One of our core values at Gallery Drinkware is to keep our production process completely local in Southern California and to not be associated with mass-produced manufacturing in any way.
Our production process is very hands-on and extremely detailed. Every step and stage of the Gallery Drinkware creation process requires human hands and focused attention.
We don't make these bottles from a template; we created this process over two and a half years and we're still fine-tuning it with every subsequent production run.
There's no one out there making a bottle quite like ours and we are proud to be pioneers in this realm of the glass water bottle market, showcasing original art on premium glass. We have had numerous people ask us how our bottles are created and we would love to share this comprehensive process with our readers.
With so many products being imported from China these days, we see the immense value in offering our customers a high quality, made-in-America product.
Although our Bormioli Rocco premium glass water bottles do originate in Italy (no one in America makes swing-top glass bottles of this caliber), to offset the fact that we get the blank bottles from a company in Europe, absolutely everything else we do is on US soil.
We wish we could start with American glass; we are hopeful that in the near future we will have an American option for the blank bottles. You can rest assured that as soon as that becomes an option, we will seize it.
THE PRODUCTION PROCESS
We start with the highest caliber swing-top bottle available, made by a centuries-old company. Founded in 1825, Bormioli Rocco sets the standard for premium glass and makes the absolute best swing-top bottles out there. Our exact bottles, undecorated, are sold at Crate and Barrel, Pier One, and many other stores for $7-$10.
- *The first step is to remove the swing tops and bar code stickers and bake the bottles in a massive kiln to remove all impurities prior to decoration.
- *The decorating of the bottles begins with prepping the sanitized bottles for the frosting process. Frosting the bottles gives them an elegant, sophisticated look and provides a contrast for the picture frame window opening on the front through which the art is viewed.
- *In order to create the window that will remain clear during the frosting process, we need to mask off the picture frame shape and back decal shape before frosting the bottles. Masking off is simply screen printing, similar to what is done to a t-shirt with print on it.
- *Blue ink is applied to the surface of the bottle, rapidly drying and blocking off an area that needs to remain clear. Each bottle is handled individually for the masking process.
- *Once the frame and decal areas of the bottles are masked off, the exposed clear glass is frosted.
- *After the frosting process, the blue masking is removed, exposing the clear glass area for the front frame and back decal on each bottle.
- *The next step is to decorate the front of the bottle with our Water Gallery text (we are Gallery Drinkware, but we were originally known as Water Gallery and the signature bottles will keep this name) and the gold frame with 22-karat liquid gold. It's the same process as the screen printing that's done with the blue masking above, with the liquid gold being applied in the shape of the frame and the words.
- *After the gold is applied, the bottles are baked a second time in a kiln to make sure the gold adheres properly. Then the bottles are left to dry for several days.
And now, the decal: the most important element of each bottle. When people first see our bottles, they often exclaim, "Wow, I've never seen anything quite like this!" and follow that with a question: "Wait, where is the art located on the bottle?"
The art almost appears to be suspended in the water and it has the most striking, almost three-dimensional effect. The reason for this effect is that the art is NOT on the front of the bottle, but rather baked onto the bottle on a decal that's affixed to the BACK of the bottle!
Before we describe the most important piece, the decal, let's pause for one moment. You may be saying to yourself, there are machines who do all this work for companies, machines that have taken away American jobs and have made production far more economical for small businesses. But this is where Gallery Drinkware diverges from other glass bottle companies.
You'll learn as you keep reading that the level of attention to detail, use of color, and production of realistic images taken from original art is truly exclusive to Gallery Drinkware. You may still be thinking, posters of original art are digitally printed every day! What's the big deal? Well, here's how our process is different-- we have to figure out how to accurately portray the art on a rounded bottle surface and furthermore, showcase the art THROUGH WATER, which can distort images.
These are the challenges we face at Gallery Drinkware and these are the reasons why our bottles are so special-- each step needs to be so deeply analyzed and curated that it has to be done by humans, not machines. And each step is as vital as the next and the one before it. As we continue describing this process, you'll see what we mean.
The first thing you need to understand is that the decal is double-sided. On one side, the outward-facing side, is the text that describes the artist and the work of art featured on the bottle. On the other side, the inward-facing side, is the art itself.
Everyone naturally wants to know how an original work of art is transferred with complete accuracy to a decal.
First we receive high-resolution digital files from the artist. Each work of art is meticulously printed on a paper label without any chemicals-- we use soy and vegetable-based inks only.
There is then a copious amount of drying that is required once the art is printed on the label. The biggest challenge in creating this decal is making sure that the art doesn't show through onto the text side of the decal and that the text side doesn't show through on the art side of the decal.
In other words, it is vital for us to have various levels of opaqueness added to the decal depending on the colors of the original artwork. For example, with Orca Trio, the color of the artwork goes from darkness at the bottom to lighter at the top (like the ocean).
Naturally, the darkness creates a barrier between the two sides of the decal, ensuring the text won't show through. But the lighter portion of the piece is more challenging, so we have to spray different amounts of this opaque coating on different parts of the art work.
It's a meticulous process and requires a lot of trial and error to perfect it. With our rotating art work, we have to refine this process each time for each individual piece of art and its nuances.
As you can see, the decal process is extremely multi-faceted and far from simple. But it's what allows us to showcase the art in the most striking and accurate way possible.
The next step is hand-applying the decal to the masked-off clear section on the back of the bottle with the artwork facing inward and the text facing outward.
The decal is hand-applied with a squeegee, eliminating air bubbles that can crop up as the decal is applied. Lining up this decal to the masked-off area is very challenging and there can be slight variations on each bottle.
The decals are now baked onto the bottles at a much lower temperature to make sure they're not affected by the heat and can adhere smoothly and cleanly, appearing to be part of the bottle itself. The decal is not like a label that can be peeled off, but rather it becomes part of the glass.
Finally, swing tops are capped and the bottles are ready to go. After this whole detailed process, you end up with a beautiful piece of functional art that was created with attention to detail and great care.