Barry R. Sautner has been carving and experimenting with glass since 1979.
With the encouragement of Dr. and Mrs. Leonard S. Rakow of New York City, two of America’s premier collectors, lecturers, and leading authorities on cameo glass, Barry has created a variety of astoundingly beautlful and intricate carvings.
His three dimensional approach to cameo glass carving results in such striking realism that all that went before appears flat. He has. mastered the difficult art of undercutting to the extent of creating a complete diatreta, which consists of an open lattice work design that is completely undercut with the exception of a few posts that keep the design connected to the inner vessel.
Feeling that even these posts detracted trom the overall design, Barry took this process a step further and developed a method of carving diatreta which is devoid of any post structure. The diatreta design is connected to the inner vessel by means of leaves, flowers, and the like, creating a homoqeneous whole.
In 1987, Barry was credited with having been the first person to create a double cage cup similar to those made in ancient times, but having two layers of circles instead of one. He has also developed a totally Inew technique termed “insculpture”, which consists of creating a three dimensionall design within a crystal paperweight by carving through small openings at the base,
Themes in his work range from a stunning reflection of nature and classical forms to more current topics such as the Hclocaust, aging, modern communications, and contemporary living and loving.
Barry’s work has been displayed at a variety of museums and galleries, and his work is part of the permanent collections of THE; BERGSTROM-MAHLER MUSEUM, THE BIRKS MUSEUM, THE MUSEUM OF AMERICAN GLASS and THE NEWARK MUSEUM, as well as many private collections. He was also one of two living artists to be shown in “Cameo Glass: Masterpieces from 2,000 Years of Glassmaking” which was sponsored by THE CORNING MUSEUM OF GLASS in 1982. In addition a number of art publications have also featured his work
Barry’s work is best summarized by quoting one such publication:
In sixteen centuries only a handful of glass artists have been able to reproduce the diatreta of the ancient glass artists. Barry Sautner now stands not only head and shoulders above all others but in our opinion has also surpassed the ancients in the beauty of his creations. Already Sautner has created more diatreta than all the ancient examples known. Sautner’s technical skill and ingenuity, combined with his artistic ability, presage much for the future of this art.
From L. H. Selman Ltd.
Awestruck as many have been, by the complex glass cameo teChnique used in the
ancient “Portland Vase,” (which dates between the late 1st c. b.c. to the
early 1st c. a.d.), Barry Sautner taught himself to decorate cold glass with
sandblasting. borrowing from the Romans’ diatreta cups, as well as the
refinement of the English cameo makers, Sautner opened Sautner Cameo Studio
in 1986; and since has mastered the craft, and evolved its artistic
Barry Sautner’s background as a glass-blower at Vandermark/Merritt Glass
Studios in New Jersey for nearly 10 years, had provided him with the passion,
the compulsion to explore glass as a means of artistic expression. But after
an illness forced him out of the sweltering heat of the furnace room, he
found he had artistic visions yet to be fully realized in glass.
“Glass has always been my canvas and my voice. In my carvings, I attempt to
express my innermost feelings which are for me, most difficult to express
verbally. Major themes in my work have included, but are not limited to, the
Environment, Beauty, Nature, Mythology, and the Spiritual Nature of Man as
well as man’s struggle with himself. I have attempted to bring the past into
the present and future by developing methods which challenge me to take glass
carving beyond its acknowledged limits. When creating a new piece, I enjoy
transforming the vessel-blank itself, incorporating it into the very design
of each piece. In addition I create each piece with a great degree of fine
detail hoping to involve and captivate the viewer with the piece and the
message contained therein. I sincerely hope that my art will represent to the
viewer something more than virtuoso carving.”
Beginning with shallow surface relief designs, Sautner continued to test the
depths of the glass. How much, how far could a carving go? The deeply
undercut methods of the Romans, were then catapulted into the modern age, as
the artist introduced a sand-blasting method of his own, called insculpture.
Using his invention, he could hollow out an interior image in clear glass
blanks. This resulted in infrastructures, previously thought to be impossible.
But Sautner sees the image inside, and reveals it to be possible. It is a
remarkable skill to visualize and create an artwork in three dimensions, and
the extractive methods Sautner has made his own, amaze even the most well-
versed in glass art techniques. Technique aside however, the complex,
personal symbolism of Sautner’s artwork seems more daunting. He keeps
notebooks, to record dreams at his bedside, thoughts that rush to him at odd
moments in the day.
“My work doesn’t come from my mind It comes from my heart, my feelings, my
emotions. There are many times when I will sit down and just draw then only
through finishing it, realize that it is symbolic of what is going on in my
life. If you look closely at each piece you will see much hidden detail. If
you look closer yet, you will see its meaning.”
