Bright Layers of Transformation & Healing: Lea de Wit’s Illuminating Glassworks Inspired by Nature

By: Jason Lahman for CODAworx

Forging Bright Layers

Lea de Wit creates glass sculptures that glow and shimmer in tones that resemble gemstones and embers. “I love working with color. One of my first loves in art before glassblowing was painting. I approach color with my glasswork in a painterly manner. I layer color upon color to build intensity and vibrancy, playing with varying amounts of opacity and transparency to create depth and dimension. Additionally, my compositions tend to incorporate color transitions to add visual impact and activate the space for which the work has been designed.”

Lea de Wit glassworks
Artist Lea de Wit in her Santa Cruz mountains studio working one of her signature glassworks in the form of a butterfly – photo credit: Crystal Birns
Lea de Wit glassworks
Closeups of glassworks at the City of Vista Civic Center

The rich array of masterful color effects achieved by de Wit comes from over sixteen years of practice and passion. Having studied at renowned centers of the craft, such as the Corning Museum of Glass, and with legendary masters on the Venetian isle of Murano, de Wit has devoted herself to making pieces that delight and inspire her viewers. Her work is in the collections of private individuals, major health facilities, libraries, and municipalities. Visitors to de Wit’s studio nestled in the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz mountains may discover a great flock of butterflies or a school of tropical fish set out in intricate patterns on work tables. The glow from the blazing furnace and afternoon sunlight reveal beautiful spectrums of color within her pieces. “I think there is nothing more fulfilling than to hear someone exclaim, ‘WOW’ when they encounter the work up close.” de Wit’s delightful Instagram account provides a fascinating array of images of her studio process and of glassworks in progress.

Lea de Wit glassworks
Light and layers details of one of the butterflies and a school of fish in two of de Wit’s wall installations


Themes of Transformation

" The Butterfly Effect" and "Change of Seasons" details of the individual elements
” The Butterfly Effect” and “Change of Seasons” details of the individual elements

Glass is a medium that is both delicate and strong, representative of contradiction and transcendence. It can mimic almost any other substance and be shaped into forms that imitate the most buoyant and elegant life forms. “My artwork centers around the notion that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connection with nature, the biophilia hypothesis. From a very young age, I was drawn to the natural world, completely awestruck by its sheer beauty,” says de Wit. “I am particularly intrigued by the repetition of patterns found in nature. For me, these patterns frequently possess a lyrical or rhythmic quality, and these rhythms have a flow. I seek to translate these patterns and their flow into sculptural compositions of varying scale and scope.” De Wit is known for creating intricate hanging and wall installations that play on natural themes. In two works, The Butterfly Effect and Change of Seasons, the artist has assembled dozens of individual elements and arranged them into natural cluster patterns- the first suspended the second wall-mounted. Other themes in her body of work include the migration and transformation of insects and the progression of leaves changing color from spring green to autumn’s blaze. Rooted in beauty, these archetypal stories have a deep, calming resonance representing wholeness and completeness.

Lea de Wit glassworks
Flying creatures of glass- de Wit’s inspiring constellations draw on biology. “Soaring on the Ocean Breeze” in Leonard Cancer Institute in Mission Viejo, CA (above left) & “Release” in NYC (above right)

De Wit’s themes of transformation and uplift have deep roots in her own life’s path. Once an athletic teenager, she developed a spinal tumor that abruptly changed her life and suddenly made vivid the concept of mortality. The process of recovery was also a process of awakening to the precious brevity of life. “After that experience, I knew I had to spend my life doing what I loved. Finding my passion and devoting myself to it. The beauty and power of glassmaking fulfilled that vision.”


Healing Inspired by Nature

Lea de Wit glassworks Imbert Cancer Center
Imbert Cancer Center commission on Long Island, NY

Studies continue to show that architecture and art are key to contributing to the psychosomatic well-being of patients, staff members, and all those who spend time in healthcare facilities. Because such a wide swath of the public will eventually find their way to these spaces of care, it is critical to choose visual components that will have an impactful presence for as many people as possible; themes, forms, and images drawn from nature consistently provide that influence. “My art centers around the idea of bringing the outside in. The natural world has the ability to provide a calming, soothing, and uplifting element in the healthcare environment.”

Lea de Wit glassworks at the New York Proton Center
Resonate“, a wall piece reminiscent of leaves, flames, and flora at the New York Proton Center in New York, NY.

De Wit’s mastery of the craft of glasswork and her ability to create artforms inspired by nature delights all audiences, from kids to adults. The surge and sweep of animal species that travel en masse (fish, birds, insects), the mandalas and radial shapes that emanate outward (starfish, flowers, the sun), and the seductive curves and hypnotic whorls (palm fronds, fins, wings, skeletal structures) enchant viewers who admire the human ability to mimic nature and to bring these natural experiences into the spaces they inhabit. “Art lifts people’s spirits and it distracts the viewer from what troubles them. Art is beneficial not only for the patients and their loved ones, but the caregivers as well. Art heals.”

Lea de Wit glassworks
de Wit’s sculptures incorporating metal and glass utilizing radial forms reminiscent of water and leaf patterns. Commission for The Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Santa Cruz, CA (top) and installation at The Sierra Azul Demonstration Garden in Watsonville, CA (bottom)