Studio Visit appears first in print, in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. Here, Melissa Merli visits with Mary Tangoraand Larry Steinbauier , artists who also operate the Urbana gallery Wind, Water & Light.
Q: What are you working on now, Mary?
A: Since I've been working with glass bottles so much and all of a sudden everything is turning into plastic, I'm making plastic jewelry, and I'm having a good time with it. I'm at the mercy of the bottle companies as to what colors they use. This (color) is almost like (glass artist Dale) Chihuly. They also discontinued the way they make the bottoms of the bottles. I pour boiling water on the bottoms (after cutting them off the bottles), and you never know what's going to happen. Every bottle has a different bottom.
Q: What do you make with the plastic?
A: I'm making scarf tubes. I'm making rings, earrings, necklaces, stickpins. This is a bracelet with beads. Sometimes I use the print on the bottles. This is a combo of shampoo and soda bottles. And here's two stickpins that have antique buttons on them.
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: They pop into my head. I don't think anybody's done this yet. I've looked all over the Internet, and I haven't found anybody. I think I'm on it. Since I was making jewelry from glass bottles, I just knew how to look at bottles.
Q: Are you still making glass jewelry, too?
A: Yes, people still love that. I've been making the glass jewelry since 1992. The last year and a half, I'd really been struggling with doing something different. I'm also doing a line of wood jewelry and a line of clock-gear jewelry. And when I have the time, I'm doing some paper doll collages, with maps. A lot of the stuff I use is recycled.
Q: Larry, what are you doing?
A: I'm still experimenting around with the lamps and getting more designs off them. I also made that apron with the garlic picture on it. That's a collaboration with Donald Enz of Gilman. We handle his work here. I'm also designing silk scarves. I'm designing a number of things, like cards and tiles. I start out with something I've done in watercolor and then I manipulate parts of the paintings.
Q: Are you still selling your T-shirts, too?
Q: How long have you two been making art?
A (Tangora): Forever. I think we figure he's been doing things for 30 years and me, more than 20.
A (Steinbauer): I quit a job over in Decatur in 1996. I was a farm manager at a bank. My degree was in ag economics. I had a scholarship to go to ag school or art school.
Q: Why did you go to ag school?
A: Because it was more practical for my parents, who were footing the bills.
Q: Why did you quit your bank job?
A: I was getting a lot of commissions to do artwork, so I was staying up late at night to do them. So I thought I would quit my job and have a lot more time to do artwork. I didn't know that marketing my art would take up all the time I gained by quitting my job.
Q: How long have you two had Wind, Water & Light (an artisans gallery)?
A (Steinbauer): Eight years last month.
A (Tangora): We opened in downtown Champaign during a Boneyard (Arts Festival) weekend.
Q: When did you move to Lincoln Square (in Urbana)?
A: Two years and three months ago.
Q: How's it going?
A: In spite of the economy, we're eking along. We wish the economy were doing better, then we would be doing better. I don't know how to get rich people here to buy local art. If people come from out of town and see shops like ours thriving, then they think it's a good, solid community. If they're not seeing that, then they think, "Well, why aren't people supporting their local businesses?" It's amazing how many out-of-town people we get in here.