Sautner’s willingness to explore monumental themes: emotions, philosophies,
life-transitions, speaks to people because his art’s scale is approachable
and intimate. The proximity of the viewer to the piece creates an exchange on
a personal level. Inspired as he is by the delicacy of ancient Roman diatreta,
and the demure qualities of cameo carving, one can immediately appreciate
Sautner’s skill. The complex framework of the works shows balance and
sophisticated sculptural sensibilities, but their fragile nature belies their
poise. Sautner removes layers, uncovers truths, and carves so deeply into
this glass skin, one may see a tremulous heartbeat in each piece.
2000 SOFA, Chicago, IL
1998 “Alienation of the Classics,” International Crafts Fair, Munich, Germany
1997 The Bethesda Glass Gallery, Bethesda, MD
Leo Kaplan Ltd., New York, NY
“35 Years of American Glass,” The Philharmonic Center for the Arts, Naples, FL
“Glorious Glass,” Owensboro Museum of Fine Art, KY
SOFA, Chicago, IL and Miami, FL
1996 “Frozen Fire,” Academy of the Arts, Easton, MD
Glasmuseum Frauenau, Fraunau, Germany
SOFA, Chicago, IL
1995 The International Exhibition of Glass, Kanazawa, Japan
SOFA, Chicago, 11 and Miami, FL
1994 Grohe Glass Galleries, Mashpee, Boston, Chestnut Hill, MA
“Timeless Treasures,” Cymann International, The Decorative Arts Center, New
SELECTED MUSEUM COLLECTIONS
Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Bergstrom-Mahler Museum, Neenah, WI
Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Russia
Christie’s Park Avenue, New York, NY
Giorgio’s Collection, Tokyo, Japan
The Museum of American Glass, Wheaton Village, Millville, NJ
CHRONOLOGY OF DEVELOPMENT
1952 Born in Philadelphia
1977 Began glassblowing at Vandermark/Merritt Glass Studios
1979 Began carving using sandblasting techniques
1982 Developed undercutting process creating three-dimensional effect
1984 Developed diatreta paperweight
Development of insculpture process
1985 Postless diatreta created
1987 Created double cage cup from single piece of glass
First major exhibition at Erlacher Glass, Corning, NY
Pushing the Limits as a Continuous Journey by Jan Smith
Glass has always been my canvas and voice. In my carvings I attempt to express
my innermost feelings which are, for me, most difficult to express verbally. Major
themes in my work have included, but are not limited to, the Environment, Beauty
and nature, Mythology, and the Spiritual nature of man, as well as, Man’s
struggle with himself
Pushing the Limits: Cameo Carving in
I became familiar with Barry Sautner’s work in 1990 after exposure to it at a paperweight collectors’ gathering. It was disarmingly different and he was very genuine and thoughtful about the direction of his work. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with
him further to produce an exhibition in 1991 at Bergstrom-Mahler Museum. The exhibit showcased his work in an overview of the art form with a catalogue created to document this exhibition. It also offered the opportunity to learn more about this artist and the art of cameo carving.
What I came to realize was Sautner truly had a gift to contribute to the world of glass and was serendipitously placed in the right place at the right time in order to follow his path. By a twist of fate, Sautner was removed from the arena of glassblowing when he contracted hepatitis in 1979. The illness cause the heat of the glass furnaces to be unbearable, forcing Sautner to find a niche in coldworking glass methods by sandblasting instead of hot glass methods.
This period of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when techniques in glass were very
experimental, and the concentration on new forms still relied predominantly on blowing
methods, Sautner’s approach put him out on a limb. He strove to develop an art for
which a technical mastery and precedent was established in ancient Roman times and again
by the English cameo masters of the ~ 9th century.
Still, Sautner persisted patiently, intuitively pursuing his own imagery in an art form that had an established classical precedent. His initial designs were shallow surface reliefs on paperweights that followed motifs of some of the turn-of-the-century glass masters such as Tiffany and Galle. He continued to explore relief carving in the manner of the English cameo. In 1984, he produced some extraordinary paperweights as limited edition series for Vandermark-Merritt Studios. These employed deeply undercut cameo carving methods with diatreta, a carving technique first used in the Roman Empire with an innovative method Sautner could claim as his own called insculpture, a sandblasting method he used to hollow out an interior image in clear glass. The works were an overwhelming success. They presented a new, fresh approach to the paperweight art and
quickly caught the attention of discerning collectors. .
As fate determined, he continued to assert his own approach to this ancient art, as well as
surpass it in creating a very personal language and imagery; mastering skills and taking
them beyond a craft. In essence, he developed a new vocabulary for cameo glass and
exceeded the skills of those both past and present.
The diversity of his imagery embraces both technical virtuosity and a signature artistic style. His images are drawn from several underlying themes that imply a personal message yet evoke powerful universal ideals. The thought provoking images are attended to with an equal amount of care in creating the work.
