Mat Shimmers® – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
By John Timony
What are Mat Shimmers®?
Mat Shimmers® is a new concept that adds an elegant shimmering effect to a framed piece. They are environmentally friendly high quality solid glass spheres produced in the USA. They are made from recycled glass and are lead free. These glass spheres have highly polished surfaces which are treated for superior bonding to mat boards. They are extremely clear allowing light to refract through the Mat Shimmers® while illuminating the color of the mat board to provide an elegant appearance and enhancement to a picture framing project. A Mat Shimmers® Adhesive was specially formulated to permanently bond them to all mat board types used in the Picture Framing Industry.
Where do the Mat Shimmers® come from?
Waste glass that enters the recycling waste stream is collected at various facilities throughout the USA. Glass is sorted by color and broken down into silver dollar size pieces known as “cullet”. This becomes the raw material for glass bead manufacturing plants where the “cullet” is conveyed to a pulverizing hammer mill that fractures the cullet into very small chards of glass. After the chards are crudely sifted into various sizes, they are conveyed into a large natural gas fired cyclone burner that heats the chards to the melting point and, while rotating in the heated air stream, they become little spheres (beads). As the velocity of the air stream decreases high up in the vertical cyclone tube, gravity takes over and they fall into capture areas. Then a final screening sorts them into various uniform sizes.
Glass beads have a long history in jewelry, so what is the history of these tiny glass beads?
After WWII, an entrepreneur found that putting a mixture of glass beads sizes on the wet paint of road striping gave the paint stripe a reflection to a car’s headlights while driving at night. Hence it became a highway safety item in wide use today. Other uses for glass beads include the reflective surfaces of license plates, road signs, safety equipment (like safety vests), running shoes, and many more. As a smooth round surface, the glass bead is also used in the surface blasting industry in cases where minimum destruction is desired, like removing the paint from a historical home or building. They can literally remove the green surface from a tree leaf and leave the basic leaf structure in tact.
So how do you know all this stuff about glass beads?
I ran a glass bead manufacturing business in the US and Canada for several years and learned a lot about all aspects of manufacturing and worked with customers (other companies that purchased glass beads) across the spectrum of glass bead usage.
Are all glass beads alike except for size?
No. The glass beads made from recycled glass have distinctive reflective and refractive indices based on the general make up of glass used in plate windows, beverage containers, etc. Certain additives can change those indices which then requires actual glass manufacturing from scratch instead of using only recycled glass. Mat Shimmers® are made from recycled glass so the contents remain unchanged. General ‘glass’ made in the USA, North America, and Europe for windows and food & beverage storage have no lead additives. However, glass made for these purposes in many parts of Asia, particularly China, do contain lead and glass beads made in those countries therefore contain lead.
What made you put glass beads on picture framing mat boards?
Several years ago I painted a rock near my mailbox with clear polyurethane and sprinkled glass beads onto it while wet. When I come home in the dark, my headlights light up that rock. With prior knowledge of glass beads, this came as no surprise. But that act inspired me to see what would happen if glass beads were put on a mat board used in a picture frame. Thus, Mat Shimmers® were born, but not without a challenge. Every handy- dandy glue I tried resulted in beads falling off due to lack of adhesion. Some glues and paints
even caused the color layer of the mat board to delaminate or warp the mat board. But the few that stayed on really looked good and gave the mat board an interesting texture
and light effect.
So how did the glue issue get solved?
Persistence! Market research of glues, drying time, material compatibility, and most of all, being the son of a father who was a chemist all his life led to a solution. My father was
a tinkerer and I am a tinkerer. He was also educated by a very powerfully motivating chemistry teacher in high school who also coached the high school football team. The high school was St. Cecilia’s in New Jersey and yep, his teacher was Vince Lombardi, the one and the same legend of Green Bay. I never met the legend, but I think some of it wore off my father and on to me. Eventually, some minor modifications to an existing, commercially available glue made it possible to tightly bond the glass bead to the mat board while drying clear and fast. That was three years ago and the successes are holding tightly, even under various temperatures and humidity conditions.
What exactly is done to get the Mat Shimmers® on to the mat board?
The first consideration is to put a removable tape on the areas that you do not want glue to be applied. Next is to find a piece of rigid cardboard or something solid that can
be used as a palette and pour some glue on it. Apply the glue with a small brush for small areas or with a small roller for larger areas. While still wet, liberally pour on the Mat Shimmers® and let sit for a few minutes. Then gently wipe off the excess amount with a plastic spoon. Remove the tape and it is good-to-go in about 10-15 minutes. (An “application You Tube” video is on the website illustrating ‘too little’, ‘too much’, and ‘just right’ glue levels and what to look for while applying)
Are there different color Mat Shimmers®?
