Glass artist Pauline Olesen at her studio on Piers Island

Visual Art: Playing with light

Glass artist Pauline Olesen creates colourful fused-glass peices at her Piers Island studio



A visit to Pauline Olesen’s studio begins with a splash.

The artist, who creates colourful fused-glass pieces, lives and works on Piers Island, a seven- minute, two-kilometre journey by boat off the north end of the Saanich Peninsula.

Olesen is waiting at the dock as the Piers Island Ferry, Seastar I arrives. She shouts “hello” and grabs hold of a rope, quickly helping secure the 28-foot pontoon boat.

“It’s very quiet,” she says of the tiny island, population somewhere around 80 full-time residents – that number swells in summer with cottagers. “There’s no sounds of the city. … There’s not very many people, which is nice,” she adds with a laugh.

A quick trip down a narrow gravel track in her golf cart – the only motorized vehicles allowed on the Island aside from those of the volunteer fire department – and we arrive at the idyllic and serene waterfront property.

Olesen and her husband Steve Cruise have owned their property on Piers for 24 years and have lived there full-time for the last 15.

“We were tired of what we called ‘sad Sundays,’” she says of having to leave their 600-square-foot cabin after weekends away. They have since expanded the home which includes a separate studio space and fragrant, wild gardens.

Olesen was born and raised in Victoria, attended Belmont High and says art has always been a part of her life.

“I was always drawing and painting, it’s always been a hobby.” She switched from painting to ceramics and, about 12 years ago, discovered a passion for glass work.

“I just did an experiment with clear glass in the kiln. I was just really fascinated with what glass did in a kiln. Glass is just so much more exciting than pottery,” she says.

The “surprise” of working with glass is both a frustration and fascination for Olesen as she layers pieces of different colours of glass, firing and molding them into everything from functional dinnerware and custom lighting to decorative works. One of her latest is a three-foot crocodile.

“I always need to go bigger. I think ‘what can I do to stretch the limits? How far can you go to take this from just being glass to something else?’” she says.

Largely self-taught, Olesen says glass “just makes me happy. I don’t get that from painting, but I get that from glass.”

See her work at paulineolesen.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jen Hodge conducts an online concert during the pandemic after returning to B.C. from New York City. Photo courtesy Claudia Nobauer
Canada Recovery Benefit won’t replace the magic of live performance, musicians say

Cash will help, but its the audience connection that most performers miss — and crave

Mary Fox’s new book My Life as a Potter is available at bookstores nationwide. (Cole Schisler photo)
My Life as a Potter raises funds for Mary Fox Legacy Project

Acclaimed Vancouver Island potter’s story raising money for developing artists

Premier John Horgan and Rob Douglas, BC NDP candidate for Cowichan Valley, meet with Cowichan First Nation elders, as they demonstrate spearfishing along the river. (Submitted)
Horgan acknowledges A&E sector hit hard by COVID-19, but showing signs of recovery

Hollywood North doing better than Hollywood South, Horgan says

Online reservation service, First Table, allows Victoria diners to have dinner at half-price if they’re willing to be flexible about when they go. (Black Press Media file photo)
New reservation service allows Victoria residents to dine out at half price

First Table gives Victoria diners 50 per cent off when they book tables during off-peak hours

Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann will play the same piano at the Port Theatre on Nov. 1. (Photo courtesy Best Days Ever Photography)
Piano duo perform on one piano in Nanaimo return to live performance

Marcel and Elizabeth Bergmann present first live, in-person concert since March

Leaking Time by Oak Bay resident Ilka Bauer is the winning entry of the Federation of Canadian Artist’s “Crisis” exhibition on now in Vancouver. (Ilka Bauer Image)
Oak Bay artist wins juried show in Vancouver

Pair of Oak Bay artists part of ‘Crisis’ exhibition

Can you spot all 12 Days of Christmas displays at the Butchart Gardens? Jen Blyth photo.
The magic of Christmas returns to the Butchart Gardens

Some events cancelled due to COVID-10 but 12 Days of Christmas will brighten the season

Gatineau artist Michèle Provost visits the Malaspina Galleries during her artist residency on Gabriola Island. (Photo supplied)
Gatineau artist the first to take part in new Gabriola Island artist residency

Michèle Provost to create art book reflecting on the positives of aging

Legendary Vancouver-based blues and jazz guitarist and vocalist Jim Byrnes will perform live at the Tidemark Theatre in a concert that will also be streamed. Contributed photo
Legendary blues musician and actor Jim Byrnes hits the Island

Playing Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre for a hybrid live/online show

Dinner shows in the Playbill Dining Room are keeping the Chemainus Theatre going during the pandemic. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Dinner events satisfying for the Chemainus Theatre and patrons

Small groups enjoy entertainment and the food in the Playbill Dining Room

Kent Laforme looks through the sound tunnel, or visual portal, carved inside the 25,000-pound marble sculpture that could be installed at Cattle Point. (Screen Shot, Oakbay.ca video)
Kent Laforme looks through the sound tunnel, or visual portal, carved inside the 25,000-pound marble sculpture that could be installed at Cattle Point. (Screen Shot, Oakbay.ca video)
Stone Takaya sculpture could soon ‘howl’ at Cattle Point

Oak Bay inviting public suggestions for 25,000-pound marble sculpture

Most Read