“Focus. Choose one thing and stick to it. Honour it. Take it as far as you can.”
BJ Sandiford - Happy Glass
Over the course of the last two years of Telling our Stories, BJ Sandiford’s name has come up a lot. She is respected. She is loved. She is a mentor to many. She is a leader in every sense of the word. The opportunity to spend a bit of time with her in her incredible studio, the most appropriately named, Happy Glass, was one that couldn’t be missed.
Long before Happy Glass became a beloved institution on Victoria Row, BJ Sandiford spent twelve years living and working in the Arctic. So how do you go from being a stay at home mom for eight of those years in the Arctic to going to work every day in the most aptly named open studio on the Island? For BJ Sandiford, it all started with a red glass bead bracelet that she bought on a family vacation. “I thought to myself - I love this. It’s like candy to me. Light passing through transparent colour.” Immediately upon her return from that vacation, BJ went to a store and bought a bunch of coloured beads and made bracelets that quickly sold out at a local craft fair. She was urged to make higher quality pieces which soon led to the creation of the Summer Fun collection which is the original line of Happy Glass jewellery that is sold by The Showcase at Confederation Centre of the Arts. Today BJ creates flame-worked glass and silver jewellery. That’s right. She makes the beads.
Originally BJ studied clothing design. She has sewn everything from tents to ball gowns, skiwear to sealskin backpacks. She studied metalwork at Arctic College in Iqaluit, Nunavut and after moving to PEI, added flame-work to her jewellery-making skills. Throughout her career, BJ has maintained the importance of having your own unique voice in whatever you choose to do. And this is apparent when you look around Happy Glass, BJ’s work isn’t like anyone else’s. “Speak with your unique voice.”
Happy Glass is a one woman show. For eight months of the year, BJ Sandiford creates as much beautiful and unique jewellery as one person can so that she can spend her summer with the visitors in her shop. If you’ve ever found yourself in her second-floor space maybe you’ve been lucky enough to have BJ show you how she actually makes the beads and builds her pieces. BJ refers to those moments as ‘golden magical experiences’. “Anyone who find their way to my store deserves to get the very best of me.” BJ is also an active mentor and collaborator who meets informally with a group of Island jewellery makers. “Have a group of people that you trust and that trust you that you can turn to for support who will act as a sounding board.”
Every single day when BJ Sandiford opens the door to her open studio the very first thing she says as she turns on the lights is “I love you Happy Glass.” and after spending a couple of hours with her in that beautiful and inspiring space we do too.