Fish Fired Up to Be Eye-Catching

Apr 11, 2018
Supplied Photo

It’s a fish phase on a large scale for Mary Tantillo of SwellColors Glass Studio & Gallery.

Tantillo created the school of glass tropical fish that serves up a colorful mobile above the new counter at the renovated Scojo’s restaurant in Surf City.

A different version, a 32-by-19-inch striped bass, caught the eye of many on social media when it was posed at the surfside.

In her 12th year of business and more than 20th as a nature-inspired glass artisan, the artist has been creating the fused glass fish for a few years at her Surf City shop. They were discovered by interior designer Sherry Fruchterman of Creative Spaces when she came by the shop, loved them and felt they were a good fit for the restaurant.

“We cut the body out from a big sheet of glass, then use smaller pieces to make the fins and decorate them,” Tantillo said, describing the process. Her assistant and fellow artist is Ceire Parker.

“We use a special glass called dichroic glass for the details, such as spots and stripes on a lot of the fish. This glass is very shiny and typically reflects a different color than it transmits. We are in the process of making a whole school for my studio,” she said recently.

The striped bass that was photographed on the beach finally emerged from one of Tantillo’s favorite memories of catching a real one – a 39-pounder. It was made in the same process but with different glass.

“I had been looking at these scraps of glass,” Tantillo said, pointing to containers of triangular pieces trimmed from sheets of glass in past projects, stored in containers on the floor of the workshop. “I had been saving them and saying ‘I gotta do something with them.’ I don’t have a furnace to melt them down and then blow that into something.

“I had just been mulling this over for years and finally I was really inspired. A fish makes me feel very connected to our area, and the striped bass is an amazing fish. I caught my first one a few years ago. That was the most awesome day.”

She lifts one carefully out of the kiln. What had been triangles of scrap glass are now scales. A glass powder melted into a whiteish cast. The glass pieces had been arranged into a design on a special paper that laid on the kiln shelf

“It was fired at over 1,400 degrees for over 12 hours.”

A glass tuna on display in the shop is more dimensional because it was packed with LBI sand into a relief mold.

“I guess I am on a fish theme right now,” the artist said. “Sometimes you’ve got to go with it. I did a whole year of waves in glass. We’re finishing that up. It took me eight years to finish, and then we started the sun series. So this summer we’re going to unveil our next phase of our sun collection.”

See and find out more at – like how Tantillo came to transition from a former career in pharmaceuticals. The shop is at 1715 Long Beach Blvd., Surf City.

— Maria Scandale





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