Custom Torches Adorn a Stone Moon Gate in Maryland


Patrick and Ann in Maryland own one of my very rare 52 inch Great Bowl O' Fire Sculptural Firebowls. But they also have something that no one else has as yet— custom Prometheus Torches that are not only plumbed for gas, but can be turned on and off from anywhere using his phone! Patrick was kind enough to send me a bunch of photos of their project, including process photos of how their contractor customized the torches. One of the coolest things about the project was that the gears used to decorate the torch handles were salvaged from a family member's factory. Here's the email from Patrick that accompanied the photos:

You may not even remember me but, I promised you some photos of the torches and the Great Bowl O' Fire.

The gears came from my father in law's light bulb factory in Newark, New Jersey. When he decided to retire and close the factory several years ago, I went through the four story building and filled a thirty foot U Haul truck up with all sorts of unique items from chairs, benches, lab equipment etc… Some of these items had not seen the light of day for over thirty years.

I was and still am in the process of cleaning out the garage when this landscape project started. I had actually planned on bringing the gears to the scrap yard, I am so happy I did not. So, Bob Michael (the installer) and I started trying to figure out what to do with the base of the torches. Below are some of the visual ideas we came up with. I thought you would appreciate the creative process. Needless to say, I am holding onto the remaining gears for future torches.

So, not only do we have these awesome, one of a kind torches, they possess sentimental value to us, since the gears came from Mr. P's factory. That part of it is priceless. We could not be happier with the finished product.

Bob set us up with an app for our phones that allows me to turn them on from anywhere and we have. If there are any drawbacks or something we didn't consider, it would be the amount of propane we use when they are lit. As you can see, the flames are huge and we like them like that.

I look forward to working with you in the future.

















Great Bowl O' Fire Sculptural Firebowl and San Francisco Bay Skyline

firebowl with patio, planters seating and garden path

Patrick in Hayward, CA bought his Great Bowl O' Fire Sculptural Firebowl four years and just sent me the following testimonial and photos:

I chose the bowl of fire because it's a perfect piece of art. You have made something beautiful out of recycled material. As much as I like eco friendly art, it all too often falls short of being something spectacular, which is what you have achieved.

Our family enjoys our yearly 4th of July celebration here at our home because we have a beautiful 180 degree view of the San Francisco Bay.  The fire bowl adds a warm place to sit when the winds are a bit chilly.

You have helped me create a place that I truly love.

Thanks ever so much. Patrick, Tuyen and Samuel.

That's exactly the kind of satisfaction you hope to hear, especially from people who have had their firebowl long enough to really make use of it.

Great Bowl O Fire Firebowl with night skyline

I love the two raised bed planters that frame the firebowl and can double as additional seating.

Great Bowl O Fire Firebowl with night skyline

Here's a dramtic shot of the natural gas flame contrasted with the nightime skyline.

Great Bowl O Fire Firebowl with night skyline

The skyline when the firebowl is unlit.

"Great Bowl O Fire Firebowl round stone and gravel patio

Another shot of the raised flowerbed that frames the gravel patio and firebowl.

Inset limestone blocks around firebowl

Recessed stonework surrounds the firebowl, providing seating close to the bowl. The combination of masory and gravel is a nice contrast. The firebowl casts flame shaped shadows that accent it's design even when unlit.

Great Bowl O' Fire Firebowl with Natural Gas Flame

Closeup of the lit natural gas flame at night.

The Great Bowl O' Fire as Celebration of New Family and as Memorial

Eternal Flame Sculpture (Red) No. 001

The second email quoted in this post brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. It is a beautiful, tragic yet ultimately inspiring letter. The woman who wrote these prefers to remain anonymous but graciously agreed to let me share her story and artwork here.

It's a story that reminds us of the power of art to heal. It's a story of art's ability guide us from grief into a renewed future of possibility. It's a story I'm really glad she shared, because after a long, dark winter of my own, it reminded me so viscerally of why I make art.

