September 2018 - Lougheed House

Magic Aesthetic: meet YYC glass artist Michelle Atkinson

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Q & A with artist Michelle Atkinson of Jewelnotes Glassworks.

Michelle is a Calgary based artist whose beautiful, timeless and sustainable glass work we are proud to now sell at The Shop at Lougheed House.

Michelle Atkinson

Michelle was born and raised in Calgary, and has studied graphic design and glass making both locally and internationally. She has a love for all things nature and magic. Her work combines fused glass, crystals and copper to create one-of-a-kind statement jewelry and home décor pieces. The work has a rustic, worn and ancient feel mixed with a magical sparkle provided by the deep hues in the dichroic glass. The addition of crystals helps to propel the work to a more ethereal realm and connects us all back to the earth.

Saddlebowl by Michelle Atkinson

What inspires your work?

The majority of my work is inspired by the landscape of western Canada mixed with a Magic aesthetic. I remember summer vacations as a kid, traveling across the prairies, through the mountains and out to the ocean, completely transfixed with the nature around me. I collected rocks, shells and lots of little treasures along the way, dreaming of mermaids and fairies in the ocean and forests. I’m an Albertan born and raised, so I have a great love for the vast calming effect of the prairies. I aim to keep that little pice of childhood magic inside me alive all while highlighting our stunning landscape in my work. My jewelry uses a lot of Dichroic glass witch sparkles and shines just like a fairy wings and my line is moving toward copper electroformed pieces. Electroforming allows me to incorporate actual leaves and other organic elements and give the work a distinctly rustic and earthy feeling. I still have a few silver pieces, but eventually everything will be copper. My sculptural work focuses on impressing natural elements into the glass (grasses, leaves etc.).

How did you become an artist?

I’d say I’ve been an artist my entire life. I’ve tried it all, but glass has always called to me – I used to dig up bits of old pottery and glass in the garden as a kid.

I’ve been a graphic designer my entire adult career, or my ‘big girl’ job as I call it. I still work as a designer full time and do the glass art the rest of the time. I joke I have two full time jobs. In the day job I’m creative for other people and the glass job I’m creative for me.

As far as getting into glass, I always wanted to take glassblowing, but just never got to it. I ended up doing the graphic design thing and never went back to school for that glass part. I toyed with continuing education but never pressed the button until I found a short weekend class for fused glass. We just did really simple, layered glass pendants; the next day I bought my first kiln! I’ve been experimenting and learning ever since. I’ve travelled to Vegas for classes and done a lot of trail an error learning from books and the internet as well as a few online courses.My graphic design training has given me a lot go the fundamentals like colour terry and composition, so I really love getting to experiment with what the medium can do. My work always has many layers, both in meaning as well as process.

What do you want people to know about your work?

Humm… this is a tough one. Maybe that there is more to it than you think and the simple pieces are the most difficult. I’m always trying to simplify my pieces and process, they usually end up having more to say. And if you ever see me at a show (fine craft or fine art), please ask me questions about the work! I love to share the nuances of each piece. Every piece has a story and glass is more complex than people assume – the process itself is a story.

Visit Michelle’s website a

Or on Instagram @jewelnotes.

An art-making workshop for new artists.

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Excavate Your Aesthetic: an art-making workshop with Rebecca Smyth on September 27th.

Inspired by the many artworks in our new Formed by Sand exhibit, you’ll create your own individual work of art with the guidance from Calgary educator, facilitator and contemporary art-maker Rebecca Smyth.

Rebecca Smyth

Rebecca Smyth

Imagine, with Rebecca’s professional guidance, making your own art – from observation and sketching to working and reworking materials – and gaining an appreciation for your unique aesthetic and how it guides you to see and understand the world around you.

We will provide all the art materials and, to get you warmed up, a complimentary drink from our Restaurant bar. Bring your friends and take home a work of art as unique as you. No experience is necessary, just a willingness to play and explore.

Time: Thursday September 27

6:30 doors

7:00 – 9:30 workshop

Price: $60 ($50 for Lougheed House members and seniors)

Below, workshop instructor Rebecca Smyth tells you what to expect on September 27.
T0 register for the workshop, click here.
Workshop Itinerary


The works in the exhibition all reference a sense of place and the history of materials, which are concepts we’ll also be drawing on as we work on our two artworks. The tour will give a deeper look at the exhibition concepts, give participants a chance to consider works that they find interesting or inspiring, and start thinking about how techniques and materials communicate certain ideas or emotions.


