I discovered my passion for stained glass during my freshman year in high school, and I have been a working apprentice for the past 19 years. I took a stained glass course at the Beverly Art Center, which was affiliated with my high school, Morgan Park Academy on the South Side of Chicago. I grew to appreciate the fragile austerity of the medium and the interesting ways in which metal, light, and glass combine to create a work of art.
When the recession hit, I witnessed the death of some of my favorite hangouts – cafés, bookstores, and mom-and-pop shops. I decided to use my stained glass panels to draw new customers into these establishments. The project is called, Your Success is Our Success, and we use our art to help people to understand the importance of supporting local business. The recession that inspired my art still looms. Unemployment is higher than ever. Capital is hard to come by, as are jobs. Through this project, I help organizations to raise money for their causes, and I help people out of work to weather the recession. Our slogan is: Creating Art. Creating Community. I stand by it, and I hope that it is contagious.
In 2006, my favorite hangout spot was Tea Lounge in Park Slope. The café pulsed with writers, artists, and musicians, and I felt at home. I admired the stained glass panel installed over their entryway door. I hadn’t seen artists design words into stained glass windows, and the image lingered in my mind.
At the same time, I received my first commission. It was to make a panel for a friend for him to give to his girlfriend for Valentine’s day. When I asked him what he wanted, he said, “cherubs, angels, and cupids.” Mortified, I asked him what he wanted to communicate to her. “I just want to let her know that I love her,” he said. So using that simple message, I made the LOVE panel.
After being commissioned to make the LOVE panel, I kept improving its design, and began making other panels like my NO WAR panel.
A colleague of mine asked me to make a panel that had his fiancée’s name written into glass. I found a niche in stained glass that I really enjoyed.
It was impossible to make panels for everybody who wanted them. So I created a greeting card series featuring my art as seen below. But I have not forgotten my original goal, which is to remind people of the importance of supporting local artists, musicians, and businesses. Where you spend your dollars matters. If you have a choice, Think Local First.
Over time, I built a brand called Vitraux (pronounced vee-trów), which is focused on the creation of Medieval Stained Glass windows and mosaics. Each panel is handcrafted using centuries-old techniques. My work is unique because I combine lessons from painting, engraving, sculpture, welding, and industrial design to create innovative works of art. A great deal of thought goes into every creation. I love to teach, and I run stained glass workshops to share my passion with others. I believe that it is important for all of us to get in touch with our creative side and I love helping people to discover their own.
As for my academic work, I graduated magna cum laude with dual degrees in Urban Planning and Sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a focus on community development. I am currently pursuing graduate education at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and was awarded a Presidential Scholarship to execute my research. My thesis, entitled, Problem-Based Career Exploration analyzes a network-based paradigm to break down silos and to expose students to careers they likely have never considered. Inspired by my observations as a Freshman Proctor and Academic Adviser for over 200 Harvard College students, I designed a digital advising resource, TheRealmOfPossibility.org and won the Star Family Prize for Excellence in Academic Advising. I envision a future where universities encourage students to leverage their liberal arts education to actively explore a problem or challenge of concern while investigating the ways in which various disciplines and professions collaborate to create value for society.
Jason Outlaw, Director of Vitraux
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