Pro Spotlight: Discover the Magic of Functional Fine Art / by Matt Pezzente

Functional art is not only useful, it’s also beautiful and uniquely you. It can highlight your interests or family, or even tell a story, artist Sandra Vlock says. She owns Studio Vlock in Branford, where she makes one-of-a-kind carved metal gates, screens and vessels called fireballs from repurposed steel mooring buoys.


Art and architecture. Vlock has had an architectural practice since 1990, using evocative sketches to engage her clients. On a trip to the British Virgin Islands, she discovered an artist working with steel. “It was one of those moments of inspiration for me to take a different direction,” she says. Upon returning home, she repurposed a large steel mooring buoy into a fire vessel as a birthday gift for her brother, and in 2015 she opened her art studio.

Vlock often creates whimsical scenes and strives for a sense of place that draws people in, something she has also accomplished as an architect. “I’ve recognized my passion and experience as an architect is what’s being played out now,” she says. “My motivation is engaging people in a shared experience.”


Interpretation by inspiration. Through her experience sketching landscapes and gathering information from clients, Vlock uses her art to tell stories about the environment and her clients’ lives. “As an architect I got skilled at listening and interpreting people’s stories,” Vlock says. “I’m always with a sketchbook recording ideas, inspirations and things that I see.”

Read on for some tips from Vlock on how to use functional art in your home.