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Berlin artist brings laser etching to Chamber

7/12/12 | By Nathan Brunet, Staff Writer

BERLIN — A quick glance into James Coltellino’s art studio, Gecko Image Laser Works, reveals just how many different works can be crafted using a single technique.

Known as “Jungle Jim,” partly because of the magnificently colorful tropical tattoos that cover most of his body, the long-time local artist specializes in using a high-powered laser to etch designs into an array of materials such as wood and glass.

“The mediums I use are pretty much anything,” said Coltellino, who added that hard metals such as steel are difficult to utilize because of their solidity.

While his works come from a desire to create art, the Berlin studio, located in the Chamber of Commerce on South Main Street, acts as place to display and sell the art he produces.

A sign displaying the studio’s name is one representation of the laser machine’s precision. Consisting of a paper material made by a panel manufacturer, Trespa, two different colored layers are compressed on top of each other to form what appears to be a block of wood. When etched deep enough by the laser, the resulting groove on the front of the piece is the color of the back layer. The final product is a sign that can be displayed in private homes or businesses.

Along with laser-etched marble and tile pieces, stylized Corian countertops are prominently displayed throughout the cozy shop. Unlike most countertops that are visibly sectioned into separate parts, Corian countertops are known for incorporating a smooth and seamless surface on the entire countertop.

Once Coltellino has sanded his design etched onto the slab, there are no grooves on the surface and it can be used normally as a kitchen countertop.

Also prominent on the studio’s walls is a unique take on watercolor painting.

With an idea in mind of what the design will look like, Coltellino applies multi-colored acrylic paint on an entire sheet of paper. The laser is then used to etch very small lines in the paper, thus creating an image.

Many of the images that are featured in the artist’s works have been originally drawn by Matthew Amey, co-owner and artist of Independent Tattoo in Selbyville, Del. The two have been friends since Coltellino began getting tattoos from Amey 16 years ago.

“I am continually trying to merge modern technology with traditional processes, and the laser etcher is the most state-of-the-art piece of equipment I’ve been able to use so far,” said Amey.

Numerous works of glass are also on display, and most can be worn as jewelry. One set of necklaces is made up of layered glass that is pressed in a machine that melts each layer onto one another to create a colorful collage.

Other glass jewelry involves a technique called lampworking, in which glass is melted by a torch and wrapped around a rod to create a specific design.

A brightly colored stained glass parrot hanging on the studio’s wall exemplifies larger glass projects that can be custom built.

“The difference between mine and store-bought stained glass is that mine is of much better quality,” said Coltellino. “Other than some pieces that are only done on one half, mine are finished all the way around.”

Aside from his laser and glasswork, Coltellino builds custom mirrors, etched s, small furniture and wooden lamps that use florescent bulbs. Each piece is entirely unique and can be specially designed to a customer’s wants.

“If I can do it, I will,” he said. “If I can’t, I won’t lead them on.”

Although Gecko Image Laser Works opened just one month ago, Coltellino has been interested in the arts since his teenage years. An electrician for 33 years, he began searching for a more profitable career last year. When Amey presented a laser etched Mayan calendar as an example of a possible art project, Coltellino instantly knew he wanted to change his career path to the arts.

For more information about Gecko Image Laser Works, or to discuss a commissioned piece, contact Coltellino at 410-845-3007 or

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