Glass Artists Who Shine Over the Marketplace
By Stephanie Finnegan
The medium of glass is a particularly mesmerizing one. The average layperson has no idea how glass is made. They don’t understand how it can be summoned into the world—nonexistent one moment, and then malleable and transformative in the next. Glass is delicate; it can be fragile and transparent. Perhaps, because it seems so ephemeral, it is highly regarded. Buying and displaying a piece of glass is openly declaring one’s trust in the future.
Heart of Glass
Mother-and-son collaborators Tamara and Adam Childs are perfectionists and true visionaries. They don’t simply envision what they are going to produce. Instead, they are involved with each and every piece. They are hands-on artists and entrepreneurs. “We combine unique glassware with our intricate art of hand-gilding to create timeless tableware for decorating, entertaining, and so much more,” the Childs team explains. “We do each piece by hand right here in the United States. Every piece is hand-crafted, gilded, finished, and packed—every piece literally goes through our hands twice,” Tamara states. “Nobody does this kind of volume, with this kind of manual care. It’s what makes us unique in the marketplace and reflects in the quality and the beauty of our products.”
The Tamara Childs Collection features more than 100 different styles of glass, with 11 metallic hues. Their handcrafted housewares is distinguished by accents of gold, silver, copper, northern lights, variegated red, blue, green, and numerous decorative patterns. For more information, visit www.TamaraChildsCollection.com
Peering Into One’s Soul
Susan Hirsch describes her artistic style as “bold but minimal.” She attributes it to her direct and graphic style: “ is is likely from my years of doing graphic design, but I began with an art degree, so I think my style reflects both.” Hirsch made a conscious decision not to create glass that is functional or utilitarian. Instead she gravitated to glass that is viewed as art. She firmly believes that creating art via the medium of glass is an invitation to visit the depth of her personal imagination and psyche.
“Creating something you love and has personal meaning is a most important thing, but that sometimes is a contradiction of what might sell. I feel if it speaks to me, it should have a similar effect on others,” Hirsch observes. The artist’s work is in high demand, and she does accept commissions. As a helpful selling tool—a way for her clients to see what is being discussed and proposed—Hirsch presents these commissions as digital designs that are first put into a photograph of the space. As Hirsch spent many years as a graphic designer, she has an understanding of what is needed to help make a second career into a solid, successful one: “How you choose to package or position your work is very important to the price range that your work sells for.”
Hirsch celebrates her immersion and rebranding in this realm of glass art. “Although technically challenging, glass is so versatile. There are few limits in what you can do in glass.” For more information, visit www.contemporaryfineartsgallery.com.
A Mosaic of Emotions
Married couple Susan and Jim Nachtrab collaborate on their original “mosaic leading” creations. Susan designs, cuts, and builds the panel, and then Jim does the soldering, finishing, and framing. Proud of their meticulous, painstaking procedures, Susan gives her husband a heartfelt compliment: “I do not know of anyone who can solder better than Jim. He takes the time to make each joint smooth and even. The twisting, curling, and spacing of the lead, in addition to the glass used, are all a part of the overall design.”
The two are mainstays at the Portland Saturday Market ten months of the year. “The tourist trade is amazing for us, and the commission work is more than I can handle at times. We have chosen to go the arts and crafts show route, and I really enjoy the interaction with the customers. We plan on upgrading our website and will hopefully grow an online business as well,” Susan remarks.
The Oregon resident is a student of history, and she sees her art as an extension of her appreciation of the past and its tangible legacies: “Leaded stained glass has been around for several hundred years. Very few selling artists do the traditional work. They have switched to the more trendy hot glass. I wanted to stick with my chosen medium and be the best, and I feel I am on the way.” For more information, visit www.nachtrabglass.com.
Reflections Through Glass
Elizabeth Robinson had been trained in music, but when she stumbled across a group of artists experimenting in stained and blown glass, she felt an immediate kinship with their accomplishments. “In the hands of the artists, I felt the rhythm of the glassblower moving molten glass in and out of the hot furnace — it was a wonderful form of dance. The stained-glass craftsmen were laying lead lines while applying German-painting-style portraits into large windows for worship. Everything worked in harmony — the gentleness of the craftsmen and their concern for the quality of their craftsmanship. I was hooked,” Robinson says.
Her first encounter occurred around 30 years ago, and since that magical moment, she has founded SpiritHouseGlass. As an artist, she has established and perfected her own unique goals and expectations. “The pieces created at SHG are all one-of-a-kind, but they are part of a whole.” For more information, www.spirithouseglass.com.
The Fragility of Earth
James Stone is a true child of nature. In his boyhood, he was enchanted by crystals. Today, the glass artist reminds his collectors that crystals are a form of glass—in fact, composed of microscopically joined silica crystals. “Color and light attracted me to glass,” says Stone. “ Those elements elicit an emotional response, which is why stained-glass windows have been put in places of worship all through history.”
His craftsmanship is a life force that he pursues passionately. “I chose furnace-formed hot glass as my medium because it is very immediate and so multi-sensory,” says Stone. “When you are working in front of 2,400 degrees, your entire being is engaged at once. It’s heaven.” A theme that Stone has visited time and again is the potential extinction of the Earth. His environmental concerns have been parlayed into his artwork. “We are blindly destroying our planet and we need to take a moment, stop, and see how we have a choice to either make this place better or leave a legacy of death and destruction for an eternity, or until another intelligent life form rises from our ashes.”
Stone understands the mating of artistry and commerce. To achieve financial solvency, he has multiple revenue streams. He considers this a must-have for the solo proprietor: “We create custom commission pieces in the public sector, as well as for corporations and private patrons. We have a very robust teaching program. We own our own gallery. We are involved locally and regionally in all kinds of events involving art. We create private special events based on entertainment, using various glass disciplines. We have a very aggressive online presence and
were just accepted to Amazon Handmade.” For more information, visit www.stoneandglass.com.
Photo Credit: Adam Childs, Tamara Childs Collection