Creation of the Week - Charles Collins' Glassworks

Art is broad reality, the multifaceted expression of the human experience, our innate search for beauty and truth that is nothing less than the thirst for God in our hearts. Among all the art forms out there, at least in my opinion, one of the ones that best blends practical application with aesthetic power, is the art of glass blowing.

Creating something that is designed to be both useful and beautiful is remarkable. Add working at mind-boggling temperatures into the mix, and you have quite a unique craft. And that’s exactly what Charles Collins loves most about this medium, and we’re featuring his work this week. He recently created a set of whiskey glasses that are not only hand-blown, but are inlaid with gold leaf. I reached out to Charles for an intro:

My name is Charles Collins. I was raised in Mobile, Alabama, one of five children. I have an older sister and three younger brothers. I graduated from the University of South Alabama as a four-time letterman in Track & Field throwing the javelin. While earning a degree in Sports Management I started blowing and manipulating glass in my senior year. During that first class three years ago, I fell in love with the art form.

After graduation, on a leap of faith, I moved to Houston, Texas to intern at Western Academy, a private liberal arts school for boys. I have just completed my first year as a full-time teacher for Western Academy as the Art Director, P.E. Coach, Assistant Football Coach, and Head Track & Field Coach.

Upon moving to Houston, I found a small glass studio, Three Dimensional Visions, where I continued my passion for glass blowing. After a few months of renting time at the studio, Three Dimensional Visions offered me an internship which turned into a part time position as an assistant Gaffer (glass blower). With this opportunity I was able to start my own Glass Crafting business. I blow glass because I love the danger of it all and the beauty that results.

Gathering glass at 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, stretching, shaping, blowing, to form something that compliments the light so well is like nothing else. The way the glass feels, how it moves, and the limitless applications are all very exciting. Glass Blowing and coaching are my passions, I am blessed to be able to do both.
— Charles Collins

To me this is the sign of a true artist and artisan: his passion and excitement for what he does. He talks about glass blowing the way I talk about pulled pork, but that’s a separate issue. As someone who’s been interested in glass blowing for a while, I found it fascinating to hear about the art form from an insider, someone who actually does it for a living. After reading his introduction I spent more time than I’d like to admit to watching glass blowing videos on YouTube. Don’t start down that path; you’ve been warned.

Here are a few samples of his work.

I think Charles’ example is remarkable because he has discovered his main passions in life, and what’s more has put in the hard work that it takes to master them and make a living doing them. As a collegiate athlete, a coach, and an Artist and craftsman, his dedication to what he does is an invitation to all of us to find what we love, and then master what we find. Maybe our achievements won’t happen at 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, but that same effort and determination are invaluable assets in the pursuit of our art, and of our dreams.

Feel free to contact Charles, or hire him for customized glass creations.

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by Nik Sternhagen

Marketing Specialist at Catholic Support Services

Creation of the Week - Nicholas DeRose and Ascension's "Confession is a Place of Victory"

A few weeks ago the Catholic Community buzzed with the launch of a video called “Confession is a Place of Victory”, part of Ascension Press’ awesome new series called The 99. Featuring the unforgettable Fr. Mike Schmitz, and the beautiful animation work of the legendary Todd Bright, the video is a stellar accomplishment from many perspectives: cinematography, animation, storytelling, and evangelization, to name a few. Here it is, if you haven’t seen it yet:

Confession is not an easy topic, in any circle, and it is probably one of the most widely misunderstood and most heavily under-appreciated means of sanctification that the Church offers. Taking full advantage of Fr. Mike’s uncanny ability to explain things in a way that is refreshingly engaging, memorable, and relatable, the Ascension team has presented the sacrament in a way that anyone can connect with.

Artistically, the project is a masterpiece. The look and feel that the crew was able to achieve, with the help of some huge lights and expert color grading, is stunning. It blends perfectly with the beautiful animations to create a work of art in the truest sense, that simultaneously enlightens, uplifts, and teaches the viewer.

While this video is obviously the accomplishment of many people, we wanted to focus in a little bit on the man who directed it, Nicholas DeRose. After working for years with Ascension Press, Nicholas has recently struck out on his own.

Anyone who has made the jump into freelancing or starting their own business, especially if they are supporting a young family, can attest to the daunting nature of that decision. It takes guts to leave the security of a steady paycheck and a regular schedule, and expand into unknown horizons to make it on your own. But the possibilities that open up in front of you when you take a step like that often prove to be beyond your wildest dreams.

I reached out to Nicholas for a bit of an intro:

I am the Founder and Director of Visual Rose Productions.

I grew up loving movies and how they were made. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Lost left huge impressions on me. My mom homeschooled my siblings and I growing up and that’s where I fell in love with Catholicism.

It’ll be eight years this September that I will have been married to my beautiful wife. Being a father of three has really changed my perspective of beauty. Before kids I thought of beauty in terms of music, lighting, art, video and I still think that’s all true but what’s even more beautiful are the small moments, the memories, the interactions I experience with my wife and children.

I love being a father to them like God is a father to me. Being a husband and father is and will always be the most thrilling adventure of my life. It’s in the home with family and God that beauty is found.

I worked ten years for Ascension and have recently jumped into doing my business full-time. I learned a lot from my time there and it’s been an adjustment for me and my family over the past few months but we are beginning to settle in to the new role / schedule. Having more autonomy over my work and spending more time with family has been huge. I love what I do and I am excited for this journey that God has me on.

I think that’s a pretty remarkable approach, and one that anyone can benefit from imitating. To me it seems evident that Nicholas is a man of God, a man for his family, and a master of his craft, and that’s a combination that is not easy to find. Oh and his demo reel is pretty fantastic, if you haven’t seen it.

