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An artist's heart of glass


Fourth-generation Annapolitan Kristin Roberts Norris is anything but a tortured artist. If she fits any mold, perhaps an ingenue would do.

At 34, her buoyant voice seems to be reflected in the bright pieces of glass earrings, coasters, vases, plates, necklaces and playful sailing scenes she created for display at Tin Can Allee on West Street on Wednesday. The glass artist stayed all day at the tony crafts and gift shop, chatting with customers, to mark the opening of the city's second annual Artworks festival, which continues this weekend.

A personal favorite of Norris' is an abstract art glass piece, colored cobalt blue and white and meant for a wall or window, titled Good Karma and priced at $625. The price range of her work, which includes wishing stones, starts at $10 or $12 and goes to $2,500, Norris said.

Norris is part of a large network of local artists who relish the chance to display their work at public spaces around Annapolis this week. But for her, Artworks 2005 will always be remembered as the time in her life when she decided to leave nursing to pursue her art.

"Serendipitous," Norris said. "I was up for a [nursing] promotion, but I realized I want to do my glass."

She said a handblown glass turtle recently dug up intact in the ground near her house seemed a sign that she was doing the right thing.

"I thought, oh my golly, this is definitely meant to be," Norris said.

During the winter and early spring, the focus of her professional life gradually shifted to her home studio as her home nursing schedule was cut to one or two patient visits a week.

Today through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Norris will host free tours of her home glass studio and kiln at 1019 Smithville St. She will also lead workshops in glass blowing, bead making and glass fusion.

This week is, in a way, a debut - a statement that glass art, fused or glazed, is it for her. Ever since she studied glass as an art form at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts four years ago, Norris knew she was a natural.

"People are so drawn to it because it's fluid trapped in a solid," Norris said, "and looks like water."

Although she also tried her hand at ceramics, she said, "A piece of pottery takes so long to make. Glass spoke to me more."

Recently remarried to Christopher Norris, a MedStar flight paramedic, Norris says it would be hard for her to live anywhere but Annapolis, where her roots run deep. Raised in Murray Hill in a house built by her great-grandfather, she graduated from St. Mary's High School in 1989. She received her nursing degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Her grandfather, Arthur Newman, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served as a Navy lieutenant commander during World War II.

He died aboard the USS Truxton, which sank off the coast of Nova Scotia. A street in the city's downtown is named for him.

Marge Naccari, a county government employee who has known Norris for about 20 years, came in on her lunch hour to browse and left with a $170 confetti vase, a modern shape for arranging spring bulbs.

"She's always been a ray of sunshine," Naccari said.

In engaging old friends and strangers, Norris seems equally at ease in suggesting ways to use her works for gifts. She acknowledges being cannier at the business side than some.

"Not all artists know marketing," she said.

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