Fairy nymphs with gossamer wings, beloved pets with fully articulated fur, technicolour jellyfish with delicate tentacles drifting on the tide. Cathy Murchison-Krolikowski’s meticulously shaped stained glass creations come alive in the light.
“I’ve done art my whole life,” says Murchison-Krolikowski. “My kindergarten teacher told my mother I’d be an artist and I sold my first painting at 13.”
Now the resident of Point Prim, P.E.I., owns an art studio and shop where visitors from all over can enjoy her work.
She still paints but a class she took with a friend taught her to appreciate stained glass work. Before long she was co-teaching the course. Now home décor accounts for at least half her business.
Murchison-Krolikowski makes many custom pieces. “I just did a window for someone who has just bought a heritage home in Charlottetown and designed their own crest,” she says. “I did a stained-glass piece for it with traditional glass and leading techniques that’s completely unique.”
She also sells to the many tourists who stop by on their way to the picturesque Point Prim Lighthouse. She takes commissions all year, but her shop, Kro in the Skye, is only open May through October.
Besides hanging art, which includes stained glass pieces, mosaic wall panels, and paintings, Murchison-Krolikowski makes Tiffany-style lamps and recently started making glass bowls, plates, and trays.
Her glass work is as complex as an oil painting. She uses frit, a glass powder with a sugary texture, to build up layers of glass which she fires in a kiln to fuse together. She can fire a single piece six or seven times.
Working with stained glass is delicate work. Murchison-Krolikowski imports glass from the United States because there are no manufacturers in Canada. Even there, plants are closing because of the heavy metals involved in its production.
Her mentor got lead poisoning from repeatedly touching glass and then his face. She wears a respirator, washes her hands frequently, and changes her shoes before leaving the studio. Even with those precautions, she stopped doing restoration work because of the lead in old glass.
She started making mosaics because she had so much glass left over that she could turn into tiles and other smaller shapes. She also incorporates beach glass into her work. “You can use all kinds of different objects, but I constantly have scraps of glass so that’s what I use.”
Murchison-Krolikowski loves the material as much as her finished work.
“Sometimes you get a piece of glass so beautiful you almost don’t want to cut it,” she says. “I think if I lived in a loft in Toronto or New York, I’d just frame it and hang it in the window.”