Cover: Sunday Albuquerque Journal, Arts Section, June 14, 2009 "Since selling a newspaper they ran, Barb and Ty Belknap work together in a business based on her artwork." DRAWN TO THE LIGHT Artist, husband share creation Story by Aurelio Sanchez Of the Albuquerque Journal The blessing light is captured by the meditation window, making everything it touches glow. That's how Steff Chanat describes the hallowed effect of Barb Belknap's glass, tile and mosaic art. "What she is able to create in glass and mosaics is incredibly beautiful," said Chanat, a friend and neighbor. "It's crazy out-of-control beautiful." Barb, who with her husband, Ty, owns Placitas Art Glass, said it was the fabled New Mexico light that first brought her here 20 years ago from Pennsylvania. "I fell in love with the wide open areas of Placitas, and the light," she said. Her fascination with light and how it plays through glass is why she has recently resumed an artful career after an unforeseen 17-year interruption, caused by an unexpected foray into community journalism. Barb Belknap's works range from meditation windows to mosaic glass ponds in bedrooms and bathrooms, to decorative slate baseboards, to window treatments and door frames. She hastens to say she could not do any of it without her husband, who demonstrates that if it's true that behind every good man, there is a good woman, then it follows that behind every good woman (artist), there is a good man. "I'm no artist," Ty Belknap says unapologetically, who adds he's been a little of everything else, including fireman and paramedic, soldier, parole officer and oil field worker, among other things. the 17-year interruption came when the couple bought the Sandoval Signpost newspaper in 1993, and operated it until late last year, when they sold the business. The couple also founded Albuquerque Arts Magazine in 1997, and sold it after about a year. When they bought the newspaper, they believed it would be no more than a sideline, a creative outlet. but it became a needy, all-consuming monster constantly demanding to be fed, much like the giant man-eating plant in the 1986 movie "Little Shop of Horrors." Both Ty and Barb say they enjoyed working in the publishing business, regarding it "fondly" at a time that they raised their children. She said she hopes that their "blood, sweat and tears" gave their kids a good work ethic. Barb worked as editor and graphics designer, while Ty worked as reporter and grunt worker. 'I never imagined that it would grow as big as it did and that it would take over our lives," Barb said. Now that they sold the paper, Ty said it's interesting that he and Barb seem to have changed roles, noting that with the paper, he did the creative work of reporting and writing, while Barb did the behind-the-scenes grunt work of selling ads and laying out the paper. "Now, she's doing her art while I'm out doing the grunt work of cutting stone, carrying materials and grouting," he said. It demonstrates, he said, that in creating art, whether it is a glass mosaic or a beautiful crafted arts story, there is creativity combined with hard work, and the finished product is something they both could be proud of. Meanwhile, there was never much doubt about what Barb would be, growing up in Pittsburgh, recognized early for her talent in pencil illustrations. At Carnegie-Mellon University, she majored in animation and design, going on to work for three animation studios, including Rick Reinert Studios in Cleveland, where she worked on the cartoon series "ABC Kids." In her 20s, she worked as an artist in an ecclesiastical art studio that created artistic stained- glass windows and stained-glass art, decorating churches all over the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio. In 1986, she opened a small glass studio in El Z√≥calo in Bernalillo, where she met her husband, and together they began to make glass art, and raise their three boys. Even after they began to run the Signpost, she continued to make glass art and window quilts, illustrated a children's book and wrote ghost stories. They also did some traveling. "It got to be overwhelming," Barb said, so they decided it was time to sell the newspaper. There's time now not only for artful pursuits, but for fun ones as well, like being part of an all-woman band called the LadyFingers. They play Celtic, Gypsy and bluegrass instrumental music, with a mix of fiddle, mandolin, piano, guitar and stand-up bass. Barb plays the mandolin. Meanwhile, her design of a stained-glass window is among the top five finalists in a poster contest for the New Mexico Wine Festival. Her work can be seen at Sweet as all of that is, the best is that she's once again creating art full time, with Ty helping her. "It's really fun to have a minute, or two, to think about what we're going to do next, and then we do it." TOP OF PAGE
Placitas Art Glass