My hope is always that I can inspire others to find renewed or greater meaning through beauty. That the gathering of family and friends around a fire will bring them closer and make a space for them to celebrate love, friendship and life. That creativity can be contagious while carrying a cure for the world's ills. I make art to make joy. I make art to help people see the beauty in the whole world.

Her first email read:

I love your work! It resonates perfectly with my feeling of beauty of nature,imagination and art work that I do in my house. My daughter is getting married in August, and I want them to start a fire of a new family (maybe to make it a tradition). I'm thinking to buy the Great Bowl o'Fire and two torches.

She also called me, explaining that she wanted the bride and groom to carry the torches but wondered if they could be made lighter. We discussed various options, including using one of the torches as a wedding candle. In the end, we decided carrying the torches wasn't a good idea in case they became too hot during the ceremony. She did order a Great Bowl O' Fire.

The following day she sent this email:

I want to tell you our story because now you are becoming a part of it. Life is uncertain, unpredictable, beautiful, horrible, strange and magical. Almost like a fire, its flaming images, lights and shadows in your Great Bowl.

I was born in a beautiful and mystical land of Siberia. Its forests and rivers filled my heart with the love for nature that I carried through my life. We moved to US in 1992 with our three children who were 9 years old daughter and 7 years old twins (boy and girl). In some years we bought an old almost abandoned house in NJ. The house was in a poor condition, but in a very beautiful place with a small natural pond surrounded by the woods. There we started building our place. We cleaned the property with our own hands, built new house which I inlaid with the mosaics and painted with a dreamlike scenes. We built walkways, walls, arch that I also covered with the mosaics, planted a garden. The life wasn't easy but still like a fairy tale for me. I thanked God for the wonder and beauty of it every single day and night. But the creator is far more "creative" than a human being can ever imagine.

Two years ago our oldest daughter was diagnosed with the defused gastric cancer… in a matter of  moment the whole world crushed into dust… the beauty of life betrayed me… the mornings turned into nightmares… the nights turned into hell… For two years we struggled and fought for her life… She passed away this year on Valentine's day…

Our other daughter's wedding is going to be at our house that she loves so much. She wanted me to help with the decorations of the event, but it was so hard for me to start creating again. I tried, but nothing worked. Every flower in my garden was missing my darling daughter, every piece of my mosaics cried about the nonsense of beautiful things.

There is one center spot in our backyard, that I didn't finish— was out of the ideas, but I had to do it before the wedding. I just wanted to fill it with the flowers for the event, but happened to come across your fire bowl. It changed everything… It ignited my artistic spirit again that I thought was gone with my daughter from this place forever. The idea of fire that is life itself made me wanting to work again. The fire of the spirit of my diseased daughter who was so passionate, loving, beautiful, magical, fearless will always live in our hearts and lighten them with love. It is the fire, the energy, the light that everybody needs to go on and to start something new (like a new family for example). Your design is unbelievably perfect for my vision of beauty. I have a mosaic of a phoenix-girl on top of the fireplace inside the house, which is done in the very similar lines, as well as my other works around the house.

So that spot outside that I didn't know how to finish just happened to be waiting for your Great Bowl o'Fire. I find that so many things in life are not accidental but happen to be for a reason.

Thank you John for the fire of your art!


I'm so moved by her story. Struck by her sorrow and loss, how it washed away the joy in life, family and creative work. But also quite inspired by the spirit of recovery that arises through renewed creativity and the promise of a new family. In the end her story comes back around to new life, new stories, new art, a new world. That's brave and wonderful.

When her firebowl shipped, I included an Eternal Flame Sculpture in the shape of the Phoenix. It felt right to contribute something to this renewal beyond the firebowl itself. I wanted to share an additional gift of rebirth.

She wrote:

I got the bowl! It is magnificent!! I feel that it really was meant to be here. Absolutely perfect for our house and happened at such a right moment. Thank you, thank you thank you! And one more THANK YOU for your generous and beautiful gift! I found a great place for it. I will be in touch, tell you how the fire starting ceremony will go and sent you the new pictures.

