Colasante: Creator of Beautiful Mosaics
Ariella Hostetter and Tessa Derksen
by Marcus Filoso
was over 20 years ago that Norma Colasante first tried her hand
at being an artist. She took up oil painting but soon became discouraged.
Despite her friends and relatives objections to the contrary, Norma
believed she was “no good” and so gave up painting.
Some time later she became inspired by the piles of broken tiles
lying in her backyard. Her husband Antonio, a ceramic tile setter
and owner of a tile setting company called CTR, had discarded the
leftovers from his business. With no formal art training, Norma
began her career as a mosaic artist.
Colasante’s Canada Day.
many years and mosaic artworks later, Norma Colasante is finally being
recognized as an accomplished artist. And not just within her own
community; the Ottawa Citizen has featured her work as has
the TV program “Regional Contact.” Yet Norma still remains
just something I enjoy doing,” she says in her soft voice.
Colasante was born Norma Pugliese on Norman Street in Ottawa in
1940. She loved school but, like many young girls of her generation
and socio-economic background, she was discouraged from going beyond
grade school and instead was told that it was better for her to
go to work and marry early. Norma married an Italian immigrant and
together they had five children. They now have 12 grandchildren.
Colasante decided to include speed skaters in her mosaic, Winterlude.
She notes that at the time of creation, there were no speed
skaters at Dow’s Lake.
mosaics is a long and arduous process. Some of Norma’s bigger
works took her up to two years to complete. Norma begins with a
piece of plywood on which she sketches a rough outline. She then
uses ceramic tile glue to attach pieces of ceramic, terra cotta
and glass tiles to the board. Sometimes she uses sand grout to fill
in the spaces between the tiles.
very messy work,” Norma says apologetically as she shows us
her basement studio. Pieces of tile are strewn on the ground in
an organized mess. This is where Norma produces most of her mosaics,
working late into the night and sometimes early morning.
like to work when everything’s quiet,” she explains.
“It helps me create.”
she does. Her pieces are a vibrant mix of colour and life. She often
includes people in the midst of activity, whether it’s skating
on the canal in her Winterlude mosaic or taking pictures of
the flowers in her Tulip Festival mosaic. It’s remarkable
how fine a detail Norma can achieve with such an immovable material
as tile. And the colours she uses – her palette must be an infinite
just work with whatever tiles I can get,” Norma says. “So
whatever colour I have the most of, I use that!”
that her husband is retired and no longer owns his tile business,
Norma can no longer depend upon her personal backyard mountain of
leftover tile. She must shop around for her material.
are very generous,” she says. “I usually don’t
have to ask, they just bring it to me.”
the colours and the scene depicted may change from mosaic to mosaic,
one thing that remains constant is the presence of angels.
Colasante’s Tulip Festival. Notice the angels doing
love angels!” Norma says. “And I like to make them do
things, see?” She points to the top of one of her mosaics where
a group of angels are dancing in a circle. “A tarantella.
They’re dong a tarantella.”
Colasante’s mosaics are significant in their own right for
their artistic beauty, but also because they show a creative use
of found materials left over from a traditional Italian trade. And
they also demonstrate a form of collaboration between men and women.