Shadetrees work is stunning - a quick browse through the gallery on their website turns into a 20-minute visit as you marvel at the detail that Kristo and crew put into their work. Lifesized trees and flowers, animals, motifs that echo architectural details, symmetrical designs, abstract shapes, and influences spanning everything from the Great Northwoods to the Great American Southwest - are all rendered with plenty of care and talent in colored glass, lead, and other unusual materials. Kristo has an artistic eye, for sure, and applies those design sensibilities to her glasswork.
Back in the 70s, Kristo was taking art classes at North Central Michigan College in Petoskey and ran into Frank James, who, at that time, owned the original Shadetree Studios, which was located in the back of his aunts antique store on Lake Street. James was looking for someone to help him in glass design, and he also taught classes; Kristo quickly signed up for her first class, in which she made a leaded stained glass window, and she paid for the class in trade, by working at James studio.
I started getting more and more into the design work as time went on, Kristo reminisces, and as the glass studio itself grew, it began to take over the whole antique store. We started moving the studio to bigger and bigger locations - the current location is actually our fourth, and weve been here for 20 years.
When James decided to move back to Florida in the early 80s, Kristo decided to take over the studio, and shes owned it ever since.
Shadetree is both a working studio and a gallery, complete with Kristos friendly mascot, her black lab Gladys, who is often in residence. With other employees, all of them having started as apprentices, Kristo has a full complement of help, one of whom is her son, Jeremy Rakoniewski.
Jeremy grew up in the business, so he knows whats going on, Kristo says proudly. Hes actually the head of our restoration department now, and his wife, Robyn, is our office person.
As Shadetrees staff has been widely praised for both their artistic ability and their solid construction, theyre a great place to go for glasswork that needs restoring - they have many colorful ways to breathe new life into old windows or other glassed-in areas, just as much as theyre the premier place to go for custom stained glass work.
The business has even restored works from such renowned stained glass masters as Connick, Mayer of Munich, Heaton-Butler-Bayne, and the well-known Tiffany. The majority of their work in Northern Michigan is custom work and churches, but theyll also travel for a good project, and theyve gone both up into the U.P. and all the way downstate for various jobs.
Youve probably seen plenty of Shadetree Studios work without even realizing it. Theyve done windows for several churches in Petoskey, including the First Presbyterian Church and the Christian Science Center, and they restored all of the striking windows in the Crooked Tree Arts Center. Some of their other notable work has included the new Presbyterian Church in Harbor Springs, the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Cross Village, and all of the windows in the chapel in Bay View. And, of course, theres plenty of private work. We do lots and lots of private homes, Kristo confirms, especially in Bay Harbor, and all around the Northern Michigan region.
Stopping in to the studio will give you even more of an insight to what Kristo and her crew do. Its an open studio, Kristo explains. Weve always been open to the public, and we also still teach classes and sell supplies here. People coming in will get to see all of the glass that we have on hand, and will likely also see people cutting glass, leading, foiling, soldering; its kind of like a mini impromptu lesson, as theres always someone doing something.
Theres a large display area with finished works, as well; visitors will be especially impressed by the stained glass windows, the hanging stained glass lamps, and the fused glass jewelry. Theres a lot to look at, Kristo says. And theres definitely a lot that youll be able to visualize in your own house once you see what amazing things Penny Kristo and Shadetree Studios can do for your windows.
Shadetree Studios are located at
417 Howard Street in downtown Petoskey, telephone 231-347-1001. Their beautiful work can also be viewed online at