Artist Roger Kaye creates truly unique works of art on glass–reverse glass, to be precise, which is inlaid with precious metals and stones such as mother-of-pearl. Roger was born in Mt. Kisco, NY on July 2, 1953. He graduated John Jay High in Cross River, NY 1971 and attended S.U.N.Y. in Delhi, NY for Horticulture. After college he went into several horticulture businesses and made a decent living doing tree trimming. In 1976 he moved to West Bend Wisconsin, where he worked in a factory welding wood stoves.
In 1978, Roger figured out that everyone had at least 10 dull knives in their house, so he started a mobile sharpening business. He quickly focused in on hairdressing scissors. Nearly 40 years later he is still in the scissor sharpening business. In 1996 he invented and patented a machine used to sharpen salon scissors, and now sells his system worldwide. In fact, Roger’s company, Rapid Edge, was one of the first companies in the US to have a website. The business has taken Roger all over the country, and to faraway places like Japan, Korea, China, Australia, Canada, England and even Paskistan teaching sharpening and supplying equipment to private companies and large corporations who manufacture hairdressing scissors and medical devices. The machines Roger’s company builds are his own invention, design and creation.
During his time building sharpening machines Roger had purchased a few high end machines and as his business slowed, he began to wonder if there were other uses for the equipment. One day he got paint on some glass and turned it over to reveal the most unusual results. That was May 15, 2014. Hence, for the past two years, Roger has been creating “reverse paintings” using specialized equipment. He is proud to have perfected many unusual techniques and invented many which he assumes have never been done.
Roger’s “go to” style is a mix of Nouveau and Deco. Lately he has been infusing steampunk elements and he has plans to do a series of abstracts, as well as more typical flower/still life works. He also writes contemporary country music for a company in Nashville and plays guitar. Roger Kaye presently lives in Glens Falls, NY about three hours directly north of Manhattan along the Hudson River. He lives there with his wife of 30 years. They have 3 children, still living with them. Two are soon to move and the youngest in 10th grade. Recently, he spoke to the Examiner about his experiences working as an artist and his hopes for the future:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): How and when did you decide to become an artist?
Roger Kaye (R.K.): I’ve always been an artist. If anyone wanted to find me in high school, all they need to do is look in the art room. I was a marginal student and graduated high school with a 1/4 credit applied after taking an oil painting class at night. Now I’m a successful inventor. Go figure. I developed a machine for sharpening hairdressing scissors. Instead of making a plain old machine, I turned it into a piece of functional sculpture.
M.M.: Growing up, which artists/types of art interested you?
R.K.: Loved impressionism, Hudson river school painters, Deco, Nouveau, and artists like Escher, Dali and Parish.
M.M.: How would you describe your work and what inspires it?
R.K.: Again refer back to the Nouveau-Deco periods. Building machines and working in ten-thousandths of an inch at a machine shop made me aware of how accurate things can be. Why not art? I love accuracy. My works are done with high accuracy line work and made interesting by mixing painting techniques with other media such as gold, silver, copper leaf. I used real abalone and mother of pearl. I use ANYTHING which, give life to my work.
M.M.: How did you go about getting into galleries and/or public showcases?
R.K.: I use the internet to look for shows. Zapplication is a great site to find shows, Galleries are a “stop in” basis. Hopefully Art Expo will garner some gallery interest.
M.M.: Do you have a favorite piece? If so, which one and why?
R.K.: My favorite piece is called “Sirens” and it is a totem of hummingbirds with two figurative woman reclining on rocks like the sirens in the “Odessy”
M.M.: What are your mediums of choice?
R.K.: My addiction is doing “reverse painting on glass.”
M.M.: Are there any mediums that you haven’t worked with yet but hope to soon?
R.K.: None so far. I have done water color, oils and acrylics. Metal sculpture, machine sculpture, clay sculpture bronzes. Wood working, cabinetry, guitar building, computer art and pretty much every art form known to man.
M.M.: How did you develop your unique style?
R.K.: As an inventor I own many tools and machines. I utilize several machines that were meant for other purposes. I just re-purposed them for art. My original “awakening” to reverse painting happened when I was spraying some parts and a there was a piece of glass in the paint booth. When I turned it over…it was magic.
M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding experience involving your artwork and/or being an artist?
R.K.: I just received an email from a customer who wrote… “I don’t know if you remember me, I bought a large picture of two hummingbirds in a black oval from you in Rhode Island back on July 12th 2015. Last Sunday I gave her the picture for our 45th anniversary. She was overwhelmed and hasn’t stopped looking at it.” Mind you this was 10 months later! He went on to state that they were having an electrician come to install special lighting so they can enjoy the picture in the living room.
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become an artist?
R.K.: Look at your life and look at the things which you always tend to relate to. If they are in the arts, then you MUST NOT dismiss them. These are the signs that art is your center. The further away you stray for your center, the more you wobble. Happiness in life is when you run true and when the wobbling stops.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
R.K.: I will be showing at the Northampton MA. Paradise City art show Memorial Day weekend. I will be in Rhinebeck Art Festival, June 25th and 26th, and in Wickford Art Festival, in Wickford Rhode Island, Jule 9th and 10th. At the moment, I am trying to work into other styles of reverse painting on glass. I had tons of people admiring and marveling at my art during Art Expo. Unfortunately sales did not materialize. I looked at what sold by other artists, and I need to account for this. Art is my passion, but I’m in business and as a businessman, I know you have to sell what people WANT. I stay true to my art whilst staying true to my business. The old adage “we can’t direct the wind, we can only adjust our sails” comes to mind. If people want flowers, landscapes and abstracts…. who am I to judge? Art is art.
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To learn more about Roger Kaye visit his official website, Rapid Edge company website and music website. He can also be reached by phone at 1-518-378-8916.