Christina Amri seeks 'culture of honoring' with fine glass creationsSANTA ROSA – Amri Studio in Santa Rosa, formerly Wallach Glass Studio, creates donor walls and corporate signage as well as fine glass art for institutions across the country and world.

[caption id="attachment_21698" align="alignright" width="504" caption="Founder, principal and lead designer Christina Amri"][/caption]

Christina Amri, the founder, principal and lead designer of Amri Studio, has started up where Wallach, which she also founded, left off.

Her work, hung in colleges, hospitals and research institutions as well as foundations and nonprofits across the U.S. and the world, has evolved over the years to include some of her own inventions and use of technology.

[caption id="attachment_21699" align="alignright" width="202" caption="Layout supervisor Leo Garza"][/caption]

After studying at U.C. Berkeley and the Sorbonne in the 1970s, Ms. Amri apprenticed in Paris at a fourth-generation stained-glass studio where she worked on the restoration of stained-glass windows throughout France.

During her training, she learned the elements of designing, detailing and shaping glass.

“When I returned to the U.S. and founded Wallach Glass Studio, I began developing techniques for etching and carving glass to resemble the timeless and elegant stone monuments I saw in Europe,” she said. “I also brought my experience and studies as an art major at U.C. Berkeley into the sandblasting cabinet and began truly sculpting in glass. Now we are the deepest bas-relief glass carvers in the U.S., sometimes working on panels as thick as a full inch,” she added.

The aspect of the work that she said touches her heart most deeply is being part of “a culture of honoring.”

“We are brought on board when a client wants to deeply thank and honor its donors for their generous support,” she said.

She said she appreciates that the donor walls go beyond a list of the names of big, medium and smaller donors.

Different from many other studios, the work is all done by hand using a sandblasting room to actually cut the glass. Ms. Amri evolved some of these techniques herself.

In the late 1990s, with the invention of photo manipulation software, Amri Studio began trying to find a way to increase the delicacy of lettering and artwork and to etch detailed photo portraits in crystal and glass.

The biggest hurdle to overcome for Ms. Amri and her staff was the fact that when converting a photo into dots, the image loses a lot of detail.

For the large pieces, she and her staff are using a process in Photoshop that translates a life-size image into dots per inch, where each dot can be etched into glass. This process can take up to 20 hours per photo.

The studio works with Tim Feldman, a lighting technician who creates arrays of edge-mounted LEDs that catch the edge of the glass where the etching occurs. He can program the design so the light pattern changes when someone approaches.

Locally the studio has done donor walls for Canine Companions for Independence, Jean & Charles Schulz Information Center at Sonoma State University, Memorial Hospital Obstetrics & Neonatal, Queen of the Valley Hospital lobby, Charles M. Schulz Museum & Research Center and corporate signage for Medtronic.

She continues to come up with new and innovative ways to work with glass.

She said what keeps her interested after 35 years in the business is that when the team begins a donor wall, they approach the work as artists.

“We are not looking to create something that is merely pretty. We are creating real art, so we start by focusing on the deep meaning of the piece, and we choose images and symbols that will convey that meaning,” she said.

Of course, she said they also add the straightforward elements – a formal appreciation statement, donor names, giving levels and inspirational quotes.

But, she said, “Often the silent language of the symbolism speaks as loudly to viewers as the literal words we carve into the surface of the crystal. This is because we choose symbols and images rich with associations to the organization’s cultural and spiritual history.”