I'm so appreciative she took the time to write and let me know my work has helped. I needed a reminder of why I make the work I do. So we have helped each other, which is the beauty of art.

To Anonymous: Thank you for allowing me to play a role in your story. I hope that from here on, it becomes a beautiful fairy tale again without any of the darkness of old tales. I hope you do continue to make more mosaic and art. It's wonderful, beautiful work!










DIY Network Features Great Bowl O' Fire Firebowl on Extra Yardage


The Great Bowl O' Fire was the star of Caribbean Courtyard, Season 2, episode 5 of Billy Derian's DIY Network show Extra Yardage. The episode first aired September 4, 2012 but you can find a schedule for current airings here. The description on the site is a bit brief, but since I have great before and after pictures provided by Sean Boyriven, the Senior Producer I worked with, we can see how massively the makeover transformed this space. Here's the design brief from the show page:

Exterior Designer Billy Derian will help Emma and Greg turn their backyard concrete jungle into a lush, Caribbean-style tropical island paradise.

Let's look first at the Before picture of the yard before renovation— as you can see, the pool area is bare, harshly affected by the glare of the sun, lacking in shade, comfort or visual appeal. It's a swimming hole in a concrete yard.

205-Before2 copy
Before the renovation

Now a view of the project after completion— So much has been done, the space is completely transformed. The fence has been painted a light blue to pick up colors from the pool and sky. New trees, bushes and tropical plants add color and shade along the wall, as well as adding a grass lawn at one end of the pool. Multi-level bridges and decks divide the space, providing both visual appeal and offering multiple entertainment areas. The Pergola has been replaced and updated, and now encloses an outdoor kitchen or bar area. The unforgiving concrete surround has been covered with mosaic tile. A shade awning is visible in the next photo below, again using a blue color to tie the space together.

205-After5 copy
Muti-level bridge and deck spaces offer multiple entertainment areas

205-After6 copy
The shade awning picks up the colors of the pool and harmonizes with plantings

205-After7 copy
Updated Pergola and outdoor kitchen area with Great Bowl O' Fire Firebowl

Great Bowl O' Fire with tropical plants and pool

Closeup of the Great Bowl O' Fire with black and green fire glass

Another closeup of the Great Bowl O' Fire Firebowl

Gas flames in Great Bowl O' Fire Firebowl with glass

Gas flames in Great Bowl O' Fire Firebowl with glass

I really enjoyed working with Sean Boyriven, the Senior Producer at Film Garden Entertainment, Inc. who contacted me to request a Great Bowl O' Fire for the show. He sent me the letter below when production on the episode wrapped. I couldn't ask for a better letter of recommendation. Sean really appreciates art and made that abundantly clear in all our conversations.

On behalf of the entire production staff here on the DIY landscape-renovation series Extra Yardage, I want to thank you for having featured your amazing firebowl product in Season 2 of the show. We are so pleased to have accomplished a dramatic yard transformation with your Bowl O' Fire firebowl. It's more a work of art then in firebowl in our opinion; a perfect balance of function, form and affordability. We work with a lot of different companies on our show, but organizing our fire feature portion of the episode 205 build with the John T. Unger Studio went particularly well. The firebowl was so simple to work with and the quality is beyond the standard we strive to use on camera for the series. It's evident that you hold yourself and your work to a higher standard, and we're honored be associated with the John T. Unger brand.

— Sean Boyriven
Senior Producer
Extra Yardage
Film Garden Entertainment, Inc. For The DIY network


Stunning stone patio with Great Bowl O' Fire on Galveston Bay

Firebowl with spiral pattern in firecrystals glass
Two colors of FireCrystals Fire Glass are used to make a spiral design

I don't usually get to visit my firebowls in their home, but I was so blown away by this Seabrook, TX installation of the Great Bowl O' Fire that I had to make a side trip through Texas to see it for myself. The firebowl is centered in a two-tone stone patio with integrated bench seating. The walls are built from native limestone and the floor and benches are bluestone. You can see in the top photo that two colors of glass were used to echo the blue and white stonework.

