Artist Sandy Wallin has taken the inspiration for her colourful glass sculptures from Cayman’s tropical surroundings and underwater marine life for more than 20 years.
Her stunning works of art, including her signature Queen Angel Fish and French Angel Fish sculptures have captured the imagination of collectors from around the world.
Sandy, who apprenticed in New York City for five years with Argentine sculptor Roberto Estevez, the protégé of Salvador Dali, began selling her pieces in Kirk Freeport in 1992. Since then, they have been a popular keepsake for visitors wishing to take a reminder of Cayman home.
“When I first started I had lots of dogs, cats and different animals,” Sandy says. “Judy, the store manager at the time, suggested I do fish. I made one and it was sold within minutes.”
Sandy’s glass sculptures now include a range of whimsical and colourful fish, inspired by those that you would typically see while snorkelling in Cayman, including angel fish and stingrays, which are among the most popular collector’s items. They are available in a range of sizes, starting at 6 inches, as well as both free standing and wall art pieces.
“People like the pieces as it reminds them of Cayman. You don’t have to think to understand them,” Sandy says. “They are colourful and fun. People say to me they just have to look at them and it takes them straight back to Cayman for a moment. I think that is what people find so attractive about them. They bring a lot of life to a house.”
She adds: “I often meet people who buy a piece each time they visit Cayman. I recently met one couple who had visited Cayman each year on a cruise for the last 17 years, and had a piece of my artwork for each visit.”
Such is the demand that they are now sold in some of the most prestigious stores worldwide, including Neiman Marcus in the United States, Galleries La Fayette in Paris and Dickens and Jones in London. Indeed, the Wallin brand is a growing family business. Sandy’s daughter, Nina Wallin, is also an artist, and she has created an Orchestra Series, featuring free-standing glass sculptures of musical instruments, while daughters Noel, Nikita and Nasha work behind the scenes.
Sandy creates her works of art in her studio in Key Biscayne, Florida. She cuts the various pieces of coloured glass required for each piece by hand, which is then painstakingly ground together to fit tightly together, much like a puzzle. The glass is then placed in a brick kiln, which takes a day to reach its desired temperature of 180 degrees Celsius. At this temperature the glass melts, allowing the various cut pieces to fuse together into one whole piece. It then takes a further day for the kiln to cool back down. Once cooled, Sandy paints each one by hand with 24 karat liquid gold.
Sandy, who has lived part time in Cayman for more than 32 years, says that each piece originates from a sketch, often inspired by sitting out on her apartment’s porch along Seven Mile Beach. She says she goes back to the sketch again and again, until she has captured the moment the way she envisioned.
Recent additions include a number of pirate inspired artworks, including Cayman Wench, Cayman Pirate Fish and Cayman Pirate Turtle.
“I really love the energy of Pirates Week,” Sandy says. “Everyone gets dressed up and joins in the fun, and I really wanted to capture this.”
Sandy is working on launching a new Table Top collection, including glass place mats and serving platters, which will be available in October.
“I wanted to create something that was not only aesthetically beautiful to look at, but something which was functional, too,” she says.
Sandy will be making an appearance at Kirk Freeport, where custom engraving will be available, from 27 February to 8 March and 15 to 19 April.
“People say to me they just have to look at them and it takes them straight back to Cayman for a moment.” Artist Sandy Wallin