If fear is keeping you from taking a leap, or even a step, in your life or career, look to examples of people like Nicholas DeRose. They are living proof that although it’s not easy, it’s worth it, and that when you expand beyond the horizon of what you know, you begin to understand the extent of your potential.

Feel free to contact Nicholas, or hire him for any of your film needs.

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by Nik Sternhagen

Marketing Specialist at Catholic Support Services

Creation of the Week - Chris Alles' St. Charles Borromeo

In this day and age, it sometimes seems like practically anything can be called art, and no questions are asked. So when we come across a true masterpiece, the breathtaking result of decades of the painstakingly determined mastery of a centuries-old craft, it is a stunning accomplishment.  This is exactly what Chris Alles has achieved.  

This week we’re featuring Chris for his bronze-cast statue of St. Charles Borromeo that he created for the church of St. Charles Borromeo in Montgomery Township, NJ. A brief visit to his website portfolio reveals that his talents go far beyond his bronzework, but that’s the focus of today’s post. Check out Chris’ freelancer profile or portfolio.

Chris is a sculptor currently residing in New York.  He began drawing at the age of two, but it was not until sixteen years later that he began to take art seriously. His passion for art ultimately led him to Florence, Italy, where he apprenticed for six months under sculptor Dony MacManus. 

There, he discovered the beauty and power of the Italian Renaissance masters, and in the presence of the raw energy of their work, he encountered the need to become a sculptor.

After his time in Italy, Christopher returned to his hometown of Portland, Oregon and continued his studies with Polish sculptor Tomasz Misztal. Under Misztal’s guidance, he discovered how to link the influence of the past with that of the present. 

Consequently, his work often references and quotes artists ranging from the Renaissance to the early to mid-twentieth century. The primary process behind the creation of his art consists of a study from the past and its development to now, then responding to the contemporary world in light of this study.

Christopher has been commissioned for projects throughout the US, from church restoration projects to religious statuary, including most recently a set of reliquaries for the St. Joseph Dominican Province.

In 2018, Monsignor Gregory Malovetz, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Montgomery Township, NJ, commissioned Christopher Alles to sculpt an image of the saint. The pastor and artist decided together to depict a typical scene from the Saint’s life: St. Charles serving the poor. Christopher decided to focus on the penitential aspect of this relationship, showing Borromeo receiving the poor man’s confession. Here one can clearly see quotes from Rembrandt’s famous Prodigal Son painting.

We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: ‘I will pray, and then I will understand.’ This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work. In meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in others.
— St. Charles Borromeo

If I have learned anything from Chris, it’s to never give up in the pursuit of mastery.  We are all given gifts and talents that it is our task to develop, perfect, and ultimately put at the service of God and others.  It’s precisely in the often unrewarding daily drudgery, the small steps towards perfection, that from our own clay we will one day find our own masterpiece taking shape.

Feel free to contact Chris, or hire him if you’re in the market for timeless bronze masterpieces.

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by Nik Sternhagen

Marketing Specialist at Catholic Support Services

Creation of the Week - Laura Allen's Bulletin Design

This week we’re featuring Laura Allen.  Laura is a writer and director, who shoots and edits event videography and habitually works on film projects which raise awareness for schools, charities, and nonprofits, all endeavors she is passionate about.  She lives and works in New Jersey, and is a charming, creative and talented individual. Check out her freelancer profile and portfolio

Laura stirred things up a few weeks ago for what might seem to be a side project; her beautiful bulletin design for the People of Hope community.  “Beautiful” is not usually the first word that comes to most people’s minds when they think about most Church bulletins, but the work that Laura has done here truly breaks that stereotype.  Her use of balanced fonts, discrete, gentle color combinations, and a pleasant and engaging layout all combine into what has to be one of the prettiest bulletin designs I’ve ever seen.  

To me this hits the heart of what the New Evangelization is all about: presenting the eternal truths of the faith in a new and engaging way.  While I wouldn’t call Church bulletin design an eternal truth, the current system does feel pretty eternal, and this new approach is a breath of fresh air that any Church or organization could benefit from imitation. Here’s a snippet from her profile

“I am a little pencil in the hand of God. Whatever he writes is beautiful”

-St Teresa of Calcutta

It’s funny. I am a writer and filmmaker who has had a long, hard, struggle to accept that I am a writer and filmmaker. That I’m a creator and a creative. Growing up, these seemed like very silly, even self-centered pursuits.

I’ve always loved the Lord and wanted to serve him, but for some reason, for the longest time, I thought that had to look a certain way. That it had to be heroic.  That I had to be a missionary, or be serving the poor in a foreign land, or a campus minister, or a nun and that any other form of service was somehow a waste. But Christ, in his patience and tenderness has slowly been teaching me that to serve him is to simply be a little pencil in his hand.  And, for me, I’m learning, that means creating. Creating is my way of loving others. 

It’s a walk of trust to believe that making meaningful things can change hearts. That Christ can move and grow, if we’re humble enough to be simple sowers of seeds. And that’s how I see what I do: to make little films is a simple sowing of seeds. How beautiful it is that we artists have the opportunity to evangelize simply, in smallness, and then to watch in faith as God does the rest.”

Laura’s example is a great reminder to all of us, living out our faith in the creative field, to not hinder or hide the God-given gifts and talents that we have been blessed with, to seek and find Him in the beauty that is all around us, and where there doesn’t seem to be much beauty, like perhaps in some Church bulletins, to put it there, and watch how He is able to work through it. 


Feel free to contact Laura or hire her for design or video work! 

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by Nik Sternhagen

Marketing Specialist at Catholic Support Services