The artist who makes portraits on glass with just a hammer
Simon Bergeris an artistwho works with a hammer and glass.
- He has figured out a way to crack the glass so precisely that it creates an image of a face.
- It's a delicate process, and an expensive series of mishaps could cost hundreds of Swiss francs.
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AdvertisementThe following is a transcript of the
Narrator: Simon Berger has been working with
First, to understand Simon's portraits, you have to understand his unusual canvas. Glass is pretty much monochromatic, so the first secret to making the portraits pop is creating dimension through light and dark sections.
The process is similar to a pencil artist drawing on a white canvas. To create more shadow and depth, they'll press harder and go over the section more times. Simon does the same thing, but with glass and a hammer.
Before all the hammering, the process starts with a photo. He sets up a photo shoot in order to have a face to reference in his work, edits the image to adjust the contrast to make the photo more vivid, and then sketches it on the glass. Then he moves on to the first blow.
Simon Berger: I kind of like it when there's some abstract touch to it, so for the first blow I really hit it with a lot of force so the whole glass cracks across the whole surface like a spider web. I like that. Once the glass is weakened you can work relatively controlled.
Narrator: He's developed his techniques through trial and error. To get the depth he wants, he now has a clear idea of how many times he has to hit the glass. But that's not all. He also needs to know how hard to hit it every time. Unlike a traditional canvas, too much force and the canvas will shatter in a way that he doesn't want, meaning he may have to start over. One thing that helps minimize the chances of shattering the whole piece is the type of glass he uses.
Simon works with laminated safety glass. This type of glass holds together when it's shattered because it has an inner plastic layer. That makes it more durable than normal glass, and if it's shattered, it will still stay together in one piece. But it isn't a foolproof recipe for success.
Simon: Lots of broken glass. But every now and again one turns out good, and that's satisfying. It's also nice that people enjoy discovering something you don't see everywhere.
Narrator: The cracks in the glass are different shades of white depending on their depth. The more shallow cracks create a dull, white color, and serve as the background for the face.The more important part is creating the deeper, brighter shades of white that will help guide your eyes to see the full picture.
AdvertisementThis is done by hammering in one specific area multiple times. The more often the hammer hits the glass, the more vibrant the cracks become, creating the appearance of white lines. He uses this technique to create details, like the white of an eye. Hammering it too many times might create too many bright lines, which will blur the actual detail, and doing it too little might mean the detail will get lost in the lighter cracks.
Simon's work has made its way onto storefront windows, and he's installing one of his pieces at a landmark location in Bern,
Simon: I only have one chance. If I do something here, I can go for it. But tomorrow I only have one piece of glass. One chance. What will happen will happen. But I really hope it will work out well.
It's not actually the window I break; that would break into thousands of pieces. It's actually a piece of glass I hang in front of the actual window.
Narrator: The fun part about Simon's work is that you don't always see the face right away. You have to stand far enough away, from the right spot, for your eyes to adjust and see the face appear.
AdvertisementSimon: I used to tell the people where to stand so that they could recognize the portrait, but nowadays I kind of like leaving them in the misconception that the window has been vandalized. And if they ask what happened, rather than showing them from where to look at the broken glass, I just say, "That's art," and see how they react and say things like, "Ah, that's supposed to be art?"
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