A house of glass in Oak Park | Space | Chicago Reader

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A house of glass in Oak Park

Founder of Kiku Handmade, Laurie Freivogel lets the ingenuity contained within her subterranean glass-art studio spill over into the rest of her home.


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The Space video crew and I trampled into the Oak Park home of artist Laurie Freivogel on a slushy afternoon, and, being the polite and refined humans that we are, asked if we should take off our shoes. Freivogel warned us not to, though—there might be shards of glass everywhere. Moments later, a member of the team accidentally broke one of her bowls, blowing the whole polite-and-refined act. Still, I swear there were shards of glass scattered around before that happened.

From her home studio, Freivogel runs the artisanal glass company Kiku Handmade. Ten years ago she bought a small kiln, some glass scraps, and a few books and began fusing glass. Today she combines silk-screening and fusing to make functional art like belt buckles, jewelry, and housewares.

Building the studio was no small feat: it required digging out a basement and then rebuilding the kitchen atop it. Freivogel and her husband have done other major renovations to the house since moving in more than a decade ago. They've built bedrooms in the attic, rehabbed the bathrooms, and installed a fireplace.

Freivogel displays a vast collection of artwork, ranging from a well-known artist like Christophe Roberts to a man she met on the street. And every room has a crafter's touch—the studio floor is sealed in glitter; the ceilings and staircases are painted blue. Skateboards hanging in the foyer serve as sculptures. The sunroom has custom-built bookshelves that frame a window, and handmade birds dangle in a picture window, offering the view as a backdrop. "I used to get all of my glass with these pieces of cardboard in the middle. I wanted to reuse them, so I cut out the birds," Freivogel says. "I call them my trash birds." Even her daughter's pet frog has designer digs—Gordon kicks it in a terrarium fashioned from a gigantic bottle and some Lincoln Logs.

The house feels organized and spacious. And the massive artwork collection is only bound to grow. "I just like stuff," Freivogel says. "There's always room for one more thing, which is awesome."

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