© 2019 Unique Art Glass 

—   In loving memory of Caitlin

Mark's story: a lifetime pursuit of glass

Growing up, Mark remembers his father's love of putting things together, and his own tendency to take things apart—rapidly disassembling new toys in hopes of unveiling their inner workings and gravitating towards anything hands-on. Once in high school, he found himself perpetually immersed in creative pursuits, hungry to learn any and all new techniques offered in shop class. Thus, it may come as no surprise that when a female student teacher introduced Mark to stained glass, sharing about the growing glass movement making waves in the artisan world, Mark was captivated.

 

Having a strong feeling that glass might be his calling, Mark wasted no time finding a job at Spectrum, a newly-established glass factory in West Seattle, where he learned how to melt sand into glass sheets, rubbed shoulders with a cohort of up-and-coming glassblowers, and narrowly avoided several disasters involving molten glass.

 

Notably, this time and place in history would later be described as the "modern Renaissance of glass.” Much of the media attention has focused on the work and teachings of glassblowers such as Lino Tagliapietra (credited for bringing the rare Murano glassworks techniques of Venice to the Pacific Northwest) and Dale Chihuly (whose name and otherworldly creations transformed Western Washington into a glass mecca). And yet, the glass movement of the late 1970s spurred not just an insurgence of glassblowers, but a propagation of many different kinds of craftspeople looking to become entrepreneurs in their industry trade.

 

Looking to deepen his knowledge in the specialty of glass, Mark attended a summer seminar at Pilchuck Glass School—Chihuly's newly opened glass art education center nestled in the forested foothills of the Cascade Mountains. It was here that  Mark recalls taking an immensely impactful marketing class taught by none other than Dale Chihuly himself. While art glass at the time was being manufactured, designed, and fabricated primarily by large-scale factories, Chihuly introduced the possibility of a new framework: the small art shop/studio. 

Shortly after the transformative Pilchuck summer session, Mark met Stephen Terry of Sundance Art Glass , and soon after began a glass apprenticeship. Like many artists, he picked up projects on the side to make ends meet while honing the time-intensive techniques of the craft. By 1985, he landed a paid position, soon becoming the team's  research & development guru—testing and developing protocols for color and quality.

By 1989, Mark's ambitious exploration of nearly every facet of the art glass trade was beginning to harvest returns. At the behest of his peers, Mark reluctantly entered his first glass competition sponsored by the prestigious Corning Museum of Glass. As it turns out, Mark won the competition, and soon after launched Unique Art Glass.

For the greater part of the next decade, Mark grew his business one client at a time, approaching construction sites across the city with a photo album of work and an artist's version of a door-to-door sales pitch—leading to a steady stream of word-of-mouth referrals. In the mid-1990s, as fate would have it, Mark met Terre, a former interior design student with an eye for style, a passion for the arts, and a knack for marketing. Together, the couple launched Unique Art Glass into a new era of success.

Although today Mark and Terre are still a driving force in the business, they've spent the last few years preparing their son Zack, a lead fabricator, to take over the business operations. In its thirty-year history, Unique Art Glass has stood firmly through monumental hardships, most poignant being the Great Recession and the subsequent loss of their beloved daughter in 2008. Through each tragedy, refuge has been sought in the enduring mission to create unique art and preserve the techniques of this incredible, ancient craft for future generations to come.