TRAVERSE CITY — Steve Bentley sees a lot of waste tossed into landfills.
So when he spotted an online demonstration of sandcarving, he began to experiment with the process with an eye toward reducing waste and producing works of art.
"We throw away an amazing amount of glass," said Bentley, 54, who works out of his backyard shop in Mesick during the winter lull. "I wanted to stay green and not throw it away."
Bentley owns a glass restoration and replacement franchise as well as a construction business. Using power tools wasn't new to him, but using a sandblaster was.
The artist started by sandcarving pet memorials, coasters and wine bottle stoppers in stone and slate. Now he combines glass work and photography — he carries his digital camera everywhere and loves to explore back roads — to create the illusion of one landscape scene: part photograph, part translucent glass.
To produce the works, he centers a photograph with trees or grasses in the foreground on a piece of glass and covers the remainder of the glass with a kind of vinyl film. Then he extends the trees and grasses where the photo leaves off by drawing them on the vinyl. After cutting away the surrounding vinyl, he sandblasts the glass. Finally he removes the vinyl-covered areas to reveal the translucent shapes of trees and grasses that blend into the photo.
Currently he's experimenting with etching designs on both sides of mirrors for a 3-D look. He plans to backlight them with small LED lights, like the mirrors his brother recently saw on a cruise ship.
The glass works sell for $125 and up depending on size and detail.
Bentley said he got his artistic tendencies from his parents, both painters and crafters. His father, an ophthalmologist, specialized in oil paintings and stained glass, his mother in just about everything else.
"She doesn't buy somebody a birthday card, she paints somebody a birthday card," said Bentley's sister, Lori Burns.
Burns collaborated with Bentley to create light fixtures from recycled glass for her downtown Traverse City store, Green Island. The store's chandeliers are made from sandblasted blue Ball canning jars and its pendant lights from sandblasted wine and liquor bottles.
"It's beautiful. We have people looking up all the time," said Burns, who takes orders for the wine pendants.
Glass and photography aren't the only art forms Bentley uses. He's also a watercolorist in the "nature's light" style of late Benzie County artist and author Roland Roycroft, and a rustic furniture maker who uses leftover and recycled materials from construction and renovation jobs. For instance, he turned an old redwood fence into an Adirondack table and chair.
"He was always a dabbler," Burns said. "He's not afraid to try new things."
While Bentley has sold his watercolors and furniture at area art shows, he recently created a new website, www.grandtraverseart.com. After several careers, including commercial flying and environmental work, he said he's open to becoming a full-time artist.
"That's where my heart is. I have so much creative energy," he said. "There's no better feeling than when you sell something you've made and somebody appreciates it."
TRAVERSE CITY — Steve Bentley sees a lot of waste tossed into landfills.
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