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Berlin artist brings laser etching to Chamber

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 frames, 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 ltldagger@yahoo.com.