Gabe Silva, glass artist, started making fused glass as a teen fresh out of Santa Fe High School in 2000. Now a grown man, he turned his hobby into a full-blown thriving glass art business. His work is available online and at art shows.
His self-named business, Gabe’s Glass Creations, opened in January 2012, specializing in fused glass art.
Fused glass art is produced through a multi-step process of heating sheets of glass and colorful glass accents in a high-temperature oven, or kiln.
His unique artistic vision comes in an assortment of colors and shapes, including crosses, plates, candle holders, artistic tiles, sun catchers and decorative shapes.
Made from the heart, his pieces represent scenes from some of his favorite movies, cityscapes and shapes that represent different holidays and events.
One of his favorite pieces is called the “Stand By Me” plate, inspired by the 1980s movie, Stand by Me.
“I’ve made several versions of the Stand By Me plates because a lot of people like it,” Gabe said. “And I didn’t want to sell the original.”
In the beginning
Gabe was first introduced to fused glass while attending The Challenge New Mexico day program back in 2001. He continued to learn at his current day program at Phame, Inc.
Once he decided he wanted to open his own business, he started taking classes in 2011 at Bullseye Resource Center in Santa Fe to learn more about fused glass.
A zero-percent business loan allowed Gabe to take these classes and purchase the equipment he needs to produce his art, both at Phame and in his own home.
Gabe said starting his own business changed his life because it has allowed him to be more independent. It has allowed him to work at a job he loves during hours that fit his schedule and earn his own money.
“I am able to travel and talk about my glass work with people from all over the world,” he said. “It’s fun when people tell me they’re glad to meet an artist from Santa Fe.”
Becoming a role model
Attending conferences and art shows is the highlight of owning his business.
His artwork has appeared at several disability conferences, including the National Down Syndrome Congress conference and The Arc conferences where he’s visited with young attendees and parents, receiving many compliments on his work.
“Several times he was told that he and his business gave them hope,” Gabe’s mom, Loretta Silva, said. “They could see the possibilities for their children after school.”
The scene she described recognizes Gabe as a person other people look up to. But according to his mom, Gabe doesn’t quite understand the meaning of being a role model.
“Gabriel does not think of himself as having a developmental disability or Down syndrome,” she said. “We have never put a label on him. He believes just like everyone else and that we are all special in our own way.”