SHAWN DOWD staff photographer|
Nancy Gong works on a trio of "Art Glass Blessings" in her Penfield studio. The small works, often given as gifts, are much more affordable than the larger architectural pieces she often does on commission.
Day in Photos
Calligraphy-etched discs fill gap in product line
Diana Louise Carter
December 14, 2007 9:51 am
Nancy Gong has a reputation for dramatic, abstract artwork made of cut or etched glass.
Her architectural glass features brighten and soothe onlookers in local homes and medical centers, as well as corporate boardrooms and atriums.
Sometimes costing thousands of dollars and taking months to produce, the works are out of reach for many people.
"I started thinking, 'What could I do with my artwork that people could collect?'" Gong said in her Penfield studio recently. She also wanted to make use of her Chinese heritage and foster her growing interest in calligraphy.
The answer to her original question satisfied another demand, as well: The companies that hire her for larger works often want a token-size Gong artwork to bestow on benefactors or valued employees.
So Gong came up with a gift item she calls "Art Glass Blessings." She takes three-quarter-inch-thick discs of clear or colored glass and etches them with Chinese calligraphy symbolizing various sentiments.
Priced at less than $100, these pieces have become popular gifts for individuals on special occasions. They also have become popular corporate gifts.
Blessings are sold directly from Gong's studio, in some local art gift shops and through Amazon.com. The online offering has resulted in sales across the country and abroad.
Gong offers more than 40 different symbols, three sizes and 10 colors. Even with all that selection, staff members at McArdle Ramerman Inc., an executive training company in Rochester, couldn't find one that was exactly right. So Gong designed a new one, featuring a watchword of their training: clarity.
The company gives Gong's 5-inch Blessings to chief executive officers upon completion of their training with the company.
"The first reaction is, 'This is so perfect and so beautiful and I am so putting it in my office,'" said Terry McArdle, chief operations officer, who also has a Blessing displayed in his office.
Gong also makes glass mementos in a variety of shapes that feature her artistic interpretation of a company's or nonprofit's logo. Institutions such as Rochester Museum & Science Center, Heritage Christian Services, Lifetime Care, the University of Rochester and St. John Fisher College have purchased these kinds of Gong works.
"From a business point of view, it was a very good move because it created an awareness of my artwork and what I do," Gong said. Sometimes people or businesses that enter the Gong world through Blessings go on to commission larger works.
A recent commission was unveiled in September at the annual ARTWalk on University Avenue: a bus shelter in front of Gleason Works etched with abstract images of the gears produced by Gleason machines.
Visitors to the Port of Rochester Terminal can see examples of Gong's work in some of the art glass windows there featuring her signature motif, a sailboat. The boardroom of LiDestri Foods in Fairport has a motif more in line with its spaghetti sauce — a giant tomato made of etched glass.
Because the Blessings and corporate gifts amount to up to 40 percent of her work, these small, quickly produced works can tide her over between commissions or provide creative instant gratification during a long-term commission. She declined to reveal her annual revenue.
Much as Gong researches a project and the company or family that commissions her before she starts creating, she puts some of the same research into smaller works.
"It's all about creating something that is meaningful," Gong said.
"Otherwise, it's just stuff."
Reprinted with permission from the Democrat and Chronicle