We’ve gotten a good bit of snow out here at the Clay Coyote in the past few weeks. That’s meant plenty of plowing for Morgan, and lots of shoveling and sweeping for me. It has also brought out the beauty of our window displays. We have some amazing glass art in front of the windows here, and the pristine white backgrounds make the colors of these pieces pop. I have been drawn to the display on the East wall of the gallery in particular, where we have pieces from Karg Art Glass. This is the art of Rollin Karg, an artist who discovered his talents later in life than most.
Growing up, Rollin Karg was surrounded by men who worked with their hands. He describes his father and grandfather as “big strong hard-working guys.” Naturally, he wanted to grow up to be like them, working as a carpenter or contractor. They had a different vision for him, and told him that he would be the president of a company one day. So, he went on to study business at Wichita State and began a career in industry and sales afterwards.
As a result, his career in glass blowing did not start until age 38. On a family vacation, he had stopped at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York and saw a glass blowing demonstration. That was all it took to get him hooked. He began taking classes with Richard Stauffer at Emporia State University and in 1983 he began his career as a full time artist.
He started by making paperweights in his garage, and selling his work from the basement. Before long, the 340-square-foot workspace was not enough, and he moved into a 3,000-square-foot space. And 450-square-feet of that was dedicated to gallery space. Six months later, he had to move again.
Karg is now operating out of a facility in Kechi, Kansas that consists of two buildings. The largest is 7,300-square-feet and holds a 3,200-square-foot gallery. As his workspace grew and evolved, so too did his art. From the paperweights he started with, Karg began making larger sculptures from glass. These elongated pieces twist and stretch upward, and actually came about from a mistake he made while creating a paperweight.
The second building at his facility is 3,000-square-feet and started as a space to make metal stands to display his glass art as well as the furnaces he uses to create it. Karg, a man who clearly can suddenly be struck by inspiration and is not afraid of taking risks, began to experiment with metal and incorporate it into his art. He now makes sculptures that are a combination of metal and glass, and come in sizes both large and small.
Karg’s glass art can be found at galleries in nearly every state, as well as in Montreal and Toronto, and his metal sculptures are featured in sculpture walks. The Clay Coyote is the one gallery in Minnesota where you can find his work.