings can be placed on exposed wires, rods, or brackets that allow adjustment in space including placement in midair with the slenderest of supports. 120 volt medium base screw in floods and spots are also available in several sizes - all of which have heavy glass envelopes for capturing hot fragments in the event of failure. Caution: Any halogen bulb where the small cartridge surrounding the filament is exposed must not be touched with the bare hands, the oils and acids if left on the quartz will lead to early failure - use a cloth to handle. Multiple shelves may require careful arrangement of the glass so that shadows of pieces on the higher shelves avoid the lower pieces.
UP LIGHT - Up lighting is available in three significant forms -
a transparent shelf of glass or plastic with lights shining through it, a
frosted shelf with light immediately below it, and individual lights directly
below each piece.
SPOT LIGHT - Lights picking out individual pieces of glass and providing sharp shadows require the most setup but may produce the greatest effect. As with wash lights, the availability of a variety of wattages and beam spreads of bulbs allows more convenient lighting from conducting wire mounts. For larger pieces of glass and those lighted from further away, small fixtures with lenses modeled after stage lighting allow placing a small circle of light 8-10 feet away from the fixture. There are a huge number of fixtures available for concealed lighting with the trade off that once installed, the object can be moved but the fixture is fixed.
WINDOW LIGHT - Window light is back lighting and provided the
actual window does not glare and overwhelm the glass, can be delightful.
Light from the east, north, or west is more likely to avoid glare most of the
day compared to south light although a shade may subdue the south light
appropriately. Using a window also provides a more or less shifting
pattern of light and shadow to play through the glass which can add interest to
long term viewing. Providing an artificial back light that approaches the
quality of outdoor light is difficult and seems rarely tried.
TIMERS - If the purpose of the lighting is to show off pieces to
the best advantage when guests are present, then a switch may be the best choice
for getting the light on. In olden days it was common to have an outlet
connected to a switch near the door to allow a floor or table lamp to be turned
on upon entering. This seems much less common today. However, a
variety of remote switching options are available to provide the same
convenience and effect. These range from sound activated ("Clap On, Clap
Off") to single and multifunction wireless remotes (X10, Plug n'Power)
Contact Mike Firth