By Joe Lowe | Photos by Rob Jinks
In fall 1994, Krystyn Haydash was working at a bar in the DC area, “pretty much flitting through life,” she said, when a friend invited her to take a stained glass course at a nearby school. Although her friend eventually had to drop the class, Haydash decided to attend anyway.
Working with glass was revelatory. “I loved everything about it and wanted to learn more,” said Haydash, who works as an art instructor with the Prince William Public Library System, “It lit a spark in me and I felt like I finally had direction.” She never looked back.
Haydash spent the following years transforming her passion into a burgeoning artistic career. And her work is now sold in shops and has been the subject of several showings.
For Haydash, “life is about stories,” and so is her art. She uses her glasswork to tell stories from world religions and myths that she discovered as an adult and from fairy tales and fables that she has known since childhood. Despite their obvious differences, Haydash believes that a subtle “golden thread” connects these stories and uses her artwork to explore that line.
Haydash sees examples of the power of storytelling in many places, including churches where stained glass is used to tell stories through sacred representations and pictures. Similarly, Haydash infuses her work with meaning by using symbols and elements of numerology and geometry.
Her eclectic artistic style combines traditional glass work with textured overlays of wire, crystals and copper. The attached materials give her pieces a three-dimensional quality, literally pulling stories out of the glass.
Haydash’s interest in art dates back to her years as a self-described “Army brat.” Her father’s military transfers took the family around the United States and the world, including to Germany and Thailand.
Living abroad opened Haydash’s eyes “to different ways of life,” and during her early twenties, Haydash became interested in spirituality. “I started really looking at myself and wanted to learn all I could about spirit, the nature of being human,” she said. Haydash eventually went on to become a Reiki Master and a reverend with the Ministry of Light Interfaith Church.
Her spiritual interests have become a driving motivation behind her artwork. “I want my work to open people’s eyes to new things, to remind them that there’s more out there than we think,” says Haydash.
After finishing her first glass class, Haydash worked steadily with glass for a few years.
But after giving birth to her son, she found time for glass working was scarce, and when her daughter was born, it became even more difficult to focus on her craft. After deciding to homeschool her children, Haydash knew that her artistic career would have to pause. And during those years, she worked with glass only for “pleasure and stress release.” But after seven years of homeschooling, her son wanted to try public school, and her daughter followed suit. Suddenly, Haydash found herself with an abundance of time for glass and began dedicating herself again to art.
She started selling her work in local and regional boutiques and began receiving more exposure. In 2014 librarians at Chinn Park Regional Library asked Haydash if she would create commemorative glass panels for retirees of the Prince William County Library System.
The next year, Haydash’s former glass teacher, Jeanie Dunivin, asked her to help create a large stained glass panel in the children’s department at Chinn Park that would illustrate popular children’s stories. The panel, which incorporated storybook and nursery rhyme themes, was a natural fit for Haydash and she eagerly accepted the work.
After Dunivin was forced to drop the project for health reasons, Haydash turned to fellow glass artist Erin O’Brien Jones for help. She and Jones finished the piece, entitled “World of Wonder,” in January after spending the greater part of nine months working on it.
“I hope it touches the kids, and they search out the mural characters in the books they come from, and it motivates them to start reading and exploring new worlds,” Haydash said.
Haydash has more work underway with the library system. She also taught two art classes this summer as part of the library’s teen summer program. The classes, which were offered at Bull Run and Chinn Park, taught the basics of stained glass design using CDs rather than actual glass for safety reasons.
Haydash plans to continue working with the Prince William libraries in the future and hopes to begin selling her artwork at shows and festivals throughout the country.
For now, she continues using her work to study life and explore the stories that spark her imagination. “I’ve learned to just take everything moment by moment,” Haydash said. “It’s not always easy to stay in the ‘now,’ but I try. Practicing helps, deep breathing, too … and sometimes wine.”
Joe Lowe ([email protected]) lives with his wife and daughter in Gainesville. After working for many years with the National Park and Forest Services, he is now employed with an environmental non-profit in Washington, D.C.