No, all the Mat Shimmers® are clear. When applied to the mat board, the color of the mat board is seen through the clear glass beads making them appear to have color.
How do you know what colors work best with Mat Shimmers®?
If you pour some loose Mat Shimmers® on a board it will give you an idea which colors look best. But this is not practical because they roll all around and make a mess of a work surface. But if loose Mat Shimmers® are captured and enclosed between two pieces of clear acrylic sheets and then laid on top of the mat, it is a really clean and good indicator.
I now do this with every customer interested in a Mat Shimmers® piece. The device also serves as a good distraction toy for the spouse or child of the customer who is uninterested
in the framing selection process!
Lots of words used to describe them, but what does a finished piece really look like?
This is the most difficult part. Pictures with a magnifying glass feature are available on the website (matshimmers.com), but pictures convey only a part of the answer. Videos
are not much better. I have made some mat board strips with Mat Shimmers® applied to them as a sample available to anyone who wants one. They are easily and quickly mailed.
The answer is in holding a sample in your hand in various light sources and at various angles, along with touching them. Just fill in the contact section of the website and I will
mail you one.
Are some projects or pieces better with Mat Shimmers® than others?
If a mat board is used, Mat Shimmers® are possible with any piece of art or photo. Only a little imagination is required.
Is glazing (glass) necessary with a Mat Shimmers® piece?
Generally, yes, it is as advisable to use glazing. Of course, exceptions always exist like open shadow boxes. But glazing is advisable with a very specific recommendation on the type. The highest rated “Light Transmission Levels” of glass are the only ones to use. I am very strong on this point because it takes as much light as possible to penetrate into the glass sphere to refract light, pick up the color of the mat board, and send it back out the sphere to the eye of the viewer. Think about it, the less amount of reflection on the surface will allow more light to penetrate through it.
Are Mat Shimmers® expensive?
No. The price of a starter kit is $29 plus shipping and includes one pound of Mat Shimmers® which covers 3 square feet of surface area, and 8oz of adhesive (glue) for the same area.
A larger kit is also available and Mat Shimmers® can be ordered separately, or with, the adhesive in any quantity desired and would be priced on an individual order basis.
How big are they?
Mat Shimmers® were specifically sized with two considerations. The first was the visual appearance; the second was the thickness of a 4-ply mat board. They average one millimeter in diameter and are just under the thickness of an average 4-ply mat board. This size also met the first criteria before the second was imposed. It also keeps them at a usable size for open V-grooves or multiple layering of mat boards. You may also note that they have some random roundness. This is the nature of how they are made. However, to prove to myself that some variation is size is good, I had some screened to being within +/- 1% in diameter and the result was very disappointing. Perfection is not what the human eye or brain seeks and viewing an almost perfect size was not as pleasing as with some visible variation. This opinion was confirmed with my team. Also, perfection in size is extremely expensive due to multiple successive screenings required to achieve it, and the very high waste levels involved.
Why should I try Mat Shimmers?
My answer is “differentiation” with a unique selling proposition. Anyone using them can offer something that no one else can, at least for some period of time. In a bad economy
it is something new and distinctive that might just draw more people in to desire it. It also shows a level of creativity to augment other creative things that you do.
It appears to be a time consuming process and is this where I want to spend time?
Initially there is some trial and error involved as learning any new process. If you intentionally apply too much adhesive on a practice mat, and simultaneously apply too little adhesive on the first trials, the learning curve can be reduced and the time is significantly shortened. Regarding time, a 5×7 float mounted photo on an 8×10 mat board took me
an additional 6 minutes to apply the adhesive, pour on the Mat Shimmers®, and remove the excess. The dry time occurs while you are completing other aspects of cutting glass, frame assembly, etc. A larger piece can take 10 to 15 minutes extra time depending on proficiency and frequency of repeating the application steps.
What applications for picture framing have you found most promising thus far?
Thus far, I am focusing on wedding invitations which look fantastic with a lacquer frame (black, brown, silver) and Mat Shimmers® on a complementary color mat board with various parts and pieces of the invitation package float mounted – sometimes ribbons or bows necessitate a shallow shadow box. The “Ideas Gallery” on the website illustrates some of these popular applications. The photography studio market is also very promising. Some original art, particularly modern pieces, have been successful. Many of the fancy cuts capable from the automated CAD-CAM mat cutters provide excellent places for Mat Shimmers® enhancements.
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