Galveston Bay firebowl enclosed stone patio with built in seating
Clean rectangles of limestone with broken slabs of bluestone add to the patio's dynamic contrast

Rough-hewn limestone block contrasts nicely with the broken-stone masonry of the bluestone patio floor and seating. Both stones have a natural feel to them, while the overall effect is clean and geometri. There are four entrances to the patio area at the cardinal points.

Great Bowl O' Fire Firebowl with two tone stone patio

Stone benches and gas firebowl on waterfront
Galveston Bay provides a backdrop to the firebowl and patio

Masonry benches enclosing patio with firebowl

Artist John T. Unger seated by Great Bowl O' Fire on Galveston Bay
John T. Unger seated on the stone bench

Limestone and Bluestone Patio with firebowl on Galveston Bay
View of the patio facing west

Circular patio enclosed by stone walls with seating
The patio extends beyond the walls that make up seating

Stone patio and shoreline home
View towards the house

Detail image of stone seating made from limestone and bluestone
The clean edges of the masonry emphasize the curves of the installation

Firebowls Fit for a Castle in the Hamptons

For his La La Land Record Release Party last summer, philanthropist and pop star Sir Ivan Wilzig installed two Great Bowl O' Fire Firebowls flanking the pool of his 13,000 square-foot castle known as the "Playboy mansion of the East." The event has been described as "sexiest party the Hamptons has ever seen" and the single of enjoyed two weeks on the Billboard Top 40 list.

Sir Ivan abandoned a career in banking to performs music the stage names "Peaceman" and "Sir Ivan." Business Insider ran profile of his rather adventurous and interesting life here. has a slideshow of the castle estate and environs that gives a sense of scale and also features a couple photos of the firebowls.

The Youtube video below shows scenes from the party (which certainly does look pretty wild) and interview segments with Sir Ivan discussing his history, music and charitable works. There are numerous shots that include the firebowls burning brightly to light the pool scene.

Great Bowl O Fire firebowls at Wilzig Castle, an estate in Water Mill, NY near Southampton

Fire Features and pool at Wilzig Castle, an estate in Water Mill, NY

Firebowls warm the Stars at Cannes International Film Festival

Last night my firebowls warmed the stars at the Cannes Film Festival. It was a cold, rainy evening for an outdoor seaside party, so I'm sure the firebowls were appreciated.

Calvin Klein purchased SIX Big Bowl O' Zen Sculptural Firebowls for the company's annual Women in Film Party at the Cannes International Film Festival. The five women honored this year were actresses Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Carey Mulligan, Naomie Harris and director Lynne Ramsay. The party, cohosted by Independent Filmmaker Project’s Joana Vicente and Calvin Klein Collection designer Francisco Costa, was held at L’Ecrin. Vogue has a nice write-up of the party with photos here.

As it turns out, the one drawback to having work at such an exclusive event is that no one photographs the decor when they're surrounded by movie stars and celebrities. The only photo I've found so far is a close up shot that could have been shot anywhere:

Francisco Costa firebowl photo

On the other hand, the photographer was Francisco Costa, and it's not every day that an artist gets their work shot by the Women's Creative Director of the Calvin Klein Collection. Also, working with Benee Meade, the Special Events Manager who made the event happen, was an absolute joy. I really hope I can work with them again… everything came together very quickly rather than the months of planning and committees that are often required for corporate purchases.

HGTV's Decked Out Features the King Isosceles Sculptural Firebowl

King Isosceles Sculptural Firebowl on HGTV's Decked Out

The King Isosceles Sculptural Firebowl is featured this week on Season 3, Episode 2 of Decked Out with Paul Lafrance from HGTV You can see a photo slideshow of the project here. The full episode is available to stream online here, but only if you're in Canada. The episode will be available in the US next season.

