Crafter of the month: Urve Manuel

One-on-one with the country's finest crafters


Urve Manuel, the artisan behind A Stone’s Throw Glassworks in Gillams, Newfoundland, might see the ocean from her window, but she’s no stranger to the Prairies. A gifted glass worker, Manuel has lived and worked all over the country and her memories and experiences of each location are evident in her work. We tracked her down to ask a few questions about her new studio, her difficulty to chose a single treasured piece, and her favourite things to do when she’s not bringing glass to life.

You had a number of careers before taking up glasswork. How did you come to the art form?
As children, my brothers and I grew up without a television. I remember having one in the house every once in a while, but it was something we were never really allowed to watch. When the time came, we were allowed Sunday night with Walt Disney. So we played outdoors, drew, painted, created, and read.

I joined a roommate of mine from University when I was living in British Columbia in an evening ‘Learn How to Make Stained-Glass Windows’ course sponsored by the Board of Education at a local high school. I went to two sessions, where I learned about the tools, how to cut glass, and how to put the pieces together. I really love this interplay between light and glass; it creates so much movement in the panels.

Was the workshop your only formal training?
I taught myself the fused glasswork. It was a challenge when I first started about 4 years ago; I thought I was the only one doing it here in Newfoundland, and although I tried reading on the Internet, ordering books, emailing other artists, etc., it was trial and costly error for quite some time. I am one of those people who learn better by doing, so it took more than books to teach me. When I reference the books now, I find that, in hindsight, all the information I needed was there—funny how that works.
Since that first workshop, I have attended a class at OATKA Glass School in Batavia, New York, and a two-week program at Pilchuck School of Glass, in Washington. I enjoyed these immensely, and I learned to look at certain aspects of glass and glass art differently. It also reaffirmed that I was on the right track.

Where do you find your materials?
I buy most of my materials, but I do inherit many old windows as people remodel their homes. I have also used old glass jam-jar lids in some of my panels.

Your Canada series is extraordinary. How do you decide what to feature for each province?
Most of my inspiration for my work comes from the great outdoors. I have spent years hiking, surfing, camping, paddling, working, driving or flying in remote parts of Canada. As I moved from area to area, certain ideas travelled with me, and whenever I had time to create a panel, one would develop into a glass painting. Slowly, these have evolved into my Canada series—they represent some of the more striking moments or occasions that I was lucky enough to experience when I was in a particular province.

What are your favourite pieces to create?
I love the excitement of designing new panels, going through the process of picking glass, deciding what I like about a certain kind of glass, what it will do in different light and how it will look in juxtaposition with a different type of glass.
I also love the fused glass, because the results are seen so much sooner, and because there is still unpredictability with the process. I am attached to my glass dories largely because of the process that I went through to get what I wanted. Also, the paddles were carved from cedar shakes from my house by an old fellow who lives up the bay from me (in exchange for haircuts). My glass caribou are also favourites—it took almost a month of trials to carve the mold in such a way that allowed the animals to stand upright without compromising their shape once the last firing was completed.