Hand-Cut Stained Glass Mosaics
Kasia Polkowska's mountain landscape art
Cascade Canyon - Teton Mountains, Wyoming, 24" x 48"
“Wouldn’t you rather just make art?”
It’s not the typical question you’d expect from a mother upon hearing that her daughter wants to pursue a degree in engineering and mathematics. But thanks in part to her mother's support, Kasia Polkowska hasn’t taken the typical path in life—and her travels around the globe have led to some beautiful artistic creations.
Polkowska’s family immigrated to New Jersey from Poland when she was nine years old. Although she dabbled in art as a child, she fell in love with creating beautiful things once she followed her mother’s advice and studied fine art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. And on a study-abroad adventure in the Australian wilderness, Polkowska fell in love with gorgeous landscapes.
“After exploring my surroundings back home, and then living in Chicago,” says Polkowska, “my partner and I decided we were too far from nature. We said, ‘Where shall we go?’ ‘Colorado sounds pretty good.’” That was all it took.
Mountain Spring - Colorado, 36" x 36"
With her newfound passion for the great outdoors—along with an interest in stained glass, discovered while working at a tile company in New York—an artistic specialty was brewing. But not before Polkowska and her partner converted a cargo van into a camper, traveled the country for eight months, and photographed the sights—particularly the Rocky Mountain West.
Sunset at Trillium Lake - Mt Hood, Oregon, 24" x 48"
From here, Polkowska and her partner eventually settled into an art studio in Alamosa near the San Juan mountains—her favorite peaks in Colorado—bringing her photos of landscapes to stained-glass life with engineer-like exactness. She chooses one or a handful of photographs that truly capture what she loves about an area, sketches a composite for many days, letting her creativity and spontaneity flow, and then eventually brings that final sketch to life with stained glass.
Polkowska holding a stained glass mosaic titled The Dallas Divide inspired by the San Juan Mountains, 16" x 48"
When she’s mapped out the composite and the colors, she travels to a warehouse in Denver to procure large sheets of stained glass needed for her often large-scale works of art. This is when her love for precision comes into play. “I scrutinize every piece of glass. I look for the details, patterns in the glass, the colors; I want to find the perfect sheet.”
Polkowska grouting of Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, 60" x 36"
Some people like to use machines to cut their glass, but all of Polkowska’s work—every shape, even each circle—is meticulously cut by hand with basic hand tools.
When asked what her favorite piece is, Cascade Canyon (at the top of article) always comes to mind. “It’s a piece inspired by a backpacking trip we did in the Tetons. We stayed at a beautiful backcountry campsite, and I took so many gorgeous photos. When I came back home, I wanted to do a tribute to the scene because I found it so special.”
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, 60" x 36"
What’s next for Polkowska? Her big project for 2017 involves a series inspired by Yellowstone National Park. She aims for the series to include 12 pieces and recently finished the first two works, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River (above) and Chromatic Spring Yellowstone Mosaic (below). “I also would like to do a series inspired by my hikes in Crested Butte, which is my favorite region of Colorado. That might have to wait for 2018.”
Chromatic Spring - Yellowstone, 36" x 48"
You can see more of Polkowska’s work at kasiamosaics.com.