I haven't been able to see the episode myself yet, but I love what I can see from the photos. Here's the description of the project from Decked Out's site:

Paul and Ronit love their yard, but feel it is missing a deck. Their space has particular challenges including incorporating a beautifully landscaped pond and leaving enough green space for their playful pugs. They also want a deck that can be used for three seasons. Paul accepts the mission and builds three separate deck spaces including a breakfast bar with 700-pound glass top, a gorgeous metal fire feature, and a lounge area with hot tub that gives a perfect view of the pond.

I really enjoyed working with Rachel Burden, the Production Manager at Cutting Edge Designs to help make this project happen. She was kind enough to say some nice words on Twitter also:

Rustic Firebowl on HGTV's Decked Out

Rustic Oxidized Fire Pit

Gas firebowl HGTV

Decked Out Fire Pit

Fire Features and Fountains Add Amazing Light Effects to Montreal Pool

King Isosceles Firebowl reflecting on pool at night

These photos of the King Isosceles Sculptural Firebowls were shot by Drew Hadley for a feature in Montreal Home Living last year. Several of the shots were used in the magazine, but I was so blown away by those that I contacted Drew to license the photos from the entire shoot. I'm so glad I did!

My firebowls are often used in pool settings and it's fairly frequent that a pool design will call for at least two firebowls to flank the pool, but this is one of the most interesting fountain concepts I've seen. Water flows between two glass plates to create a waterfall effect that seeming comes from thin air. The glass sheets are backlit so at night, the pool catches orange reflections from the fire and a cool blue reflecting from the fountain. Although I've seen harsh critiques of the prevalence of orange/blue color schemes to boost contrast in recent movies, I feel the complementing contrast of colors does wonders for reflected lighting!

This project was designed and built by Montreal designer Endrée Villeneuve of Vision enVert. Now that I've seen the entire collection of photos, this has become truly one of my favorite installations of my fire sculpture yet!

King Isosceles Firebowl on pedestals with fountain below

King Isosceles Firebowl with glass fountain element

fountain pedestal with firebowl

fountain pillar with firebowl by pool

Sculptural Firebowls lighting pool at night

luxury fire features for pool

fountain with high end fire pits on pillars

firebowls for mansions

fire fountain by pool with pedestals

steel and stone fountain with fire element

glass fountain ledge with firepits

Fountain with Font O' Fire Firebowl at Glenn Hotel in Atlanta

Fire Water Feature Glenn Hotel in Atlanta
Click photo to view larger image

The Font O' Fire Sculptural Firebowl is aptly named as it has become the centerpiece of several fountains in top notch hospitality environments. Brian Sweeney created a Japanese inspired fountain for the Glenn Hotel in Downtown Atlanta using my 24" Font O' Fire firepit. The serrated top of the firebowl was added later.

The Glenn is an upscale boutique hotel that prides itself on treating guests like actual guests. This paragraph from their website makes the experience of staying at the Glenn sound pretty wonderful:

Upon entering the hotel, you are greeted with a welcome experience instead of a check-in process, a refreshing libation to delight you and a warm, scented towel to refresh you after your journey. Now imagine that you are offered the services of a Personal Host throughout your stay at our Downtown Atlanta hotel. Your needs are known, they are proactively tended to, and you are treated as if you are staying in the home of your very best friend.

The fountain design presents a nice balance of falling water with still water that reflects the tile and flame. The combination of fire and water elements is handled very nicely.

Photo courtesy Brian Sweeney of Sweeney Gardens

Photo courtesy Brian Sweeney of Sweeney Gardens

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About John

John T. Unger If my job as an artist is to fill the world with "more things," I feel it is equally important that I reclaim materials from the waste stream to make space for my work. — John T. Unger

I believe creative re-use has the potential to spark new ways of looking at the world… if one thing can be turned into another, what else can we change? Successful recycled art encourages creativity in others— it's alchemical, magical, subversive, and transformative by nature. Read On


Art Heroes
John T. Unger