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ARTIST PROFILE: Kim Frank stays close to the river with glass creations

January 5, 2018
By STEVE LESTER - Correspondent ( , Lake Placid News

UPPER JAY-Sometimes it can be amazing what can be made from salvaged material.

Kim Frank, a native of western Pennsylvania, decided to park her mountain bike here in 1987, and she never left. Today she operates Riverglass Studio next to the Upper Jay post office where one can find a variety of stained glass products for the home or business.

She takes the occasional commission to make something to order, and she also collaborates with area rustic furniture craftsmen such as Larry Post and Wayne Ignatuk.

Article Photos

Kim Frank
(Photo provided — Steve Lester)

Frank has no website, and even though she usually does a number of craft shows every year, last year she didn't do a single one.

"You can make good money at craft shows, but stained glass doesn't pack and travel easily," she said. "So most of my business is me making stuff and hanging it up, and people coming in and buying it."

Trees are a frequent theme in her works.

"My thing is trees. I love trees," Frank said.

A frequent ingredient, meanwhile, involves pieces of glass recovered from the East Branch of the AuSable River right across the street. Hence the name "Riverglass Studio." She typically uses such glass pieces to ornament small prisms that dangle in windows, calling them "sun catchers." And yet she can construct fairly large works using the same ingredients.

"I have a daffodil piece upstairs that's mostly river glass," Frank said.

In addition to making a fairly unique story behind a work of art, river glass has the practical value of keeping costs down.

"Glass is an expensive craft," Frank said. "So I try to sell things that are affordable."

Along with images of trees, she also does mobiles, banners, mountain scenes and butterfly treasure boxes.

Frank grew up in Wilcox, Pennsylvania, on the eastern edge of the Allegheny National Forest where her father taught English and literature in nearby Johnsonburg.

"Where I grew up is even more rural than this area," she said. "It's just in the middle of nowhere."

Frank earned a degree in graphic design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, but her interests in stained glass didn't come until later.

"I started doing stained glass a few years after college," she said. "My dad was a teacher, and he hooked me up with a guy who did stained glass. I forget his name, but we did a small panel of daffodils in about three sessions, and I just kept going after that."

Her interests in mountain biking brought Frank to the Adirondacks.

"I came up here to ride my mountain bike, and I just stayed," she said. "I met my husband when I was 35, had a daughter, and that's my story."

Frank's studio connects to her home, which is mostly right above the post office. Her husband, Jim Amirault, builds new homes and preserves old ones. He constructed much of their home with what looks like pricey materials such as the thick wooden window frames, but they were actually salvaged from a recently torn-down house and would have gone to the scrap heap otherwise.

So whether it's glass pieces from the AuSable River, or hardwood flooring from a torn-down house, Frank and her husband can demonstrate how to turn them into either quality art or a quality home.

Riverglass Studio is in the heart of Upper Jay across the street from the Upper Jay Art Center/Recovery Lounge. Although she doesn't keep regular hours, Frank said she's usually there in the afternoons on weekdays, and that interested patrons are welcome to call her at 518-946-8317 to set up an appointment.



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