A Touch of Glass celebrates 40 years

Robin McCormick

What started out as a hobby for Emily Hyatt 40 years ago, has grown into a full time stained glass enterprise. She teaches, purchases supplies for customers and most importantly, still enjoys and creating stained glass work herself.

Hyatt started creating stained glass in 1980. It’s a craft she took to quickly – she started selling her pieces in a small shop on Off Lake just two years later.

Interest started to develop from people who wanted to do stained glass, so after three or four years Hyatt started teaching. She found various places to hold classes: schools, rec centres and the Fort Frances museum. In 1988 Hyatt made the decision to set up a studio on her home, which she still teaches from today. Offering six week classes spring, summer and fall and one day workshops.

Hyatt learned early in her glass designing that it was difficult to get the product required. Most product comes from Winnipeg but mainly from Toronto.

So along with teaching she is the supplier for people in the area. Emily would like to have someone else take the selling of product over then she could, “just teach and play all day.”

Hyatt has created many pieces of work; her own home has 13 lamps, and five stained glass windows.

She has created 35 church windows across the district. She shared with me she likely never would have done church windows. However, her dear friend Helen Hughes had passed away and her husband asked if she would design two windows for the Presbyterian church, where they were members. Emily felt she couldn’t say no to such a special person that had been in her life. Emily remembers one of windows displaying Jesus, children and a lamb.

The following year a family requested she make a window for the church. Emily can’t remember the family’s name, and they’ve since left the district. However Emily did create for them. She has designed 10 or 11 for the St. Patrick’s Church in Emo, plus a window displaying a beautiful cross at the United Church in Emo and several windows in Fort Frances churches.

At the Fort Frances Library there is a panel of sunflowers that Hyatt made. This piece was commissioned and is in memory of Nicky Andrusco of Fort Frances.

Several homes have large windows in Fort Frances. Emily’s latest endeavour is to make four windows for a home in Thunder Bay.

Hyatt has been a member of Fine Line Art Gallery for 15 years. She has displayed her stained glass at the store since that time. When she retired from her career at Community Living in 2009, she started working at the store each Thursday.

Hyatt shared with me that the recent change in location to 326 Scott Street has been excellent. The location draws a lot more people into the store, they browse, ask questions, some purchase and all in all have a marvellous visit at the store.

Before stained glass becoming Hyatt’s passion, she did dabble in other crafts, like ceramic and paper tole. But once she started stained glass, there wasn’t any turning back. She was hooked.
I asked Hyatt, what did stained glass making do for her?

Without a moments hesitation she said “at the time my career at Community Living was quite stressful and I needed a distraction.” She found she was able to “go into her happy place,” and all her worries went away.

Hyatt will often wake in the night and go to her studio to do some glass work.

Even with COVID, Emily is still teaching, with a maximum of three people in her home. She’s made all necessary accommodations and does a lot of one-on-one teaching, especially with bigger projects. Before COVID, she would teach 6-8 students at a time.

Hyatt herself had made a lot of glass pieces during the pandemic. In fact if you’re walking by or going to Fine Line Art Gallery, be sure to look in the window. Hyatt has titled these her COVID pieces, all done since March.

If you’re in the store Hyatt can show you her first piece of stained glass she produced – it’s a daffodil she has displayed. Even though I couldn’t see any defects she says, “there’s lots.” But she says she’s proud of how far she’s come. She also will show you her favourite piece – a beautiful lamp displaying leaves.

Hyatt beamed with happiness as she told me one of the best perks of teaching and her love of stained glass is all the amazing people she’s met.

One of the comments she’s heard over and over from students is, “this can consume you, and you can get relief for a few hours, from anything you’re struggling with.”

One story that Hyatt holds close to her heart is about a lady who started a class and fell in love with the craft. Shortly after starting, she brought her son, then the next week she brought her husband. When the husband found out Hyatt and her husband, Norm, would be leaving for two months. He asked Hyatt, “what will she do for two months?” knowing his wife works be lost without the class.

In closing out the interview, I asked Emily, “what advice would you give anyone thinking of taking up stained glass making?”

She pondered for a moment (the first lull in our invigorating time together) and she replied, “stained glass is a craft and an art. The craft anybody can do. All steps are teachable. A piece of glass can be as small as a Christmas ornament or as large as a window, and everything in between. The art piece is in design and colour. That’s where you can let go and do whatever you want.”

Hyatt doesn’t tell you what to do… you chose your own creation.

I asked Emily a silly question, “how much longer do you plan on doing stained glass.”

She responded with a twinkle and a sly smile, “I’ll probably die with a glass scorer in my hand.” And I’m sure she will.

Hyatt had no problem sharing with me that she is 71 years in age (or as I see it 71 years young). She definitely is an inspiration to many and a true “touch of class“.

Hyatt is thrilled about the open house she is hosting to celebrate her 40 years of glass. This is her way to say thanks to the many people she’s met and to people she hasn’t had the opportunity to meet yet.

There will be an Open House at Emily’s studio in Barwick October 8 to 10, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment. Coffee, door prizes and Covid regulations will be present.