Olesen’s art comes from splendiferous inspiration

Piers Island glass artist Pauline Olesen draws inspiration from the coast.

Glass artist Pauline Olesen

Nestled in her studio on Piers Island, glass artist Pauline Olesen can lose hours creating extraordinary sculptures and curious creatures in her kiln, playing with vibrant colours and carving out designs to make her unique pieces.

“I can be out there for hours,” says Olesen. “Time just goes by.”

Olesen, whose work is at Morris Gallery, The Gallery at Mattick’s Farm and Muse Winery, has been crafting glass into art for 16 years.

Her work varies from decorative to functional, depending on the piece, and both have their attractive qualities for the artist.

“Sculptural pieces have more freedom,” she says. “You don’t have to worry if it will hold water (for example). But I love seeing sushi on my plates too. I consider sushi its own art form.”

Whether her pieces are purely decorative or not, she loves the freedom of abstract designs, but she also draws much inspiration from the natural world as well, looking to curious creatures and the colours and shapes from the sea.

“I love doing frogs,” she says. “They have a happiness to them, and such beautiful colours.”

Drawn to marine blues and greens, Olesen also likes to play with the contours of kelp. An avid kayaker, she often finds herself staring at her surroundings in awe when she’s on the water.

“When you’re out there in the kelp and seeing it all around you, you want to take that moment and freeze it into glass.”

And in fact, one of her latest pieces is just that — a glass swirl of ocean colour and kiln-carved blades of kelp. And it’s not just the design that’s new; Olesen recently opened up her process to public comment, asking for feedback on whether to continue slumping a piece, or to leave it as is.

It all started when a neighbour came over and saw a flat piece she’d just taken out of the kiln. Originally meant for more firings to curve it into a bowl, the neighbour protested and offered to buy the two-dimensional piece on the spot as a window decoration.

“They always look lovely when they first come out (of the kiln),” says Olesen. “So the decision to move forward is hard sometimes.”

This new call out for feedback is a way to further engage prospective art-owners in the process, she says.

Currently, she’s experimenting with encasing a slice of orange in glass, a feat that’s taking a lot of “figuring out” to get the texture of the segments just right.

“If you look at the pulp really closely, it sort of looks like a butterfly’s wing,” she says.

Also in the works is a collaboration between Olesen and metalwork artists Gord Langston and Heather Gunning from Pleasant Street Studio in Sidney. Gunning’s work in particular, often whimsical pieces including quite a few frogs and all made from recycled metal, seem to call out for a touch of sparkling glass to catch the light.

“Metal and glass just go so well together,” says Olesen, who’s very excited for the partnership.

Next up, Olesen will be submitting three pieces into the Small Expressions show at the Community Arts Council of the Saanich Peninsula Arts Centre at Tulista Park. The show runs March 4 through 29.

For more information visit cacsp.com or paulineolesen.com.