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Bringing alive colours through light: A peek inside the only stained glass studio in Seychelles

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Joachim Hoareau shows the process of preparing the stained glass work in a special oven (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency)

Driving up towards the mountains on the Bel Air road not far from the capital Victoria is Seychelles one and only stained glass studio.

Following a warm welcome after opening the little steel gate embellished with climbing plants, SNA was invited to discover the studio where all these marvelous designs are made from recycled glass, to the soft sounds of wind chimes.

Mosaic panels, ocean blue wind chimes, plates, bowls and necklaces create a pool of colors and shapes that mesmerize and fascinate the visitor.

The ‘Thoughts Stained Glass Studio’ is the artistic creation of a South African couple who settled in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, Sharon and her husband Leslie Masterson, who opened the studio at Bel Air, sixteen years ago.

The Mastersons had pioneered the introduction of the art of stained glass in Seychelles, and were joined by a Seychellois artist, Joachim Hoareau, who had studied art at the Seychelles Polytechnic. Leslie passed away four years ago.

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Drawing the scene of the Last Supper for display for Cascade Roman Catholic church. ( Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

Art has been my passion for years now. I studied art for three years at the Seychelles Polytechnic, after that I worked at the College of the Arts with the Masterson for 18 years. After, Masterson left us, I became more devoted to the work and I am also learning to run a business at the same time. Sharon and I now run the business. We now have two employees, Daniel who just started not too long ago and Collin who will soon have five years with us,” explained Hoareau.

Joachim Hoareau is the sole stained glass artist in the Seychelles and is raising awareness on this creative visual art and for that he works long hours.

“Perseverance and hard work is what keeps the business going. I work every day, I don’t really have a Sunday [free] at times, and I do give myself a starting or ending time,” added Hoareau.

The studio produces mostly large displays for churches and windows and doors also for homes, as well as souvenirs, trophies and wedding gifts.

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Stained glass work is a rare form of art in the Seychelles islands ( Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

It imports 150 to 200 large sheets of coloured glass every two years from New York, USA, at a price of over $19,500.

Hoareau says these imported glass sheets are made up of more sand and less silica material and that it makes it easier to mold and work with than the recycled ones. Nevertheless, he still makes use of materials in his environment by recycling glass from windows, bottles and door frames.

“The glass that I recycle is mostly from broken shop and home windows but I mostly buy them from a local company and I use them as base for trophies, picture frames and decorative jars. This cost me about fifteen thousand Seychelles rupees annually [$1140]. For now I don’t take much from hotels as I don’t have adequate storage area,” says Hoareau.

Recycling unwanted glass

Stained glass is not just a unique art form in the Seychelles but furthermore a means of cleaning up the environment as broken glass can be hazardous.

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Fish and sea world display are a popular tourist souvenir. ( Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

Hoareau proudly adds; “I can take waste from someone’s home and make nice things of the glass that was once behind the house into his or her living room.”

If a particular color that is not in stock is needed, he paints them and fuses them in the special glass oven for at least three hours.

Small pieces are crushed to make decorative designs so nothing goes to waste at the studio. These pieces are also used to make one of the studio’s new creations with the mosaic style in mind where Hoareau uses cement to make the base and shapes and then glues the glasses in a mosaic style on them, to make decorative pieces.

He is open to client suggestions and tries to accommodate them. Most of his clients prefer the oven process that offers 3D effects but he also uses another technique such as a fusion using LED illumination to assemble the glass.

During the SNA visit, Hoareau and his team were busy working on a panel for the Cascade Roman Catholic Church. The panel depicted ‘the Last Supper’ of Jesus Christ, as is traditionally depicted in Christian art, that is worth $5,400. The lowest price of their products is the design of a small fish for less than $4.

Apart from the studio, ‘Thoughts’ stained glass products are also on sale at craft shops in the centre of  Victoria  and at the Seychelles International Airport.

The studio is also exploring the islands’ hotels as a market for their displays.

4glass We don’t get much work from hotels apart from rare invitations to participate in an activity they organize. They expressed interest in our small fishes and birds as souvenir items. As for our mosaic work for their walls we’ve had verbal interest but nothing concrete so far,” says Hoareau.

“I think more awareness is needed in terms of recycling materials, that would allow people in general and those doing craft to change their mindset vis-à-vis developing their minds in using waste to make new things out of them. For those already doing so, it’s an exceptional work. Doing so allows one to develop one’s mind and helps clean up the world we live in,” explains the passionate artist.

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The detail and scope of the stained glass display is carefully prepared (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

Environment protection groups see glass as beneficial to the environment as it is a material that can be recycled many times over and can be used to save energy.

Although it is good for the environment, working with stained glass has its own dangers especially when using old materials; prolonged and uncontrolled exposure can result in lead poisoning.

Hopes for a new generation of stained glass artists

Speaking about his plans for the future, Hoareau stressed on the fact that he will not be this business forever and that it is important that he shares his knowledge with younger generations.

“I would love for stained glass not to fade away in Seychelles, that the generation to come keeps it alive. I research a lot and I would love that stained glass in Seychelles reaches the international level in terms of creativity. We are being held back because of availability of materials and equipments and it is a very costly business to venture in.”

Correction: Stained glass mural is no longer seen on the roadside of Bel Air, as it was removed.

Source : Seychelles News Agency

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