Profile by Jane Ledwell
In Ontario, what was one in a million here is one of a kind,” says Laura Cole of her chosen Island home, where she settled almost ten years ago first in Pinette and then in Charlottetown to pursue her passion for craft and creation.
“We came here to retire…someday,” she adds with a wry smile, in the busy studio/office where she creates glass-on-glass mosaic and works part-time as the Executive Director of the PEI Crafts Council, but she is not complaining about “a job that’s really of my own making,” splitting time between the Crafts Council and her own craft business, Random Pieces Glassworks.
A hobbyist in woodworking since she was a kid, Laura started working with glass after “one of those ‘hey, presto’ moments” and decided to buck the trend of refinishing old windows with mirrors and instead replacing broken glass with stained glass mosaic.
Laura’s glassworks are “not traditional stained glass, not traditional fused glass, and not traditional mosaic.” The cut-glass mosaics she creates use the same cuts as stained glass, without the leading; the same assembly as mosaic, without the grout; and the same kinds of materials as fused glass, without the melting. This glass-on-glass mosaic was an emerging style in Ontario, and Laura essentially introduced it here, and shared the technique through cozy workshops in her studio in Pinette and later in Charlottetown.
Laura loves the glass-on-glass mosaic style because “It allows free expression. It is more rustic, yet it has more light and colour, because of the nature of cut glass, The extra cut surfaces mean more facets, like cut crystal, and that means more sparkle, because of the way the light plays on it.”
After a career as an agrologist, recreation planner, and expert in geographic information systems, she left her last job with the City of Ottawa to move to PEI. “We wanted to move to the coast but didn’t know which one. We made a road trip to all the provinces, but kept coming back to PEI. I would not change it for anything,” she recalls. “We’ve been very welcomed into the community here, and very welcomed into the craft community.”
Her welcome into the craft community led to a role as bookkeeper for the PEI Crafts Council and soon to part-time work as Executive Director, growing and revitalizing the organization. Workshop space in her studio gave way to space for a desk.
She describes her work as “growing the Crafts Council—recruiting more people, getting more younger folks coming back to the Island. Some are ‘sons and daughters of’ [established crafters], and some have had off-Island training and are coming back to put in their time and are enjoying it here.” Younger crafters and returnees join “a dedicated core group of people who have been keeping the Crafts Council going”—even through rough times, such as when the Council lost funding and had to close its long-standing retail shop on Victoria Row.
Laura doesn’t dwell on the past, with successes still to come. The Crafts Council’s popular Christmas Craft Fair will run this year for its 49th consecutive year, with “an amazing selection of crafters,” Laura says. “The Crafts Council standards always remained high,” Laura says. “We’re all about hand-crafted.”
The Crafts Council is building on this strength through workshops, professional development, and special events. The Council has been proving itself with successes such as a “Business of Craft” course curriculum at Holland College and taking on the management of the PEI Buyer’s Market and the PEI Studio Tour weekend. They’ve even got an app for that, the PEI Handcrafted Trail.
Laura envisions continuing to build “growth in numbers, and growth in quality” through the Craft Council.
For her Random Pieces, Laura says, “My dream would be to be represented by a gallery someday. I love doing large originals, though I like the little pieces for the shops very much too, and I get some really interesting commissions.”
For the Crafts Council and the crafts community in PEI, Laura’s motto remains, “ It’s handmade, and it’s here.” She’s happily stamping it all “Made in PEI.”