Sunflower Glass Studio, opened in 1978, is the wonderfully successful artistic partnership between Karen and Geoff Caldwell, wife and husband who shared a fascination for prisms and the rainbows they cast going back to their childhoods.
Karen is the designer artisan and Geoff is the craftsman at Sunflower Glass Studio. They collaborate to create beautiful windows and panels for houses and churches; unique beveled boxes; picture frames; and other designs from their imaginations and to fulfill clients’ dreams of a perfect piece of glass art for their own space.
Geoff is self-taught in the craft of flat leaded glass, hand beveling and stone wheel engraving. An English major and graduate of Rutgers University, Geoff is also a master blues guitarist, host of a classical jazz and blues radio show, and soccer coach. Karen, also Rutgers graduate, brings her background in horticulture, photography and design, landscape architecture and environmental planning to her role as designer.
About the Work
Karen and Geoff’s work draws heavily on the American stained glass window tradition that reached its height in the 1880's. Their signature is Geoff’s hand beveled glass: thick plate glass that’s been hand shaped, refined, and polished, resulting in a myriad of refracting surfaces that split light into sparkling rainbows, giving life and movement to the work and its surroundings.
The term "stained glass" comes from the Medieval European technique of painting or "staining" glass with various colors and images, familiar to visitors of cathedrals where religious images fill windows. In America, in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, the glass industry flowered, using colored glass itself, rather than paint or stain, in secular windows that were employed to great effect by the architects of the period. They used them everywhere that could be enhanced by the addition of light, color and imaginative design: in doorways and entryways, stairwell, cupboard doors, and situations that required strong but obscured light.
The same stained glass applicationsused by 19th century architects – wherever the addition of light, color and imaginative design might enhance the environment - work equally well in today’s houses and buildings. The Caldwells are skilled at designing and executing these elements to for your specific space.
A visit to their Sergeantsville studio reveals Karen and Geoff’s design and construction techniques, including custom work. There are full scale drawings by Karen, each containing hundreds or thousands of pieces in the design, all marked and numbered for Geoff to cut and join. There are racks and stacks of wonderfully colored, figured and textured glass hinting at compositions to come. A dizzying look at the works, in various states of progress, affirms that this is a couple whose superb design esthetic and masterful craftsmanship yield original works of lasting beauty.
Karen’s most recent series of work - fine art glass panels that earned her Master Artisan status with the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen – combines fusing, hand-painting, and traditional stained glass construction. These works feature flora, created by fusing, fauna rendered in the technique of medieval hand-painting, and leading. The resulting panels create a stunning story that is enhanced by the tension between the colorful fused flower elements and the finely detailed hand-painted animal images – a patchwork of glass that captures one’s imagination just as it captures the light that passes through it.
In addition to windows and panels, Karen has imaginatively used beveled and colored glass in a collection of decorative items for home, office, and gifts. She offers beveled glass candle holders of varying shapes and heights, beverage coasters, napkin holders, picture frames, and an array of colorful beveled glass boxes. A special collection, a strong statement of her horticultural and landscape design training, features her miniature Victorian-style greenhouses, complete with garden tools, furniture, and tiny pots.
Karen and Geoff’s childhood love of rainbows and prisms have led to their keeping a century-old tradition alive, working together in a family-centered craftsman business. They celebrate their closeness to their work that is increasingly hard to find in today's world. That dedication to fine craftsmanship and partnership shines through every piece of Sunflower Glass Studio’s work.
Sunflower Glass Studio, referred to often as a "little bit of heaven" is located just outside of Stockton, New Jersey. Karen and Geoff welcome you to visit and enjoy their unique and brilliant work, created by traditional methods and elevated by ever-changing inspiration. Step into their studio. Follow the rainbows. You’re guaranteed to find treasure at the end.