Continuing a stained-glass tradition
Kim Reeves passes on her passion through teaching at Filoli
Twelve years ago Kim Reeves decided to leave her job as a vice president of Nations Bank, which would later become Bank of America, to pursue her passion for stained glass.
"Right after Y2K, I decided I wanted to do something I was not just good at, but passionate about," she said. "I had probably been doing glass work for about a decade, just as a hobby, and I thought how could I turn this into a living. ... I didn't want to be one of those stereotypical starving artists."
She moved from North Carolina to Menlo Park, and was able to build her own business called Legacy Glass — a stained-glass company that creates doors, windows, skylights, entryways and cabinetry out of her studio in Menlo Park.
After her business was up and running, she also started to teach students the basics of stained glass, hoping they would continue the practice on their own. Reeves said these one-on-one sessions allow students to gain the personal attention they need to further their skills. Most end up being "addicted" to the craft, she added.
Since last year, Reeves began working at Filoli, a National Trust for Historic Preservation site in Woodside. She will be teaching her third introductory stained-glass class on March 10. In only four hours, those who attend will learn the basics of the copper foil method, a modern stained-glass technique.
"How do you have them ... walk in knowing absolutely nothing, and walk out with a finished piece? I've been doing this for awhile and I've never had someone not finish," Reeves said.
The first project students will take on is a stained-glass heart, made out of five pieces of glass. They will learn the history of stained glass and the overall process: how to design, cut out the glass and apply the copper foil. She'll focus on the copper-foil method, invented by Louis Tiffany more than 100 years ago, which allows for tighter curves and more artistic, three-dimensional applications, she said.
"They are all the same design, but they can all look so different," she said. "Everyone can keep their heart, or give their heart away."
The class will have up to 16 people, in addition to three other workers who will assist students through the stained-glass process. All the materials will be provided.
Reeves will also discuss the necessary safety precautions, but believes that working with glass is a risk like anything else in life. She said glass cuts clean and sharp, doesn't hurt that much and heals fast. "I tell people they can charge more money for their work if there's blood stains on their glass," she added.
Everyone works at the same pace, with no one allowed to race ahead, Reeves said.
"We have a lot of fun. ... I make everyone raise their right hand and say, 'OK, I promise to do only what Kim says, when she says to do it, and nothing else, cross my heart,' and we all cross our hearts."
Though Reeves left the business world, she doesn't regret it for a moment.
"I came from a whole family of engineers and mathematicians, it was just expected," she said. "I was supposed to be my family's first doctor, but I switched to computer engineering. ... I was good at it. I was senior vice president before I realized I didn't particularly like the view from the corporate ladder."
Reeves said she was getting a divorce at the time. "I was basically starting all over," she added. "I started in a little studio apartment that was 400 square feet and I bought a piece of plywood to put on my bed. ... That's where I started my first job, and I had to sleep on the floor until the job was finished. But one by one I got my clients and built my studio."
Reeves is a self-taught artist, with only one art class under her belt.
"Somehow I can just look at a space and it can tell me what it wants," she said. "I took an art class once, and the guy told me not to take any more classes because it was going to ruin my natural ability. A lot of designers work with me because I have an eye for these things. I know that's beyond teaching, but like I said teaching is kind of a give back, sharing the wealth and passion."
Through Legacy Glass, Reeves personalizes designs for clients, often drawing on their specific styles or interests — even their jewelry or pets.
Sometimes the stained-glass design is about their family.
"We'll do a nature scene and each of the trees represents each of the kids, and it represents different personalities of the kids," she said. "If I can make a client tear up when they see it, I know I've done my work."
Reeves decided to call her business Legacy Glass because she believes that her mission is to not only design new pieces, but to restore and repair old stained glass as well.
"Legacy Glass is about being passed down from one generation to another, the glass being a part of a home for centuries," she said. "We also do restoration and repair work, so we are preserving the legacy of glass artists that came before us, and some are no longer with us. Clients come to me with a vision — it's their legacy."
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What: Introduction to Stained Glass
When: Saturday, March 10, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Where: Filoli, 86 Canada Road, Woodside
Cost: $170 for nonmembers, $140 for members
Info: 650-364-8300 or www.filoli.org
Editorial Intern Cristina Wong can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.