By Dee Dwyer
Imagine a stained glass artwork of a Scottish castle, a coat of arms of a stag surrounded by a green and black tartan background, and a blue knotwork border of lions. This is the work of Colin Cameron, musician, woodworker, and stained glass artist, who specializes in Celtic heritage and design.
Born in Toronto and raised outside of Guelph, Colin was influenced by his mother, who took him to galleries and art shows, and enrolled him in pottery, theatre, and music classes. He started violin classes at the age of nine, but his first teacher rapped his knuckles with a hickory stick, so he switched to piano.
As a teenager living in Ottawa, he sketched historic buildings. “I’ve been fascinated by architecture since I was a child,” he says. He studied drama at the Banff School of Fine Arts at eighteen, and specialized in wood turning and furniture design at the New Brunswick School of Craft and Design in Fredericton. He was a carpenter for Theatre New Brunswick and a teacher at the Fundy Craft School.
He switched to visual art when he studied at Mount Alison under Lawren Harris, son of the Group of Seven painter. He worked at the art gallery there, eventually becoming assistant curator, framing work and organizing travelling art shows.
In 1977 he moved to Halifax where he made cabinets and storefront designs for Glass Garden, the first stained glass studio in the city. “I was hooked on a shard of glass,” says Colin, who began his five-year apprenticeship in stained glass. “Woodworking was too monochromatic; I wanted colour.” With the three other artists at the studio, Colin in 1981 self-published a pattern book of original stained glass designs called Suncatchers.
All of Colin’s experience and practice in art, craft, and design have led to an incredible body of work inspired by Celtic designs. “My fascination with pattern is what drives my interest in knotwork, key patterns, tartans and interweaves,” says Colin. He moved to Musquodoboit Harbour after a hot summer’s day brought him to the Eastern Shore for a swim. Here in 1985 he established Cailean’s Glassworks, marketing and producing Celtic influenced hand-made glass art, using techniques from the eleventh century.
At the Scottish Highland Games, he collected orders for work, including various clan names, with castles, tartans, the plants linked to a family, and intricate knotwork designs. A work for one Murray family, for instance, includes their crest, displayed in a buckled strap, of a mermaid combing her hair and the family motto. The background is a border of blue knotwork, a symbol of life’s journey and the interconnectedness of all things.
When Colin’s grandfather used to bring out a recording of bagpipe music, he and his sister would cover their ears. A trip to Scotland in 1978 revived his love of Scottish music, and he taught himself to play Celtic tunes on his fiddle. He has been in several groups including Swallow’s Tail, a five-piece band, which performed at the Lunenburg Folk Festival and other musical events.
Occasionally you may find Colin in his Cameron of Lochiel Ancient Hunting tartan kilt. Now retired from glasswork, he can often be found at the Musquodoboit Harbour Farmers’ Market playing a lively jig or a reel. If you want to hire Colin to play music, he can be contacted at 902-889-3318 or at email@example.com.
Note: Some information and quotes came from Deborah Feetham’s article, “Stained Glass Paintings Inspired by Celtic Motifs: Colin Cameron’s Glassworks,”in Celtic Heritage, October/November 1994