Artists Jarod Crews and Aaron Bernardi want to capture nature’s peaceful moments—sitting by the water’s edge or on top of a mountain—through their handmade stained glass and wood-carved sculptures. “I think the world is a hectic place, especially now, and the reason that we make landscapes is because it brings us that moment of escape, sort of a mental vacation,” Crews said. “That’s something that we want to provide.”
The creators behind Cellar Door Trades are inspired by the places they have visited, like the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where they first met, and places they one day hope to see. Crews and Bernardi create dazzling arrangements of color, light, and shadow. Whether it sits on a table or hangs as a wind chime, their dynamic displays work best in a spot that sees a lot of sunshine.
Partners inside and outside of the studio, the two artists complement each other as Crews crafts the stained glass scenes and Bernardi carves the wooden stands and assembles the chimes. “It works because he’s my best friend,” Bernardi said. “We have a unique relationship. We have literally spent every day with each other.”
Crews’ interest in glass started at a young age, a part of his childhood that has turned into his passion. “I remember passing time as a kid during mass staring at these opulent, mega-colorful church windows,” he said. The memories of the light being refracted throughout the space, plus watching his mother work with glass, stuck with him through time in the military and a 14-year career as a stylist, until he decided it was time for a change. Likewise, art has always been a part of Bernardi’s life. His layered wind chimes reflect his fascination with landscapes, especially colorful cosmic skies.
In the last few months, Crews and Bernardi have especially noticed the impact art can have on society. Over the last two years, they’ve seen new artists pick up the medium and push the boundaries of how glass can be used. “[The pandemic] forced a lot of us to make a sanctuary of our homes, an oasis amidst the chaos,” they said. “We surrounded ourselves with beautiful handmade things and tried to forget the ugly. Glass in particular has seen a big resurgence, which completely took us by surprise.”
When it comes to crafting new pieces, Crews and Bernardi rely on their memories and emotions surrounding a place for inspiration. “Our process is very organic,” Crews said. “We don’t spend a lot of time thinking it out and coming up with the designs.” This lack of rigidity allows them the freedom to play with elements that feel right.
Spending so much time together has benefitted their work as they rely on each other to get through tough times and moments of creative stagnation. “I have a sounding board,” Crews said. “If I’m stuck on a colorway trying to put something together, I can ask his opinion and I know that we’re just so like-minded that his opinion will be the right one.”
Unlike some other mediums, this kind of expression is not something you can pick up right away. “Stained glass is an art form that relies heavily on the materials needed to complete a piece,” Crews said. From the glass itself and cutting tools to soldering equipment to put the individual pieces together, the specialized materials are important for safety and making sure everything fits together.
They’re conscious of where their raw materials are coming from, using handmade and reclaimed glass, and how they are being used. For instance, the glass in the wind chimes Bernardi creates are scraps from the cuts Crews has made. “We’re always trying to be conscious about reusing and upcycling,” Bernardi said.
What started as a small side gig selling art in local consignment shops has evolved into a full-time, seven days a week job as Crews and Bernardi work from their studio space in Savannah, Ga. For now, they’re content to keep it a two-person operation, making work at their own pace with regular releases on their website. “We don’t want it to get that big,” Crews said. “It was never supposed to be something stressful and overdone.”
They are expanding, however, with the recent release of Crews’ contemporary stained glass design course on Domestika. “I’m really liking sharing my process with people who are just getting into glass, helping people along their art journey,” he said. Attendees can follow 14 lessons, covering everything from materials and workspace to choosing color palette.
As much as they love the creative outlet their work provides, there’s something special about sharing it with the people who bring it into their homes. “We love seeing people’s expressions when they fall in love with a piece,” Bernardi said. “We get that from people, that they keep their glass or wood in a place they love to relax and collect themselves because the scene and colors make them smile or bring a sense of peace.”
Cover photo: Jarod Crew fits and solders the stained glass pieces together. Photo courtesy of the artists