"A Pot of Gold" might be overstating it a bit, but it was a shared love of rainbows that inspired Karen and Geoff Caldwell to open Sunflower Glass Studio in 1978 and turn their fascination with beveled and colored glass into a successful artistic business. Karen is the designer and Geoff is the craftsman, and together they create beautiful windows and panels for houses and churches, as well as unique beveled boxes, picture frames, and decorative hangings, among other designs.
Both Karen and Geoff have been fascinated with prisms and the way light is refracted through them since childhood. The hand beveled glass they create is the studio's signature. Thick plate glass is hand beveled, refined and polished. This results in a myriad of refracting surfaces that split natural and artificial light into sparkling rainbows, creating designs with an ever changing fascination. Geoff is selftaught 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 Caldwell, also a graduate from Rutgers University, brings a background in horticulture, photography and design, landscape architecture and environmental planning to her role as designer.
Their work draws heavily on the American stained glass window tradition that reached its height in the 1880's. 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. These applications work in todays houses and buildings, and the Caldwells are skilled at designing and executing them. A visit to their Sergeantsville studio reveals windows and other works in progress. 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. Looking around at the displays, one is struck by the mixture of excellent design and stunning elegance. Karen Caldwell has imaginatively used beveled and colored glass in a collection of decorative items for the home: octagon shaped, beveled candle holders in various heights; coasters in sets of four; napkin holders; miniature greenhouses, Victorian in style, complete with garden tools and furniture and tiny pots; picture frames, beveled and colored; and of course, the beveled boxes in a myriad of sizes, shapes and colors. Karen and Geoff have kept a century old tradition alive. It is reminiscent of pre-industrial America when artisans worked in small family centered businesses. They have retained a closeness to their work that is increasingly hard to find in today's world. "The Caldwell's venture presents proof positive that a cottage industry can be alive and well in the 20th century. In a world increasingly dominated by large, impersonal work places, small businesses like Sunflower Glass Studio serve as an important reminder that there are alternatives" (Robin Wittemore, Princeton's US 1, 1993). They have been called a "little bit of heaven" and are located just outside of Stockton, New Jersey, Sunflower Glass Studio is well worth a visit. Together, Karen and Geoff Caldwell have maintained a tradition of enduring elegance that remains unsurpassed. Take a step inside and it is likely you will discover a pot of gold.