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Glass & metal art: in a time when new business is paramount, these niche mediums offer glaring possibilities.


Glass and metal art are not the first mediums that come to mind when considering an art gallery's offerings. However, many galleries have round that carrying these niche mediums has been a profitable investment that bas diversified their sales and overall clientele.

Although glass and metal art are sometimes considered crafts, and its practitioners craftsman, the work by the fine artists in this article certainly challenges the generalization.

Craft Vs. Fine Art

The debate continues among many gallery owners and artists as to the distinction between craftsman and artist. "We straddle the line of art and craft, engineering and design," says Angelique Jackson of Jancik Arts International. "Craft is round in the shop drawings and glass and metal frame fabrications while art is found in the interpretations and results."

Livia V. Garson of Glass Place Gallery in Jackson Hole, Wyo., has been specializing in glass art sculptures since the 1980s when artists working behind the Iron Curtain were able to introduce their work to American galleries and collectors. She is of the opinion that glass art offers a myriad of possibilities for an artist and gallery. "The glass medium gives infinite possibilities to be played with; the tire of life is given the chance by artists to create new and unique pieces each day, from classic to contemporary shapes."

Dale Chihuly is arguably the best known, living glass artist in the world. He is an interior designer, ceramic artist and painter, but it is his work in the medium of glass that has garnered the most acclaim. Chihuly offered the following advice to anyone considering a career as a glass artist in the fine-art realm. "I would tell them to figure out what they want to do," he says. "Do they want to be an artist, designer, or do they want to be a craftsman? Naturally, the hardest thing to be is an artist."

The Transition to Fine Art

Initially a student of interior design and architecture, Chihuly realized he wanted to concentrate instead on glass. Chihuly enrolled in the University of Wisconsin's hot glass program--the first of its kind in the United States--established by Harvey K. Littleton, founder of the Studio Glass Movement. After receiving a degree in sculpture, Chihuly enrolled in the ceramics department at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and later established the renowned glass program at RISD.

"Back when I first started, I wanted to get a job as a professor, which I got at RISD, so that allowed me to have a glass shop and earn an income and be able to do my own work," he explains. "Some professors can do that, but some can't; it is not an easy thing to do."

Artist Max Gold, known as "The Father of Fusion Art," began his career as a glass artist for a more pragmatic reason. "I ran out of canvas, and there were some sheets of glass in the apartment building I was living in; I loved the way the reverse painting looked," Gold says.

The process then evolved into something different--sculptures that merge digital art and original reverse glass paintings. "My first glass sculptures came about a few years later when I would layer multiple sheets of painted glass; I only painted about 20 percent of each sheet, negative space was as important as the painted part."

Metal artist Jason Mernick started his career working in glass but made the transition to metal. "I like the element of tire in my creative process--there's no hesitation," he says. "I have been given credit in the industry for developing 'torch painting;' that is, I use tire the way painters use paint."

From Concept to Finished Works

Working in hard metals and glass can prove challenging, at times, for fine artists.

Mernick works with stainless steel, aluminum and copper at his studio in Lake Mathews, Calif. The designs he produces are free flowing and spontaneous. "I just begin, and the process takes me," he explains. "One thing leads to another. The keys are knowing when to stop and how one works with spontaneous developments."

Chihuly works with hand-picked teams in his Seattle studio to create works of art that vary in scale from small free-flowing pieces to large-scale installations that require serious planning.

Jancik Arts International provides large pieces for corporate and private clients. Known for its stained-glass domes, most pieces require strict specifications. "The right and left sides of our brains need to work together in order to create a work with structural integrity; we must use calculus to determine the surface area of a curved dome," Jackson says.

Brad Lorang, a metal sculptor from Oregon, incorporates various techniques, including engraving and heat-applied patinas, to create textural and reflective effects on the metal.

"The work I am now doing has really been more than a 30-year process of adapting techniques I learned along the way for my own specific purposes; each new corner I turned has taken my work a little further off the beaten path," Lorang says.

Defining Form and Function

Las Vegas-based artist Dale Mathis creates high-relief wall sculptures that challenge and defy many physical and artistic boundaries. A typical Mathis artwork is mechanical with hand-carved, moving gears and neon-lit areas. Weighing 80 pounds or more, the metallic mixed-media sculptures are created with what the artist has dubbed a Steampunk style.


"Steampunk is a mixture of old and new, Victorian era meets today," Mathis explains. "It's a blending of different forms and ideas, materials and function. I'm an artist and an engineer."

Artist Henry Jerome has also taken a unique approach to the functionality of his work. He has made a townhouse his personal gallery, allowing potential clients to view his glass and granite works in a home setting.

Works by many fine glass and metal artists can be found in private collections while corporate collections, museums and sculpture gardens hold pieces of monumental scale.

Translation to Sales

Maggie Munro, owner of Munro Gallery in San Diego, uses the glass art she features in her display window as a way to attract a diverse clientele into her store. She came across some fine-art glass and jewelry at an industry trade show a few years back and began carrying it in her gallery as a way to pick up some additional income and diversify her clientele. The initiative took off, bringing her an increase in holiday buyers and purchases from homeowners, corporations and interior designers.


Kelly's Fine Art Gallery in Joseph, Ore., has been offering hand-blown glass and metal art, in addition to bronze sculpture and paintings, for the past 10 years. Owner Kelly Wick began offering the two niche mediums as a way to add more color and variety to her offerings. She says glass and metal art appeal to collectors with contemporary and more rustic home settings and offers the following advice when selling these genres.


"For glass, proper lighting is very important," she explains. "I recently purchased a well-lit display case for some of my glass, and my sales went up significantly. Selling glass and metal require a personalized sales approach, like any other type of art. I stay in tune to what the client is interested in, tell them why I love the artwork and get excited about it with them."



ABN Contributing Writer
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Comment:Glass & metal art: in a time when new business is paramount, these niche mediums offer glaring possibilities.
Author:Fondo, Lisa
Publication:Art Business News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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