Volume 79, Number 28 | December 16 - 22 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

A tumbler for every season: Tumblers etched with a design of a tree in summer, left, and winter, by Callari Engravers. Spring and autumn also available.

Engraver carving out careers in glass and in show business

By Les Schecter 

Joseph Anthony Callari is truly a 21st-century Renaissance man. A native New Yorker born and raised in Brooklyn, he knew at a very young age that he wanted to be an actor and singer, much like the star whose songs he heard on the family record player every day while he was growing up — Frank Sinatra. But he also learned early on that he needed to have a Plan B that would allow him to earn a living while trying to perfect his vocal and acting talents.

Fortunately, he was raised in a family of hardworking artisans — glass engravers who were eager to teach him the secrets of the trade. So while studying voice and taking acting lessons, young Joseph apprenticed with his elders and perfected the nuances of glass engraving.

Today, this second-generation Italian-American has been cutting glass for more than three decades, achieving the rank of master glass engraver, while using a method that dates back to the days of ancient Rome, when the Romans first experimented with glass-cutting on a stone wheel. Callari continues this time-honored tradition and still cuts glass with a stone wheel, along with diamond-bur and sandblasting techniques. Each finished piece is unique and a product of the craftsman’s hands.

This year Callari is celebrating the 30th anniversary of his engraving business, Callari Engravers, located on the second floor of 250 W. 14th St., where he has become a neighborhood fixture. His creations, including plaques and trophies; glass and crystal, such as stemware, beer mugs and awards; and gift items, such as picture frames, business card holders, pen sets, money clips and jewelry items, have been presented to many of New York’s elite, including Steve Forbes, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Isaac Mizrahi, Donald Trump and former Senator Hillary Clinton, among others.

Callari’s reputation as “New York’s only master glass engraver,” has brought him to the attention of major fragrance producers, glass and crystal companies, and upscale department stores, which throughout the year engage him for special in-store engraving events during holidays. He currently has six Callari-trained engravers who work exclusively with him in his Manhattan store and at department store special events when his company is engaged at more than one site on the same day.

During these occasions, Callari, or one of his glass engraver employees, will participate in product launch campaigns at such major department stores as Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Barney’s and various boutiques in New York City, New Jersey, Westchester and Long Island, where they engrave personal items that customers have purchased as gifts for family members and loved ones.

His current corporate clients include Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Vera Wang, Estee Lauder, Chanel, Thierry Mugler, Boucheron, Borghese, Cartier, Ferragamo, Bulgari, Irving Rice and many others.

The public is invited to visit Callari Engravers’ 14th St. store, where he has departments specializing in glass and crystal engraving, computerized and laser engraving, imprinted items and on-site promotions. All engraving is done on premises and rush service and pickup and delivery options are available. Callari Engravers has been ranked as the number one recommended engravers by all New York City department stores.

Oh yes, while Callari has spent years building his engraving business, he has never lost his urge — or love — for singing and performing and, in fact, he now has a successful second career as a working actor, singer and theatrical producer.

“My journey has been a delicate balance,” he admitted, “and I love it. I created and developed a musical tribute show to Frank Sinatra — who else? — and I have been fortunate to appear in a number of Off-Broadway stage productions and TV commercials while still plying my trade as an engraver.

“In recent years, I have added theatrical producing credits to my résumé,” Callari continued. “During the past two years, I have been an associate producer for the Drama Desk Awards, and during the past year I was a co-producer of two Off-Broadway shows — ‘King David,’ a musical starring David Sanborn, a brilliant actor/singer, and a stage thriller, ‘Mindgame,’ starring Keith Carradine and directed by Ken Russell, which was presented at the Soho Playhouse. I have also been cast the past year in a number of independent feature films and short subjects produced in New York City and I have a major role in a pending TV pilot.”

However, no matter how successful he might become in show business, Callari vows never to give up his engraving career.

“It’s in my blood!” he said.

Oh, yes, one final thing. A confirmed bachelor for many years, Callari finally found the girl of his dreams — a lovely young singer/actress named Theresa Falco whom he met nearly two years ago at Tony’s Di Napoli restaurant in Times Square, where she works as a hostess. They are planning to wed next summer while sailing around Manhattan on a yacht.

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