Breaking glass is normally seen as a bad thing, taboo even. But what if that destruction could actually be stunningly beautiful? This Swiss artist shows us how we can shatter glass, burn wood, rip fabric, and find new ways to see everyday materials. Who knows, it might just be the most creative and beautiful thing you’ve seen today!

Through three years of trial and error, Simon Berger has learned to find the fine line of cracking glass without breaking it—turning regular panes of the fragile material into remarkable works of art. This 45-year-old, very unique artist from Herzogenbuchsee, Switzerland creates remarkable portraits by breaking glass with a hammer and chisel.

More than just an incredible feat, his work reveals that when we learn to look at an object creatively, and see more than just what appears in front of us, there is no end to the wonder we can discover.

Simon Berger Glass Portraits

Two portraits created by Simon Berger, displayed at Street Art Fest Grenoble – Alpes
Photographer: Andrea Berlese Photography
Courtesy of Simon Berger

Transforming the regular into the extraordinary!

Often, Simon Berger’s pieces can look like vandalism at first blush. But look closer. In a beautiful play with light, transparency, depth, and craftsmanship, detailed portraits—faces of people who he knows well or simply stumbles upon on the street—begin to emerge.

Creating wonder for people to stumble upon in their day to day is one of the very things that inspires Simon.

Originally working with spray paint, Simon decided to think differently about the things we see every day, using materials like wood, metal, stickers, clothes, and even a piano to create stunning art. In 2017, he began to experiment with safety glass, and the stunning portraits it resulted in have been a hallmark of his artistic career ever since.

With a background in carpentry, Simon combined his experience working with building materials with his artistic impulse to create something that makes us think differently about materials around us that we may consider ordinary and single-purposed.

Artstübli Gallery in Basel, which was made by Simon Berger in 2019

One of Simon’s glass portraits at the Artstübli Gallery in Basel, Switzerland. Made by Simon Berger in 2019.
Photographed by Artstübli Gallery.
Instagram: @simonberger.art / @artstuebli
Courtesy of Simon Berger

There’s no going back, covering up, color correcting, or ctrl-z-ing with this art!

His method seems simple: where you hit the glass, white cracks appear and the area becomes lighter. Where you leave the glass alone, the glass remains transparent and shadows emerge. Sounds easy when you put it that way, but in reality of course, this is hard. Imagine the light touch you must have when intentionally breaking glass so that it will crack but not shatter. Or the expert confidence you must feel to add depth to the image without breaking the piece entirely!

So, here’s Simon with his hammer, chisel, and a few panes of laminated safety glass in an amazing video from Art Insider—no safety goggles required!

Art Insider brings us some truly incredible and amazing stories of artists, innovators, and incredible pioneers in the art world. Check out more from the Art Insider YouTube channel here.

You can find more from Simon on his website, where you can explore stunning works from his exhibitions, learn more about his background, and even buy some of his art for yourself. You can also follow him on Instagram to have these feats of creation right in your daily feed.

Click here to watch a time lapse of Simon creating one of his glass portraits. The image comes to life so quickly that you’ll be absolutely blown away!

Think different!

What materials do you interact with every day that you could think of differently, and how can we learn to consistently repurpose what we have?

The glass in your window, sure, but what about the fabric from that old chair—could it become a pillow cover? Could the food scraps you think are waste become a meal of their own? Or could the bubble wrap that just came with the package you got in the mail become a tool for painting with texture?

This can be as simple as repurposing what we have, like reusing that same box from your packaging for the next thing you send out instead of throwing it in the trash.

If we find a way to reuse the materials in our lives not only for art but also as real solutions, there are amazing things we can accomplish, like restoring New York Harbor with oyster waste!

So today, think differently about the materials you throw away and repurpose all you can. Start a compost bin, recycle your old bottles, and find ways to give everything a new life.

“[We must have a] willingness to stop and to look at things no one else has bothered to look at. The simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source of creativity.” — Edward de Bono

Let’s find new ways to think about the things we see every day!

So, what can you create? Check out these articles next for some inspiration of how people around the world have been in touch with their creative side, like making trash into robots, giant trolls out of recycled wood, or turning plates into mosaics that can cover the interior of your house!

There are so many more great examples of unusual art in our archives, and here are a few of my favorites using interesting mediums: landfills, bacteria, and ice!

9 minutes

Landfill Art: Amazing on Many Levels

What if we connected our world by finding amazing new ways to use the things we already have too much of: like garbage, for instance?

Read More

8 minutes

Bacteria as an Art Form?

An MIT scientist studying how bacteria can detect cancer is teaming up with an artist to make living art. The results and their story are fascinating!

Read More

15 minutes

The Art of Freezing Time!

There is something powerful for all of us in the work of artists who create pieces that will disappear forever in a few hours! Explore the fascinating world of ice sculptures and their magical ability to freeze time—even summer!

Read More

I love what Simon said about how he no longer shows people how to see the art—how some pass by thinking the window was vandalized, others don’t think too hard about it, and some stand around for a good long while finding the perfect spot to stand in awe. Sometimes our instincts of “don’t break the glass” need not be listened to—those counterintuitive actions can create awe-inspiring things!

To me, that’s proof that everything—even shattered glass—can become something new and beautiful, if only we are willing to see it.

  • Ellen

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Notes:

  1. Insider, Art. “Artist Makes Portraits on Glass with Just a Hammer.” YouTube, 12 Apr. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUQ5ESK0rgU. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.

Ellen Allerton

Sponsorship Coordinator

After graduating from St. Lawrence University in 2020 and returning home to Vermont, Ellen found that helping make the world a better place with the EWC team was just where she wanted to be. You can usually find her watching television while getting crafty, on the ice as a figure skating coach for 10-14 year old's, or in her inflatable kayak named Heidi. She’s quite the film nerd and quite the cook, and likes it best when those two things—movies and food—coincide.