Among the themes Sautner has faithfully pursued in his work are care of the environment and preservation for which he produces works about nature. He has created works about life struggles that typically deal with relationship issues, time demands and societal pressures. In these works, he subtly raises issues of sexuality or the transition or passage of life, for example. Some of these are personal struggles and some consider the existential struggle of the human condition. Other ideas follow mythological or spiritual themes as a pursuit to find one’s place in this world or in one beyond.
Sautner’s work isn’t driven by an existing trend. It is driven by an inner voice or vision. Sometimes, ideas come to him in dreams and he keeps a notebook near his bed to record them before they slip away. Surprisingly, sometimes the ideas are not premeditated at all. They form out of the glass, creating themselves as the carving progresses, or more mystically, they are released from the glass, as Sautner would like to think.
His love of glass and intuitive understanding of it turns his sometimes 14 hour workdays into monk-like meditations, in which he and the glass become one. At this point, it is almost the creative idea is driven by a spiritual force and directing the carving process. As he describes it, it is as ifhe is no longer the artist, but he is the glass and someone else is the carver.
For those who are not involved in some type of artistic endeavor, this may be a difficult concept to comprehend. For those who are, there is an understanding that sometimes the best work unfolds from relinquishing the struggle and allowing the hands to become the vehicle for the creative spirit. Sautner has spoken of his own change from a state of consciousness to an alpha or subconscious state. It is precisely in that alpha state when analytical thinking is surrendered that the mind is freed to release other creative thoughts.
My work doesn’t come from my mind, he explains. It comes from my heart, my feelings, my emotions. There are many times when I will sit dawn and just draw, not knowing what the drawing is and then only through finishing it, realize that it is symbolic of what is going on in my life.
Barry Sautner Glass …. craftsman, Issue 138, October/November, 1996 Article by Karen Chambers
Sautner selected the works for this article. When he considered his overall experience he
felt they were representative of his work as a whole, reflecting the body of themes and
messages he generally portrays. They summarize the essence of his twenty years of
carving and the maturing of his style.
Double Cage Cup is a masterful, elegant example of glass carving at its most adventurous. As early as the 4th century a.d. examples of this extreme lapidary method of glasswork were being made in the Roman Empire. It is an extraordinary accomplishment in glass that has used cold carving methods instead of hot glass processes. The technique and effect has been experimented with intermittently, with Frederick Carder producing a diatreta effect through casting methods early in this century.
The level of difficulty in carving this interlacing network of glass attests to few such examples in existence. No one has attempted this skillful level of carving today, and historically, few examples were made and fewer yet, have survived.
Although Sautner’s technical approach is mechanically different than his ancient predecessors the Double Cage Cup takes on the virtuoso technical challenge that is closely related to working with glass. Glass has always offered the artist the interesting paradox of being both a supple, malleable material, yet one that can be very unforgiving. Mistakes cannot be reworked or covered up. They are simply discarded. The material is fragile and worked under extreme temperatures, therefore, breakage is always a risk. Glass is also a costly material, which becomes a stressful factor influencing the final product.
In addition to the inherent technical challenges, Sautner attempts to challenge the senses through his work. In Double Cage Cup, its daring, systematic motif and its precious scale, almost suggest it was made by machine, not by hand. Yet, the delicacy, the acuteness and finesse of construction offer a glimmer of human vision. There is a sense of artistic vitality, sensitivity to material and a driven passion to achieve beyond the realm of the possible. The work is bold, almost to the point of defiant, even at its small scale. Yet in its strength, it also possesses a fragility that causes one to hold their breath when just looking at it, as if it could break with the slightest gust of air.
The Umbilical Male is different. This has become a signature style for the artist.
Visually we might attach all types of historic symbolism or arcane references based on our own internalized codes. The initial visual impact is powerful in its minute, tightly closed form.
This work does not have the visual fragility of the Cage Cup, but possesses an emotional fragility, a vulnerability that in its human form expresses a sentiment for us all. In its fetal posture, it resembles a child in the womb, perhaps an adult child: the child we all become when we are wounded, hurt, disappointed, or tormented. It symbolizes the child we all become when we want to close out the pain, close out the world and turn inward.
The Umbilical Male is a powerful reminder of our sometimes desperate need to be cared
for when the world seems too harsh or demanding. The title itself, references the invisible
tie to a mother, to be mothered, to be attached to a caring being in some way in order to
survive the great unknown. Hold hands, stay close, keep warm and safe seems the
essence of its unspoken credo.
The tightness of the closure is direct, uncomfortable, tortured, tormented, and almost painful to imagine. The figure in his nakedness seems all the more vulnerable, closing himself off like a turtle withdrawing into its shell or an armadillo, rolling itself into a ball to protect its most vulnerable interior. Metaphorically, this being is also protecting his most vulnerable physical and emotional interior-one’s chest, eyes, and groin: one’s heart, soul, mind and spirit.
