There is nothing quite like the beauty of glass. It is a medium of artistic expression that brings an ethereal, almost magical quality to any work of art it graces. At Element Inspired, stained glass maker Jessica Wisniewski makes beautiful, timeless pieces that catch the light and illuminate the imagination. At her brand-new retail shop in Erin, she not only displays her own glass pieces for you to fall in love with, she is also an active advocate for the maker community and invites you to discover other handmade items to bring home and cherish.
The theme of Element Inspired is, as Jessica puts it, modern stained glass inspired by nature. With each piece, she aims to honour the uniqueness of the glass itself, for indeed no two pieces are alike. “I keep my designs simple because to me it’s the beauty of the glass that is inspiring—the green swirls and the iridescent textures,” she explains. “These are really the feature of what I am showing. Keeping the designs simple allows for that glass to show through.”
“It honestly amazes me every time I create a new design,” she adds. “Glass is such a fantastic medium to work in. My line of glass feathers, for example, was the first design that started it. I have literally made and sold thousands of feathers over the years and I get excited by every single one. It leaves me in awe when I can hold a product up to the light for the very first time. It’s such a beautiful medium, and I am truly grateful to be able to work in it.”
Currently, Element Inspired features over twenty local artisans in addition to Jessica’s glass pieces. The store also features an incredible selection of indoor plants and plant accessories. Having been a landscape designer for ten years before her independent adventure into artistic retail, Jessica had originally intended for her shop to be her personal studio, with a small selection of plants and a spotlight on perhaps one maker per month. However, after selling her glass to other shops and being a maker in the community for the last six years, she has found herself with quite a few contacts. “I had a lot of people offering their work,” she said. “That is how it started. I decided to not put the studio in, and instead to make it a full-time retail space.”
As one might expect, glass has always been an interest for Jessica—a kind of obsession, in her words. Ever since she was a child, glass in all its forms has captured her imagination. “When I try to figure out where the passion ignited, it goes pretty far back,” she admits. “My grandmother had a green glass collection that I found fascinating.” Fifteen years ago, Jessica received stained glass lesson for her birthday, and completed a six-week course.
Sporadic glasswork resulted in the occasional gift for friends and family, until six years ago when she made her sister a glass feather for her birthday and fell in love with the design. Because her landscaping career offered time for a side business, Jessica established an Etsy shop to sell some of her feathers. From there, her side business grew, and a few months later she bought into a store similar to the one she owns now. “I created a line of nature-inspired designs, and I connected with other handmade shops across Ontario,” she recalls. “I think at the height of it all, I was in about twenty different places selling my glasswork and travelling around teaching workshops.”
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, however, teaching became a challenge as physical distancing measures were implemented and shops began to close—some, sadly, permanently. Despite this, during the pandemic was when Jessica was presented the serendipitous opportunity to open her own shop. “We had just moved to Erin,” she says, “and we saw the space for rent. We thought it was a risky time to open, but I knew if I passed it up, I would regret it.”
Thankfully, despite the limitations and difficulties of these challenging times, Element Inspired came together beautifully. Jessica finds herself amazed at how supportive the community has been. “From the time that I opened, the response was amazing,” she states. “There are a number of customers who come back week after week. And the relationships that I have build with my makers and even with the people in the community, it has really blown me away.”
For the future, Jessica is eager to get back into her store to host more workshops. She is also hoping to expand her eco-friendly section of the store, which is another (inspired) element that is important to her. She is always adding new artisans to her featured products, and would love to begin to host markets at some point so that people can meet the makers. “I’m also considering having my artists come in as a popup event so that people can really connect with the people behind the art,” she says. “I think that is one thing people really love—that these are real people making beautiful things and you can feel really good about supporting them.”
Visit Jessica Wisniewski and her fellow makers at Element Inspired: 2-88 Main St., Erin. For more information and to shop online, visit www.elementinspired.ca or call (519) 288-6004.
Story by Katherine Ryalen