August, 2007
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FLIP featured artist



After I was laid off from Dreamworks, it was time to find a new way to make a living. At first, I thought seriously about staying in the business and retraining to do lighting on the computer. Took some classes and realized that I would be competing for jobs with the same people that I had been laid off with. That and the fact these jobs would probaly be outsourced in the near future spurred me to look for something else.

  This was at a point in time that seemed as though pencil skills were suddenly quaint, but unnessary. Stevan (husband, animator Steve Wahl), and I were checking out the Trader Joe's website, " Gosh, the benefits aren't bad....". Stevan had been working on a series of paintings that had stained glass in the background. I asked him if he had ever considered becoming a stained glass artist.

He blew me off.

Weeks passed, he was still painting these pieces and I asked again.

Blown off once more.

Apparently I was a bit more intriqued than he was. Handily, one of the major stained glass studios in the state is about ten minutes from our house. I emailed David Judson at Judson Studios (established 1880 or something like that), explained my situation and inquired if they took on apprentices. He e-mailed back, "Bring your stuff, let's talk." So I did.

I brought my animation portfolio (why, yes...I can do precise work) and slides of some paintings (but I'm really an artist!). He looked, he nodded, he smiled. "this stuff is great, what do you want to do?" Turns out that   glass studios are more regimented and ridgid than an animation studio. I couldn't learn how to do all of it. I could paint... I could cut glass... I could lead the piece together... but just one thing. Arrrgggghh! So things were left as a   possibility of freelance design work later in the summer (never happened). I decided that if I was going to design these things, I should know how to build them.

It just so happened there's a stained glass supply store six blocks from where I live. I took some classes. It's not brain surgery. You need the ability to do fine work with your hands and a good eye.   Stained glass is all about line and color. Line is all I worked with in animation. Color and light is what   my paintings are all about. I was a shoo-in.

     I discovered I could get cheaper glass   if I had a resale license. For that I needed a business. It all fell into place. I started my business so I could get a break on the cost of supplies.

As I mentioned, I took classes down at the local stained glass supply store. Saturday mornings with nice people making heart-shaped suncatchers for their niece. Lots of light houses.

I did some personal pieces and took them to a glass studio in Montrose.(a neighboring town) I met a man named Tim Gibbs who had learned the trade from his father. He gave me panels to build when they were backed-up and design work when he had a project he thought would work well for me . He's terrific.

I'll look at a specific glass artist   if there's a visual vocabulary I need to learn. I've found out the hard way that I can't copy. The piece is dead and lifeless (if it's not overkill to be both at the same time). All I can do is look at what I need to and then put everything away and just start   painting. I like starting with color areas first. It's like painting, except rather then working solely with reflected light, there's also refracted light.. A lot of glasses are actually different colors depending on the light. It can be a challenge to have the color work appropriately in both types of light.

All my windows now are commissioned. I'll go out to the location , look at the site.   I'll look at the style of architecture. I talk to the client try to understand what they are looking for. The clients I did the sidelights (above and right) for asked for a cross between Frank Lloyd Wright and Malevich. I did alot of bad sketches for that one. Finally I considered the style of the house, which was Craftsman, which made me think of orange groves (Californian dream) which lead to the circles in Wright's Coonley Playhouse windows.

     I'll present a few loose gouache sketches and if they like one I'll draw it up full size with color. The client can tape it to the window frame and live with it for awhile. This ensures there are very few surprises. I painted the sidelight windows with citrus colored fruit and blue and green rectanguar shapes. I wanted it to feel like - but not look like - lying under an orange tree, looking up through the leaves.

So I brought the large scale drawings over, they loved the design.... but one partner   did not like blue and green. I guess I should have asked. Live and learn. I reworked the color, got a sign-off, built the windows, had them installed (I don't install) and they look great.

©.2007 Moore Studios, Inc.
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Cristi Lyon
In Her Own Words

above: sidelights installed
below: sidelights and detail, center

The peacock feather windows were for a soul food restaurant called Larkin's Joint. When I asked Larkin if there were any motifs he especially wanted to see, he offered up Harlem Renaissance, juke joints, peacock feathers and African American. That was a really fun puzzle.

I'm truly a bad marketing person. I swear the web site will be up soon. But I can be reached at

Photos and artwork in this article are the property of Cristi Lyon.