Vail artist is captivated by color |

Vail artist is captivated by color

Caramie Schnell
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyA piece of glass artwork created by Vail artist Carol Philips

VAIL, Colorado –Maybe it’s the simple, stained-glass unicorn hanging in artist Carol Phillips West Vail studio window that keeps her humble.

The white, demure-looking mythical creature is set inside a simple round, wooden frame. The piece is markedly unfussy – a unicorn framed in a blue and turquoise circle of glass with a few flowers dotting the bottom of the piece. It’s not busy or even all that unique. The artist – who refers to it as “elementary” – used only a handful of colors to create it.

It’s the complete opposite of the type of glass art Phillips creates in her West Vail studio.

Now, that is.

But more than 30 years ago, when Phillips was first learning to use glass as an artistic medium, stained glass was going through a revival. Forget church windows depicting the Last Supper – a less structured, formal look was in vogue. That’s where the unicorn comes in.

“I made it for someone, but, when it got down to paying for it, he changed his mind,” Phillips remembered.

Whether or not Phillips meant to keep the piece nearby all these years doesn’t matter; it serves an important purpose nonetheless – hanging in peripheral view, it’s a reminder of her creative roots.

Up until the early ’90s, Phillips made progressively more complicated stained glass pieces, which eventually culminated in free-hanging, three-dimensional hummingbird and flower sculptures. But like the soft-spoken Phillips says, she “can’t stay in one place,” which is why she switched to fusing glass. Now, inside the bright studio connected to her West Vail home’s garage, she combines small pieces of vividly colored glass in almost geometric patterns.

Leaning over a large white table in her studio, the slender 50-something meticulously stacks small rectangles, squares, circles and triangles together in a manner that’s feels at once reckless, but calculated. The carefully crafted cutouts, held together in a base, go into a fiery kilm – each piece is usually fired at least twice – and come out fused together in platters, bowls, coasters or whatever style Phillips is striving for.

Nearly every day of the week Phillips spends at least a few hours working in her sunny studio. Big windows let in bright light, as well as views of the surrounding flora. The small space is chock full of equipment – five kilns, a few saws, a handful of grinders, and, of course, glass. There are sheets of glass in all shades of color, from lime green to cobalt blue and vibrant shades of orange, lined neatly in one corner of the room. Small jars filled with sand grain-sized pieces of glass, called frit, line the opposite wall.

It’s these colorful shards that keep Phillips ‘s disposition bright come winter’s sometimes drab, colorless days.

“Creating glass that’s overly colorful, with no rigid structure, cheers me up,” Phillips said. “If someone asked me for just greens and blues, I couldn’t do it.”

And they likely wouldn’t sell as well, either. After all, it’s the brazen color combinations that draw customers at Pismo Gallery in Beaver Creek to Carol’s work. The gallery has been selling Phillips ‘s work for nearly four years now.

“People really like the color,” said gallery owner Sandy Sardella. “They’re uplifting, happy pieces.”

See Carol Phillips glass artwork at PISMO Gallery in Beaver Creek. The gallery is located at 45 W. Thomas Place in Gerald R. Ford Hall. Call 970-949-0908 or visit for more information.

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