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Glass Action! Illuminates Memories with Custom Works

Glass Action! Illuminates Memories with Custom Works

(Lara Mossa, Sept. 5, 2019)

OAK PARK – Artfully crafted portraits, whimsical ornaments and unique nightlights are all available from Oak Park-based Glass Action!

Carey Gustafson of Oak Park, a stained-glass artist, started the business in 2005. After working in the professional glass industry for 15 years designing and making all facets of stained glass, she got laid off during the recession and decided to go out on her own.  While bartending and playing music and touring with a band, she supplemented her income by making projects for people as gifts.

“It’s really fun,” Gustafson said. “It’s a nice heirloom. It’s a significant gift. You can frame a photo of a moment, but sometimes a photo isn’t enough. Bumping that image into a stain-glass replicated piece takes it to the next level.”

Gustafson works out of a home studio and sells her pieces online as well as craft shows in Ohio and Michigan. She is a co-founder of Handmade Detroit, which sells modern and handmade goods for the Detroit Urban Craft Fair at the Masonic Temple in downtown Detroit, and also sells her wares there.

Available through her Etsy shop, Gustafson does a lot of tribute work including celebrities, politicians and rock stars, some of which are humorous, starting at $50. She can replicate any scene or memory if someone has a clear, well-preserved photo or image, she said. Pieces are created for wedding and baby gifts as well as memorials for pets.

“It’s a literal replication of their photo in glass,” she said, adding that the work is hand-painted.

Pictures of individuals tend to run from $65 to $75 and couples range from $115 to $125. She also does some corporate work. Every year, she makes the race awards for the Detroit Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day.

In the future, Gustafson intends to start teaching classes in stained glass including beginner as well as advanced. There are a lot of people who want to repair or finish pieces that a relative has done, she said. Gustafson is in the process of building a studio in her garage in which she can host people for lessons.

“In the profession itself, I love working with my hands, and I love the glass itself,” she said. “It still grabs me and surprises me the same as it had when I first started learning.”

Having her own business also affords her the opportunity to be with her 9-year-old daughter, Lucy. Her daughter helps at the craft shows and putting stickers on her bags, she said, adding that when the mood strikes her she puts on safety glasses and helps grind pieces.

“I think she’ll see as she grows up, if you can put your head into something you can make it happen,” Gustafson said.  “And you should do what you love.”

As advice for budding artists, she said you should fine-tune one element as opposed to doing multiple kinds of work. In addition, she recommends sharing you work on social media to build an audience before doing big shows.

When she is not creating glass, Gustafson enjoys working with paper, making and painting signs, as well as treasure hunting for art and furniture.

“My brain and my hands are constantly hunting for used recycled and repurposed stuff,” she said. “I hate for anything to end up in a dump someplace.”

Gustafson grew up in Clawson and graduated from Clawson High School. She went to a local trade school for commercial art. Coming up, she will sell her work at the DIY Street Fair in Ferndale at the end of September.

For more information, go to the website

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