Spokane Journal of Business

A reflection of talent

Artistic Glass focuses on glass work, but has more varied origins

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Steve Talbotts Spokane Valley studio shows off his stained glass windows, glass door panels sandblasted with elaborate designs, and etched tabletopsbut the name of his business, Artistic Glass, only begins to tell his story.

Over more than a dozen years Talbott has carved and painted wooden signs, created murals, designed themed restaurants, applied gold leaf to bank vaults, and created a trophy for a 1995 Senior PGA Tournament. Until last year, his business, founded in 1987, was known as Dimensional Designs.

Now glass is his primary focus. As the sign business in which he had started his career became more and more computer driven, Talbott wanted to concentrate on hands-on, custom work, says his wife and business partner, Sue Talbott. He has worked to develop a market for his glasswork since the late 80s, when etched glass was fairly novel around Spokane, she says.

The glass business has done well in the past several years, Steve Talbott says, so last January he changed the name of the business, and in April, Artistic Glass moved to a former photography studio at 413 N. University that serves as home for the Talbotts and their business.

He says he was drawn to glass as a medium for his creativity because of its beauty and the variety of things he can do working with it.

Glass lets you do anything to it, Talbott says, and his portfolio of projects illustrates the versatility of both the medium and the artist.

Talbott paints glass, even applying gold leaf; he etches designs in it using abrasives that carve a three-dimensional look into the surface; and he works with stained, leaded, and beveled glass. His work can be seen in custom homes, religious settings, and a variety of local businesses, from restaurants to body shops to corporate boardrooms.

A sleek sign he created for Opportunity Body Shop in the Spokane Valley combines mirrors, neon, and etched glass. For Grannys Buffet Inc. restaurants, Talbott makes interior signs from painted and etched glass set in wooden frames and lit from behind, and paints decorative glass panes that show a cartoon granny in adventurous situations such as flying a plane or driving a race car.

Talbott did glass paintings at The Onion on North Division, carved glass for The Onion downtown, and etched glass to decorate the Mustard Seed Caf in the Valley. Rio Ds, the new casino at Albertinis Steakhouse in the Valley, features stained glass, leaded glass, and etched vinyl throughoutall Talbotts work. He also recently completed the dcor for several Arbys Roast Beef Restaurants outlets around the state, outfitting each restaurant with glass panels decorated with local themes, such the Omak Stampede for the outlet in that north-central Washington town.

Talbott says Northwest themes are the most popular choices for homes and corporate designs as well. A variety of wildlife, from fish and ducks to wolves and bears, find their way into his work, as do scenic vistas that depict the outdoors.

One of his most interesting projects, Talbott says, was a house in Airway Heights where the owners wanted to incorporate artwork into the home rather than add it later in the form of pictures hanging on the walls. Talbott designed 15 etched-glass panels that were incorporated into the railing system along a central staircase and the overlooking balcony it leads to. The panels create a panoramic view of a lake with a steep, rushing stream flowing down the stairway, and a variety of wildlife inhabiting the scene. Fish leap across the panels along the stairs, while a mother bear and her cubs await at the top. Other panels show a wolf and an osprey fishing.

Owners interests

Whatever the project, Talbott says he begins by talking with his clients to find out what they are looking for in the piece and to determine their likes and interests that he might incorporate into a design for them. He also discusses which technique and medium he will use.

By then, I have a good idea what they want, Talbott says. He completes a sketch, which usually only needs minor refinements before it goes into production, he says.

For a sandblasted piece that will be etched with abrasives, the first step in production is the creation of a stencil, which is made of self-adhesive plastic or rubber and used to protect the part of the glass that wont be cut. Talbott says he uses a projector to enlarge his sketch to the size of the finished piece and cuts the stencil or digitizes his design so a computer can make a stencil of the appropriate size.

Talbott then carves the design into the surface of the glass with a sandblast that sprays a current of air carrying small, abrasive particles. The longer he focuses the stream of abrasives on the surface, the deeper into the glass it cuts, he explains, so he can sculpt out a three-dimensional look by varying how long the glass is abraded. He also uses metal or wood pieces that deflect some of the abrasives to help create shadings or textures.

Talbott says he has been etching glass for about 15 years, and began doing stained glass several years ago. He is still learning new techniques for working with glass, though, as he did in a recent project at Spokanes Holy Cross Cemetery mausoleum.

The mausoleum features a special type of stained-glass window known as dalle de verre, which features colored glass set in concrete-like epoxy rather than strips of lead. When the mausoleum was expanded last year, new windows made with the technique were needed, but the artist who did the original work at the mausoleum in the 1960s had died. The owner and the contractor wanted another local artist to do the work and were referred to Talbott.

Talbott had never done dalle de verre before, but he was willing to learn. He drew designs for the church to approve, and when one was selected made a mold of it. The thick, bright glass, carefully selected to match the colors of the existing windows, was cut with a saw and chipped into shape with a hammer, then placed in the mold. The epoxy was poured in around the glass, and two windows, each six feet across and more than three feet high, rested for a week in the Talbotts dining room, where a constant temperature could be maintained while the epoxy set.

Talbott says his work time is divided about equally between large projects such as the mausoleum and custom work for individuals. He says jobs come to him through the bidding process for large projects and through referrals from builders, glass wholesalers, and other glass art studios here. Ryan House Studio of Stained Glass, Gallery of Glass, and others offer cooperative referrals to ensure customers are directed to the artists who can serve them best, Talbott says.

He says people in Spokane seem to be willing to spend to get custom work, and recently seem to have the money for such niceties. Sales revenues for Artistic increased about 20 percent in 1998, Talbott says, although they were still less than $100,000.

In addition to glasswork, Talbott provides other services, such as logo design, illustrations, and murals.

  • Anita Burke

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