Custom upright pianos
Turning retired vintage pianos into playable and functional works of art.
The Glassfront Project is none other than Joshua Rea’s creative passion project where he creates stunning and functional works of art.
Originally from the UK, Joshua has been living in Newcastle for the past 12 years after his parents immigrated to Australia when he was fourteen. A natural-born musician, Joshua plays numerous instruments and has always had a peculiar interest in pulling them apart.
“As a child, and much to my mother’s despair, I would dismantle the family pianos and watch the mechanisms in motion as I play. Upon purchasing my first instrument; the front was removed and never replaced,” Joshua said.
The Glassfront Project was born in 2015 as an idea to show off the intricate insides of pianos. That idea became a reality in 2016, when he completed his first piece; project model 001.
“The first Piano that I completed exceeded my expectations in looks and quality; which initiated my drive to get these pianos out there to be appreciated by a greater audience.”
Whilst working on his debut piece, he encountered numerous fallbacks with exposing the insides of a piano to everyday elements. The first, Volume; the tone changes drastically. Secondly, Practicality; you can’t keep the lid of the piano on the instrument when you remove the front, because upon opening the lid falls into the instrument! And lastly, Upkeep; dust goes everywhere.
By combining 10mm custom thick glass and custom mounting points, these instruments and art pieces capture the beauty of the internal mechanisms of the piano, without any of the audible or practical sacrifices.
“I’ve always liked being able to see the mechanisms working inside of a piano, but to keep the instrument constantly open - there’s no practical way to do that. You do get a few, pseudo-modern pianos that are entirely glass; often they’re grand pianos. But, that’s not what I was interested in, I just wanted to create a little peek in to the complexity of the instrument.”
Combining this unique creation with light into the design, it allows for the instrument to be illuminated from the inside to really showcase the true beauty of the Piano.
“With such a combination, we end up with something incredible, practical, and simply; unique.”
Still working as a session musician, as well as teaching, Joshua has been able to merge all of his passions to bring together something truly unique to the scene; The Glassfront Project.
“I’m still doing other things, and I am a musician full-time. I’m a session musician and tour in a band called Winterbourne. We did a music video and we got to use one of the pianos in the clips. Which has been great, I’ve really been able to cross my interests. When I’m not touring or working on these pianos, I also do a bit of teaching as well.”
So, how long does the creation of one of these pieces take?
“A lot of people ask this question and it’s a difficult one to answer. First of all, the pianos are all second-hand, so there’s the searching element that takes time and often I’ll go out to view a piano and it’ll be a dud.
“The moving also takes quite a bit of time, because my wife and I do all of that by ourselves. From there, I strip the piano back, and I clean areas that may have never been cleaned before. That takes a long time just taking all of the dust out of the woodgrain. The cleaning of the keys, the body, and the strings overall it can take up to 30-40 hours per piano. It is definitely a labour of love.”
And, what about the price tag?
“You can pick up a second-hand piano anywhere from $50-$5000+; depending of the quality of the instrument and the condition it’s in. When I’ve come up my prices, I obviously have to look at my overheads. I’ve got to factor in the initial cost of the piano, moving it to my workshop, plus all of these different expenses you’ve got to factor in.
“As well as the custom glass work, building mounts to house the glass, the electricals and the man hours on top. I also have to factor in the fact that this isn’t just a piano, it’s a premium art piece. For example, painting a picture or making a sculpture will take a certain amount of time and cost whatever amount in supplies, but the price tag is based on it’s exclusivity. These pianos range between $4,900-$10,000; but it’s such a fluid price point because of the unique nature of the work.”
Since that idea in 2015, Joshua is now currently working on his eighth instrument. Whilst the majority have been sold to private buyers or kept for personal use, there is one currently in position to be viewed (and played) by the public. You can head to Tighes Hill for a visit to Between The Line Gallery to give the piece a sneak peek or you can contact Joshua to organize a time to see his own personal piece.