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Pelham Art Festival returns on Mother's Day weekend

Hamilton fused glass artisan Angela Sirrs has been with the event for ten years; 'You have to find something you love to do'

Mother's Day Weekend in Fonthill is synonymous with another popular fixture: the Pelham Art Festival.

Drawing thousands of visitors from across the province, this year’s festival will feature more than 75 artists at the Meridian Community Centre’s Accipiter Arena. What started out as a one-day, backyard festival in 1986 has evolved into a three-day event which features both in-person (May 12 to 14) and online (May 8 to 18) components.

Generally regarded as one of the top art shows in Ontario, the festival supports scholarship programs for local high school students, and has raised more than $470,000 for community organizations and charities, including the Lincoln Pelham Public Library.

PelhamToday, a sister site of ThoroldToday, is featuring a number of artists and artisans participating in the festival. Today’s profile: Angela Sirrs.

A retired kindergarten teacher, and a Pelham Art Festival regular since 2010, Angela grew up in Hamilton. She started creating works of art in fused glass around 2006.

“I was coming up for retirement in 2007, and knew that I needed something to do,” she said. “My husband, Fred, had done work with dichroic glass, which can display multiple colours, in his home kiln. We started to work together on glass jewelry, and attended some craft shows as vendors. Although I still make some jewelry pieces, my real interest these days is doing landscapes, which are not easy to create. They almost always incorporate themes of water and birch trees, and are mounted and hung on a wall like a painting.”

Each piece of jewelry and landscape art the Sirrs produce is unique, designed using multiple layers of transparent and opaque glass to create a collage, with multiple firings in Fred’s high-heat kiln. Landscapes sell for between $125 and $700.

Angela developed her design skills through studies in drawing, painting and collage at Dundas Valley School of Art, and course work at AAE Glass Studio in Florida, where she also sources her glass.

“There are probably five to seven layers of glass just to do the landscape background,” she said. “And every time I put a layer of glass down, I fire it in the kiln, so it is a lengthy and expensive process. I put the birch trees or whatever the detail is on top. But unless people actually see those pieces, they wouldn't understand the work that goes into it. And of course, if the glass cracks or bubbles in the kiln, then I've got to repair that with more glass and more firing. So it's a complicated process.”

Fred has a large computerized gas kiln for landscapes, along with a smaller jewelry kiln. He also does a lot of glass grinding. The edge pieces from Angela’s landscapes are sawed off, and Fred makes jewelry out of them.

Angela said that they starting out doing about a dozen shows a year, but came to realize that craft shows were not the best venues for their work, so they shifted their focus to fine art shows, such as the one Pelham hosts.

Angela is a member of Texture Crafts, a group of 45 artists and artisans who set up shop in Hamilton in 1983 to present their handcrafted items. They pool their talents, creating and selling stained glass art, pottery, clay sculptures, jewelry, clothing, knitted and leather goods, artwork, photography, fine woodworking, toys, handmade gift cards, and even local honey.

“This year is Texture Craft’s 40th anniversary,” said Angela. “I have been with them for probably 13 years now. It's a wonderful opportunity for people who can't get into a gallery or don't want to get into a gallery to show their work.”

Their kiln-fired glass work has been a sort of fusion for the Sirrs marriage as well.

“I knew before I retired that I had to have something to keep me busy,” said Angela. “Glasswork has been a passion for me and Fred, something we could do together. Some people talk about retiring and travelling the world. Good luck to them. You have to find something you love to do. Fred and I were really lucky, we found this artwork we love and we can do it together. So it's been good for us.”

Information about the festival is available online at Festival hours are 7 PM to 10 PM on Friday May 12, and 10 AM to 4 PM on Saturday May 13 and Sunday May 14. Tickets to the Friday night opening night gala are $15, while admission on Saturday and Sunday is $7 each day. A full weekend pass is $20, and children under 12 are free. Tickets are available at

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Don Rickers

About the Author: Don Rickers

A life-long Niagara resident, Don Rickers worked for 35 years in university and private school education. He segued into journalism in his retirement with the Voice of Pelham, and now PelhamToday
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