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Carol Mason Leaves Craft Center After 60 Semesters

Longtime glassblower and instructor Carol Mason plans to move to Germany after long run at College.

Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 03:01

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Courtesy of Carol Mason

Carol Mason, left, instructing a student at the Craft Center sometime in the early-to-mid-90s.

 

“Going back to Germany now is … going home for me because the German architectural movement has been kind of the shining star of my own artistic development and career my whole life,” said former Craft Center instructor, Harmony Hill Bed and Breakfast owner and nationally-renowned stained glass artist Carol Mason. 

Mason, who has taught classes on stained-glass-window- and glass-bead-making at the Craft Center since 1983 — exactly 60 semesters — is moving to Germany after marrying longtime boyfriend and German resident Michael Oort last summer whom she has known for 20 years. 

“He and I met through working at a non-profit foundation, [Verlag der Stiftung Gralsbotschaft,] that was global in nature. The purpose of the foundation is to keep the writing of a German philosopher alive. When I crossed paths with the books of this writer, I was quite touched by the content in them and began to work as a volunteer … for the foundation,” said Mason.

Oort is now the CEO of the foundation. “His job’s got 15 years in it, and I support everything that he does for the foundation. So, it was a natural thing for me to move to Germany,” Mason said. “For love and for work, I go back.”

Mason also went to Germany in 1983 to study the development of architectural stained glass.

But, what sparked Mason’s initial interest in a professional career in stained glass is another story. Mason began her freshman year at the University of Cincinnati pursuing fashion design. However, the pieces were just not fitting together for her.

“I couldn’t see myself in that community. I kind of floundered for a few years. ... I [later] got back into school at Kent State University and that’s when I crossed paths with glass,” Mason said. 

Although Mason never completed her undergraduate program at the University of Cincinnati, Kent State University or Capital University, if all the credits were to be combined, they would far surpass the requirements of any undergraduate degree. Mason is four courses away from a Kenyon degree. “I’m a lifelong learner,” said Mason. Moreover, other stained glass artisans view Mason as a master artisan. 

“In 1991, I shared the Women and Gender Studies Prize with another Kenyon student and I had a concentration in Women and Gender Studies, so [Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies] Laurie Finke had a big impact on me,” Mason said. 

In addition, Mason’s professional career has included many commissions by the College, including the stained glass piece above Ransom Hall’s entryway.

Mason’s professional career has also expanded. “I actually became nationally known at some point for this technique I developed drawing on a sandblasted surface of plate glass,” Mason said. “I had, at one time in my career, galleries from San Francisco to New York that carried my work.”

Yet, the Craft Center has always been dear to Mason’s heart. “I felt a way to connect with students in a way that was meaningful to me,” she said. “One woman went on to become a glass/jewelry designer in New York City and another woman did a semester abroad in Ghana and studied the impact that glass-bead-making had on the economy.”

Marie White, a woman living just outside of Danville, Ohio, said she would drive up to Gambier three times a week to take Mason’s stained glass class as well as two other Craft Center classes. 

“She was a very good instructor ... and a very good artist,” White said. “That’s just a rare combination, to have both a good instructor and a good artist in the same person ... she’s just one of those gifted teachers.”

“The students would come in only for one reason and that was because they wanted to be here,” Mason said. “They were here because ... they had something creative going on inside and this was a way to express that without academic expectation involved.”

Mason even took her students on field trips to places such as the Franklin Art Class Studios in Columbus, where Asa Nelson ’15 went this past fall for Mason’s stained-glass-window-making class. 

“She really cares about her students,” Nelson said. “I struggled a little bit, cutting all the pieces. But she helped me out. So, she was integral to me completing my project.” 

Student Manager of the Craft Center Max Elder ’13 enjoyed Mason’s class on stained-glass-window-making so much that he took it twice.

“Carol has been teaching at the Craft Center for the longest of anyone who’s been at the Craft Center, which is insane,” Elder said. “She has become a staple in the Craft Center culture, so it’s really unfortunate that she’s leaving, ... but she’s certainly moving on to cooler things.”

Mason hopes to work with schoolchildren in Germany to design stained glass-art pieces for surrounding schools and will be replaced by Chris Aust, the current ceramics instructor at the Craft Center. 

Interestingly, just as Canadian-born Mason leaves the United States, she will become a U.S. citizen on Jan. 29.

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