Sautner gracefully floats between several themes that seem to capture the essence of his work. In Fallen from Grace, we see the good and evil conflict depicted in an angel cast out of heaven: the classic theme of the good boy/bad boy. The Fallen Angel is an archetypal theme that literature has pursued endlessly.
We might be persuaded to think that this is a manifestation of the devil. Yet, as Sautner sensitively portrays this tormented soul, it can also be interpreted as the restless, reckless misguided youth; or the rebel without a cause.
This angel is possibly tortured, misunderstood, or persecuted. Angels have always been the emissaries of the heavens; the messengers from God who travel to earth and communicate with mortals. They have been romanticized as good, guiding forces or the opposing viewpoint of evil.
Here, in Fallen from Grace, the angel can be viewed as one who has gone astray, succumb to the frailty of mortals and the evils of temptation. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil … , Our spiritual points of reference have led us to believe that angels are beyond temptation. Angels are our conscience and our guardians from our own human misjudgment.
A fallen angel represents a loss of innocence, of godliness, of divine association. It also symbolizes the human struggle and a loss of hope of salvation, of rescue from evil, of deliverance. Who will save us from ourselves?
The Fallen Angel is an outcast, a rejected soul. He has been banished from an all-loving, all-caring, perfect environment that promises bliss. It is relegated to face the same struggles as humans face and hope to find bliss: that perfect happiness where we are under someone else’s care. Fallenfrom Grace evokes that urgency to find that special place of promise where there are no struggles, no pain, no worries, and no passage of time.
There is an interesting search for a special place of promise, of beauty and hope that seems to underlie much of Sautner’ s work. He presets a dichotomy of powerful/fragile; painful evocative images that at first glance seem to clearly represent one of his themes. However, by that very presentation, Sautner sets up a challenge with the viewer. There is an unspoken dialogue between the viewer and Sautner that ends with the question, ”How can you make a difference?” This challenge seems most visible in his works about nature.
The Orchid paperweight with diatreta and insculpture offers a display of many talents. The technical wizardry in its completion adapts the ancient skill of diatreta carving to a new presentation of multiple layers of color and delicate forms orbiting an interior floral pattern.
The interior pattern is a Sautner invention. Insculpture is achieved by drilling a small hole in the reverse of side of the form so that a fine sandblasting tool may be inserted to remove portions of glass from the inside. The image that is formed in this process is actually a cavity that results from the removal of glass. The thought that a cavity creates the look of a sculpted image almost defies a clear understanding and the image fools the eye.
The enchanting, dance-like suspension of the floral forms is captivating and absorbing. The circular motif draws one closer to the frozen central image. The exterior form is the positive image, the interior form is a negative image; each capturing the essential message of the artist: care for the environment and you will see this, don’t care for it and it will disappear. The care and precision of Sautner’s carving and the fragility of the results, reinforces the message of our fragile environment.
Sautner is a masterful storyteller if one is able to escape the technical skill and move
beyond the surface beauty of the work. His messages are timely, powerful and poignant.
He is a master at conveying those messages through his work. It is interesting that he is a
soft spoken, private and unassuming individual, who speaks with strength, determination
At one point, Mrs. Leonard Rakow, a noted glass scholar, collector and supporter of Sautner’s work commented that a work titled, Holocaust, was “hideously ugly, yet so delicately carved that one is entranced by it and at the same time almost compelled to remove oneself from it. It is truly the ugliest and most chilling masterpiece I’ve ever seen.”
Mrs. Rakow’s comment is really very complimentary. Sometimes the creation of art has been equated with making beautiful things. While those results may be true, many artists are not striving to portray a traditional approach to the concept of beauty, but instead strive to communicate a broader message of truth.
In creating great works of art, at times it is necessary to transcend the traditional concept of beauty to instill a greater message of truth. The messages that Sautner wrestles in his work are not about beauty. They are more soulful messages that directly relate to human experience, rather than serve as an escape from it. Yet, the beauty of the work instills a hope in the most hopeless message.
In his twenty years of carving glass, Barry Saunter has broken new boundaries and infused the ancient art forms of cameo and diatreta with an energy and vitality appropriate to the new era. He produces an art for our time, from techniques of the past in a material that is timeless.
Interview with Barry Sautner
Pushing the Limits: Cameo Carving In Glass, Barry Sautner, 1991, Jan Smith, Bergstrom-Mahler Museum.
Barry Sautner Carved In Glass, Karen Chambers, Glass …. craftsman. Issue No. 138, pp. 14 -17.
Barry Sautner, at The Glass Gallery, Sarah Tanguy, American Craft, August/September 1997, pg. 74.