As a young student at the American Center of Students and Artists in Paris, Kit Crawford was inspired by nearby trees. And since her husband, Jeff, is handy with two-by-fours and nails, she still does many years later. Crawford has one of the most innovative studios, high among the branches and leaves of a huge maple tree at her home in Cedarville.
“From rooftop terraces, I could step out of my oil painting class [in Paris] and draw inspiration from the play of light through the new leaves of trees,” said Crawford. “Now I can look outside the windows of my treehouse studio and see the same thing.”
That studio also has stained-glass windows, her medium of choice. It was her sister, Diane Collinson, who taught her how to work with glass.
“That was well over 20 years ago. By the time I retired, most of the windows in my home were filled with my stained glass,” said Crawford.
And now her artful leaves still catch the light in the homes of clients in Sebring, Fla., and the Michigan towns of Ann Arbor, Midland, Southfield and Beaver Island. Charlie Donaldson has a summer home on Beaver Island, and he has six stained-glass windows in that house on the lake.
“We designed it together, which was a wonderful gift. She sent me drawings, and I sent her comments,” said Donaldson. “In a sense it’s like stained-glass windows in a church, but the vines and leaves add a folksiness to it. It’s playful and elegant at the same time.”
The rich, warm hues of yellow, olive green and red have leaves that frame actual leaves on the trees outside. Donaldson has since angled outdoor lights on the windows at night, to give his home an evening glow.
“The substance of color and light still has my heart, but working with glass is very labor intensive,” says Crawford. “It is such an unforgiving substance; it breaks, cuts and misbehaves. It is flat and brittle, so my challenge is to coax it into fluidity and motion.”
She rises to the occasion through sheer determination and work ethic. She draws an original design. Then she cuts, grinds, wraps, and solders each individual piece in her pattern.
“Lots of work. But when a piece is finished and I can hold it up to the sunlight, that is both the reward and the learning,” said Crawford.
Besides the ACSA in Paris, France, Crawford studied art at Albion College in Michigan. She developed the Art and Science program at the Antioch School in Yellow Springs in 1983. She was an art teacher at the school until her retirement in 2007. Crawford has earned several art residencies and shown her work in galleries and art fairs in the region. She is also a member of the Yellow Springs Arts Council.
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Contact contributing writer Pamela Dillon at email@example.com.