News & Events

With first public work, talented couple expressed diversity in art!
By Marti Gacioch
Arts and Culture With first public work, talented couple expressed diversity in art!

Amber and Mark Irwin share a passion for their artistic creations, but they each excel in very different genres. Amber, a stained-glass artist, recently unveiled her first public artwork, while Mark, a longtime, cartoonist, continues illustrating drawings for the world of superheroes.

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Thanks to Amber, a new sun shines brightly in Solana Beach now. Her sun sculpture, a dazzling mosaic of multi-color stained glass rays, enlivens the Coastal Rail Trail, just across Coast Highway from the Solana Beach City Hall.

The trail, a multi-use pathway designed for walking, biking or jogging, will run from Via de la Valle in Del Mar all the way to Oceanside when completed.

Each city along the trail is responsible for building and maintaining their section of it to provide users with an easy, safe way to navigate between the coastal cities on Coast Highway.

It took Amber about six weeks to complete her sun mosaic, which features transparent sun rays on both sides of the sculpture. Placed on a wooden stand anchored to the ground, her stained glass work is set in a code-10 steel frame. Her sculpture stands 88 inches tall and is 65 inches wide.

Last December, Amber submitted her art proposal to the city when they called for designs. She was awarded the winning contract in May after competing against 35 other artists. Not bad for a relative newcomer to the art scene.

Amber's journey to an artistic career took some interesting turns along the way.

A native of Pasadena, Amber moved to San Diego State University where she received a degree in classical literature. But while doing her senior project in Greece, she became enchanted with Grecian art.

"I fell in love with their mosaics," she said. "I was impressed with the 2,000-3,000 year-old pieces I saw that still looked great."

Even though Amber's interest in mosaics was piqued on that European adventure, it would still be several years before she actually began working with stained glass.

After she and Mark settled with their two children in Solana Beach 10 years ago, she worked for 13 years as a sales representative and interior design consultant for Cassidy West on Cedros.

Still, she kept those memories of Grecian mosaics in the back of her mind until two years ago when she visited the Alpine Stained Glass shop near SDSU. There, a salesperson demonstrated glass cutting for her, and Amber knew that she found a whole new career.

A self-taught stained glass artist, Amber shows her pieces at Escondido's Shiva Artistic Collections and is now designing a catalog of her work at

While Mark and she are mutually supportive of each other's talent, his art demonstrates that comics aren't just for kids anymore.

Amber Irwin painted patina onto the steel bolts of her sculpture that sits along the Coastal Rail Trail Artist puts heart and 'sol' into sculpture.
by Michelle DeCrescenzo
San Diego Union Tribune

SOLANA BEACH - Drawing from the Spanish word sol, Amber Irwin combined pieces of glass in a circular pattern to reflect both the light and the shape of the sun.

Titled "Sunburst of Color," Irwin's sculpture is the first work of public art to be installed along the Coastal Rail Trail next to Highway 101 in Solana Beach. Hers was chosen from 35 proposals submitted to the Public Arts Advisory Committee.

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Irwin said she wanted her sculpture, which is situated directly across from City Hall, to be extremely eye-catching.

"If people smile when they look at it, that's what I want," she said.

Irwin smiled recently when the midday sun cast a stream of light through the sculpture, which is more than 7 feet tall and weighs nearly 1,200 pounds.

"When the sun comes through, that's what I love," she said, pointing to the yellow rays that run down the center.

For six weeks, Irwin, 37, toiled in her Solana Beach garage, working on one side of the piece at a time. Cutting through sheets of colored glass using industrial-strength, waterproof and weatherproof clear glue to adhere to a clear glass base.

"I just had a box of Band-Aids so I could quickly wrap and keep going," she said with a laugh, recalling the number of cuts she endured.

All the cracks between the mosaic pieces were sealed with grout and had to dry for two weeks.

"Then you flip it and start again," Irwin said of the process of creating the two-sided mosaic.

Irwin said she originally designed the piece with iron in mind, but decided against it because of the metal's tendency to disintegrate in the coastal environment.

Instead, she decided on a framework and base made of Core 10 steel, which is used to make bridges and can withstand the elements. She enlisted CN Dynamics of Carlsbad to manufacture the piece using her design.

The finished piece was recently installed in concrete. There will be a dedication ceremony at 4:30 p.m Sept. 28. A plaque will honor Irwin, as well as longtime Solana Beach resident Wenetta Childs and her children, whose donation funded the work. Childs is a longtime supporter of public art in the community.

To see her artwork displayed in such a prominent location in town is a dream come true for Irwin, a self-taught artist. She said she draws inspiration from her two daughters, 11-year-old Arianna and 8-year-old Shea. Her husband, Mark, is a comic-book artist, and his support is a blessing, she said.

"I feel like if you do what you love, everything else falls into place," she said.