His glass sculptures are known and sought after throughout Asia

In the sleepy, semi-residential area of Na Klua, far from the hustle and bustle of South Pattaya and its gaudy neon-lit outdoor beer bars, a discreet sign, beside a large grey metallic sliding door next to a tall wooden fence, reads Stephen Gormley & Associates.

This is the workshop, warehouse and home of a talented and successful glass sculptor whose trademark green-tinted, laminated and often massive glass sculptures are renowned and sought after throughout Asia.My first meeting with Stephen Gormley was in 1997 at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Bangkok.In the old Siam Havana cigar shop in the lobby, he handed me his embossed business card: Stephen Gormley – Glass Artworks For Architectural & Interior Design. And he bought an entire box of Cohiba Robustos bundled in a yellow silk ribbon.

Ten years later his heavy designer cigar ashtrays have become collector’s items with more demand than he can supply. “I wish I had more time to design and produce these types of personal glass works,” says Gormley, who today is an ex-cigar aficionado.

Apart from the cigars, I remember his black BMW five-series sedan. He once said, “I like the engineering – it’s so precise.” He now commutes between Pattaya and Bangkok in a sleek convertible Porsche Boxster.

Gormley was born in New York and studied art in California.

“I always wanted to be a craftsman, to work with my hands.” The materials he favored while he was in school were metal, wood and glass. And glass in all forms became his focus because of its mythic origin (no one knows how glass was “discovered”) and endless potential. “I was so interested in my glass projects that I stopped attending classes at the university,” says Gormley.

From California he went to the mountains of Vermont. In 1971, he became a freelance glass designer and made stained glass windows in an art community. “In Vermont I had my workshop in a cabin up the in mountains. I used to ski down to the lake and cross to the other side with my artwork in a backpack. But ten years in Vermont got to me. I had enough of the cold weather,” he added.

During the 80s he produced more stained glass (remember Tiffany amps and prairie-styled lamps?). Then Gormley moved from Vermont to Hawaii where bigger jobs awaited him, such as glass projects for commercial interiors. In 1988, Gormley was commissioned to design his first cruise ship glass installation in Taiwan.

After finishing the job, Gormley came to Thailand on vacation. Stopping in Singapore on his way back, he met with interior designers and architects. Their urgent need for a glass designer made him immediately cancel his return trip. He sent word to his partners on the West Coast that he was quitting the company and staying in Asia and that they could ship his things to Singapore.

After two hectic weeks of meetings in Singapore, he moved on to Bangkok. “I did not like the City of Angels, so I chose Pattaya. It was more relaxed and it was by the sea. This is where I set up my workshop,” says Gormley.

“I have always worked with interior designers. My assignments came by recommendation from them and the architects. They were my contacts.”

Most of his work in the last 25 years has been with Hong Kong- based Bilkey & Llinas Design. Today, Robert Bilkey and Oscar Llinas are a world-renowned luxury interior design team. They recently completed the 45-million-dollar renovation of the Hong Kong Sheraton Hotel and Towers.

Today, Gormley’s glass installations can be seen in the lobbies, dining rooms and bars of the world’ most luxurious hotels such as the Grand Hyatt, the Ritz-Carlton, the Peninsula and Sheraton Grande Hotels from Bangkok to Beijing, from Shanghai to Taipei.

Recent installations include the glass sculpture in the main lobby of the 800-room Kunlun Hotel in Beijing. The eight-meter tall sculpture, weighing six metric tons, cost ten million baht. Most recently, Gormley and his team of Thai workers completed an eight-day glass installation in the lobby of the new Le Meridien Hotel in New Delhi.

Another important element in Gormley’s life is his family. A busy entrepreneur-cum-designer, he still finds time for his three sons, two of whom attend college in the US.

His company is also very much en famille since most of his 15 workers and staff have been with him for more than 10 years. Like an extended family, many of the workers live on the workshop compound.

And, after 25 years, he still lives in the same house in Na Klua. But, recently, he bought a 12-rai piece of land on the other side of Pattaya near the hills. Gormley’s current project, Glass Work Village, is in the planning stages with a new residence, swimming pool, expanded workshop and housing for his workers.

Next time you are in the lobby or dining room or stylish bar of a five-star hotel and you see an impressive turquoise green glass sculpture towering above you, you’ll recognize the special talent of the singular glass designer Stephen Gormley.

600450 His glass sculptures are known and sought after throughout Asia glassonweb.com

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