Think of all the businesses in Canada… Now, of all of these businesses, what type do you think is the longest family run business in Canada? Well, if your answer is stained glass, you’re right! Located in Toronto, Robert McCausland Limited has been around since 1856 and has been a family run business ever since. Although the West End’s own Prairie Studio Glass (age 42) isn’t quite as old as Robert McCausland Limited, they’re definitely following the trend of keeping artistry in the family with two generations of local glass artists (and counting)!
Prairie Studio Glass, a West End staple, has been on Sargent since 1978. Originally facing north on Sargent and Victor, co-owners Lucinda Doran and her husband Brian McMillan were ecstatic when their current south facing building on Sargent and Sherbrook became available 25 years ago. Although it may sound trivial, stained glass enthusiasts are always thinking about which direction their windows are facing. Windows on the south catch all the natural sunlight and nothing makes stained glass shine like the sun.
Over the past four decades, the couple has invested countless hours learning their craft, but their interest in glass is something that Lucinda says they fell into quite naturally. Throughout the years, Lucinda has studied in the United States under renowned glass artists Dale Chihuly at the Pilchuck School of Glass and overseas in England learning from other master glass artists. For Lucinda, being a stained glass artist isn’t only her job, it’s her life’s ongoing journey.
“You always have to achieve better since there are always imperfections,” said Lucinda, adding, “your last piece of stained glass is always your best piece, since you’re constantly learning and improving from your old pieces.”
Lucinda’s marvelous glass creations draw inspiration from all things Manitoban, from Canadian geese to the great workhorses that once pulled heavy farm machinery on the prairies (a tribute to Lucinda’s late father who was known to be a very hard worker).
According to Lucinda, a creating stained glass commission is an organic process. Usually customers begin by simply discussing their ideas with her. From those ideas she hones in on a focused concept which is then sketched out (with colours in mind) and approved. Once approved, Lucinda and her team choose the proper type of glass (from transparent to opalescent) based upon where the commission is going and how much light it will be exposed to. The glass is then cut and metal techniques are used to solder the glass together into a coherent tableau with strong lines and breathtaking reflections.
Each piece of stained glass at Prairie Studio Glass is distinctive, with its own character and story. Some of the most interesting projects have included the restoration of an existing commission that travelled all the way from a church in Saskatchewan, stained glass windows of Lucinda’s dogs, and even Christmas themed glass candle holders for Winnipeg Harvest volunteers. Fortunately, the story of Prairie Studio Glass is far from over. Lucinda says that in time, the business will likely be passed on to her son Matthew and then to her artfully inclined grandchildren. Although they’re still many years away, it’s possible that in the future Prairie Studio Glass may be challenging Robert McCausland Limited for the title of the longest family-run business in Canada!
If you would like to visit Prairie Studio Glass or take a stained glass lesson, you can find all the information you need on their website here.