After graduating from a five-year fine arts program, artist and innovator Rick L. Silas wanted to develop his own medium.
His success to date has led him to appearing on the Dragon’s Den and the Discovery Channel.
“When I looked around, I realized that tempered plate glass had no way to be recycled in the marketplace,” he told the PNR at his studio behind the Mary Winspear Centre.
His studio was one of the stops on the weekend’s Studio Tour, part of the Community Arts Council of the Saanich Peninsula’s ArtSea Festival.
He said the numbers are astronomical when it comes to this glass.
“On the planet we produce 50 million tonnes of this material every year and there is no way to recycle it.”
He added that once it’s made, you can’t cut it again.
Putting the math together in his head, he said he thought there were mistakes (glass castoffs) piling up somewhere, so he began contacting the glass factories.
“I found out they were more than happy to give me the mistake,” he said, adding he found some places trade for the material. “I would do boardroom tables for them and they’d give me 5,000 sheets of glass.”
For almost 35 years, Silas has been hard at work experimenting, which people can see from the results at his studio.
“I can cut it, bend it, drill it. I can do all kinds of stuff that none of the factories can do,” he said.
He also has a patented technology and is now starting to license factories to use it. He just licensed a manufacturer in London, England and is now negotiating with some here in Canada.
Silas even landed a spot on the Discovery Channel along with the Dragon’s Den, which he said he enjoyed. One of the Dragon judges, Kevin O’Leary, called up Silas, offering him $300,000 cash plus seven and a half per cent royalty for access to his patented technology for bending glass without heat.
Unfortunately the deal later collapsed as they just didn’t know how to commercialize it. He now has a small factory doing that in England.
Silas said, in a kidding fashion, that a lot of his work comes from clients coming to him with an aesthetic problem.
“Generally its a window with a view of a [garbage] container,” he said.
Silas said the techniques are all done in his studio, with no heat and no machines and he added that the demand has grown for using the material, especially for countertops.
“It’s going very commercial very quickly.”