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Taking the business path to exhibition art

JUDITH HARLAN

Glass carving is not for the faint of heart.A suitable three-foot piece of glass thick enough and clear of flaws or scratches can easily cost $400.

The carving tool, like an ultra-fine sandblaster, shoots silicon-carbide particles with 40 pounds of air pressure behind them.Mistakes cannot be corrected, and the finished product must be perfect.

And then there’s the art element, making glass carving an artistic expression that requires nerves of steel as well as a sensitive artistic eye.

Jerry Tatton, artist and owner of Artisan Glass Carvers in Sparks, is testing himself, seeing if he has what it takes, and finding a market in northern Nevada as he explores the art of glass.

Tatton’s glass carvings adorn First Independent Bank of Nevada’s new Reno headquarters building.

Some of those are door-sized, some windows.All of them are collaborations between artist and designers.”I gave them small samples of what can be done with glass,” says Tatton.

From there, they chose what they liked, and from those, Tatton sketched out patterns for their approval.

Then he started carving.

Tatton fell in love with the art of carving, he says, almost by accident.His wife and business partner, Estee Tatton,was studying glass fusion art.He bought her an art book as a gift; it turned out to be about glass carving, not fusion.He read the book and began his own studies in glass.

The couple has a carpet-piecing and woodcarving business that has paid the bills through the years, says Tatton, but the further they get into the art of glass, the more they are finding themselves drawn into the business of it, too.

Tatton has done several residential glass carvings – doors and decorative points of interest.He is also thickening his business portfolio with a growing list of commercial glass carvings.His work provides impact for R & K Builders, as he’s done three glass doors for them, one of which includes a carving of their favorite model home.And if you go to the 19th Hole Bar at the Lakeside Golf Course, he adds, you’ll see his glass carving on the bar door.

Catching contractors and design teams on the front end of the project is the best approach to glass art, says Tatton, but he finds business after-the-fact in developments, too, with custom fireplace screens, room dividers, accent pieces and the like.

Marketing his art so far has been a puzzle, he says, and as he becomes more and more a master in the glass carving arts, he finds he still does not have a clear bead on how to market to this segment.

The yellow pages have not worked for him, he says.

In fact, up to now, his sales have been made primarily by word of mouth, from people seeking him out when they see one of his pieces up somewhere.

He’s working on that marketing puzzle, but he has his sights set, really, on big stuff.He wants to do huge installations, he says.

Monolithic.

Glass pieces that live longer than a human life span and have a home in museums.

He’s thinking big, he adds, but so many dimensions of glass carving have yet to be discovered that the possibilities are endless.

And anyway, a marketing plan for the huge end of the business is in hand.He’s creating a stockpile of carvings now for a showing to a group of wealthy investors.With some backing, he could begin focusing on those

huge installation pieces.