Story by Gina Malone
Glass artist Kit Paulson found her calling early. “I’ve made things for as long as I can remember,” she says. “When I was in elementary school, I was digging up clay from my parents’ yard, making little animals and objects and firing them in small bonfires.”
She took that love of creating with her from her home outside of Chicago to Alfred University in New York where, she says, she “arrived at glass,” earning a BFA there and an MFA at Southern Illinois University. These days find her in the middle of a three-year residency at Penland School of Craft.
“I work in flame-worked borosilicate glass which means that I manipulate small rods and tubes of glass in an oxy-propane torch to create objects,” she says, explaining that borosilicate is a hard glass similar to Pyrex cookware. “I use glass rods to make solid objects and glass tubes to make blown, or hollow, objects.”
The glass sculptures she creates engage viewers with their unexpected and marvelous intricacy—a lace handkerchief, a set of keys, a spider web—and some of her pieces have their basis in other aspects of her life. “Many of Kit’s pieces are inspired by folklore, and reference things like traditional ballads,” says Jordan Ahler, owner of Momentum Gallery. “This can imbue her work with a wistful sensibility.”
Moth/Mouth, for instance, was inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Prodigal Summer and a character’s ruminating on the luna moth, which has no mouth with which to eat or make sounds, communicating only by scent. “Sometimes communication, even with those most dear to us, seems like an insurmountable impossibility,” Kit says. “It can feel as though one has no words or even a mouth with which to make the words. At its best, our work can be our moth pheromones when the gulf of communication is too great. Our work tells the viewer what we might not have the words to say.”
Kit considers Moth/Mouth and other of her works to be “drawings in glass.” Part of her process in beginning, planning and finishing pieces involves paper. “I make diagrams and map things out and take notes on content,” she says. “Most of my pieces that appear to be built out of lines are made directly from working drawings.”
Kit says that she dislikes being idle and finds herself constantly creating. “The feeling of having created something where once there was nothing is what keeps me making. Glass is difficult to gain fluency with so the constant challenges of the material keep me engaged also.”
Momentum is currently exhibiting Kit’s work and the work of other artists in a foliage-themed exhibit titled A New Leaf, which runs through November 9. Her glass leaves will be wall-mounted in shadowbox frames to protect them and to offer a nice alternative to framed paintings and photography. “I marvel at the intricacy and complexity of all of Kit’s exquisitely constructed work,” Ahler says. “She always seems up for a challenge.”
Kit Paulson works in a studio on the campus of Penland School of Craft near Spruce Pine. To learn more, see Instagram @kitpaulson. She is among the featured artists at Momentum Gallery at 24 North Lexington Avenue in downtown Asheville. For more information about her work, visit MomentumGallery.com.