Drawing is the foundation of all art making. More than just a literal translation of an image onto paper, drawing is about expressive mark-making, using lines, shapes and gestures and a wide variety of tools.
We’ll begin with a warm-up where participants will do several line and texture studies without focussing on a finished product. This will be on-site throughout the house, to get a sense of place and use the architecture and the details of the house as inspiration. We’ll then return to the shared work area to combine these studies into a finished piece. Participants will select several of the smaller studies to layer into one finished abstract drawing that reflects their impressions of the house.
~Wine/cocktail/beer break~


Building on the concepts from the drawing exercises, participants will use mark making and surface building to modify a found object (provided by the workshop). Conceptually, we will consider literal and emotional histories and layers of objects, and how that translates into visual language.


We’ll be referencing techniques and concepts that can be found across the House’s current Formed by Sand exhibition, in order to build artistic literacy (looking at and understanding artworks), to test out techniques and mediums, and to build participants’ own visual vocabularies — what techniques/mediums/compositions they like and dislike when they make their own work.
Register here.

In 1887, Child & Wilson became Calgary’s First Architectural Firm

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Designing and constructing in sandstone is no easy feat – it requires expertise not just on the part of the craftspeople (read last our previous post for more on Calgary’s stoneworkers), but on the part of the architect as well. At the time of the 1886 fire, Calgary was equipped with plenty of stoneworkers, but not a single architect. Prior sandstone constructions had been designed either by commissioning architects from abroad, or in the case of smaller projects, by the firm in charge of the construction. The result was a city built in an eclectic combination of Victorian and Colonial styles, designed according to tastes of architects who, for the most part, had never even seen the city. It wasn’t until 1887, a year after the fire, that an opportunistic pair of designers, James Llewellyn Wilson and James Turner Child, established Calgary’s first (extremely lucrative) architectural firm.

Wilson and Child were an unlikely pair. Like most skilled workers at the time, both hailed from, and were educated in, England, but this was where their similarities ended. James Llewellyn Wilson was an architect to the bone: he had practised for several years in London before travelling to Canada for reasons that are unclear, leaving behind a promising career in one of the architectural capitols of the world.[1] James Turner Child, on the other hand, had never strictly been educated or practiced as an architect. He was an engineer by trade, and his specialty was about as far from traditional architecture as it could be: Child had made his name in land reclamation and drainage construction, working for the federal government in Manitoba. However the 1885 rebellion forced him to dissolve this firm and flee west, where he settled in Calgary.[2]

The South Ward (later Haultain) School in 1908.

How the two met is unclear, but it was fortuitous for both that they did. The combination of new construction bylaws instituted after the 1886 fire, and an enormous influx of short-lived foreign capital created an overwhelming demand for skilled designers who could conceive and oversee the execution of complex and difficult sandstone structures. By forming a partnership, Child & Wilson were able to virtually monopolize Calgary’s construction-design industry during the firm’s brief existence. Wilson fulfilled the vast majority of the architectural work. In the space of two years, Wilson’s designs practically overran downtown Calgary, including four massive multi-story structures on Stephen Ave. His weakness for Romanesque Revival architecture (complete with matching cylindrical “towers” on the Alexander Block and Imperial Bank buildings) became Calgary’s first distinctive architectural “look,” establishing a visual precedent which defined construction in the city centre well into the 20th century. Wilson imported various elements of Richardsonian architecture currently en vogue on America’s metropolitan East Coast, including the distinctive rough-hewn, concave sandstone blocks visible on most pre-1920s buildings in Calgary’s core. Meanwhile, Child took care of Calgary’s infrastructural concerns, overseeing the design and construction of Calgary’s first sewer system in 1893.[3]

Given that the firm had always been a “marriage of convenience,” it is unsurprising that Child dissolved the partnership in 1899, when he was offered a more advantageous position as Assistant Chief Engineer for the Northwest Government at Regina. Wilson, on the other hand, remained in Calgary and continued to help define its growth for several decades. Wilson participated in several partnerships, including one with Calgary’s other foremost sandstone architect, William Stanley Bates (whose home originally stood opposite Lougheed House).[4]

The Normal School, circa 1910, still stands today as McDougall Centre.

Few of the designs created by Child & Wilson’s firm remain standing. The Costigan Residence (now Mill St. Brewery) was moved in 1928, but still survives in its new location; Haultain School (originally South Ward School) is now preserved as part of Haultain Park; and Rundle Ruins, the remains of Calgary’s second general hospital, contains a cornerstone bearing the firm’s name.


[1] Robert G. Hill, “Wilson, James Llewellyn,” The Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, accessed July 27, 2018,

[2] Robert G. Hill, “Child, James Turner,” The Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, accessed July 29, 2018,

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, “Wilson.”

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