Bancroft Studio Tour


Although Baptiste Lake glass artist, Karen Istead had studied the making of fused glass works in classes in Picton and Haliburton—and learned a lot on her own about the craft by trial and error—when she came across tutorials by renowned glass artist, Michael Dupille, she considers the learnings from him as the most important assistance with her advancement and mastering of the medium.

Her art/craft involvements had started with crocheting, then working with craft felt; and she followed that with the creation of acrylic on canvas paintings of landscapes—after taking classes at the Haliburton School of Art. And all these activities were engaged in more to relieve her stress as a nurse practitioner than to be the beginnings of an alt career. From painting she moved on to making stained glass works and, eventually discovered fused glass: ”…the joining together of pieces of glass at high temperature in a kiln” (Wikipedia)–that has become the source of her artistic passion and vision and a boost to her income in retirement.

Raised and educated in Prince Edward County, Istead took training and became a nurse and found work in the local Picton hospital before moving on to SickKids in Toronto. The stress of that job moved her to get her nursing degree at Ryerson and to begin working in community care. Then, eventually, looking for a less stressful living environment, she moved to Bancroft in 1991 and became supervisor of the local community care support organization. She retired in 2019; and fused glass creations have become her main focus.

In her beautifully located cottage/home on Baptiste Lake, she has set up a basement work space/studio equipped with a kiln, work tables and tools and with glasswork supplies in shelving around the walls. It’s here that she creates not only the glass landscapes that are made to be framed and hung in windows but, also, stand-alone versions of them plus sun catchers, plates, platters, coasters and lamps. Her custom framing is supplied by a local craftsman who makes them out of unique types of wood. And she has taken up wood-working herself to make stands and supports for some of the items of her glass art. She recently had a lovely bunkie display space created for her work; and she offers teaching to those who may be interested.

Istead loves to talk about the story-telling aspect of what she creates—as exemplified by a lovely square plate she created for her late mother with images of two cookies and a cup of tea in the middle as a memory of the

 ongoing special moments they shared at the kitchen table. Most of the decorating of the suite of her various crafts are actual stories literally created with pieces of glass, frit painting (using areas of crushed coloured glass) and decals.

An early on fan of the Bancroft and Area Studio Tour, Karen joined 12 years ago and has since stepped up as a main administrator of the organization. And she points out that, in her mind, the group of artists and artisans who participate annually contribute to make the tour not only an art/craft experience but an example of community story-telling. Karen Istead is located at 60 Golden Shores Road, Baptiste and can be contacted a

(Profile writing and photo by Allan O’Marra)