SAS Glass, a small business nestled in the heart of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, has a captivating story of creativity and community involvement. Founded in 1998 during the founder’s time in Canada’s Diplomatic Corps, the business began as a pastime while overseas. Despite limitations, they donated art to NGOs and trained local artists in countries like Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Jordan. In 2023, SAS Glass found its permanent home in Liverpool, opening its doors to the public. Beyond offering stunning glass art, the business has been dedicated to supporting the local community by donating artwork to fundraisers and collaborating with schools and organizations for public art installations.
We’ve asked the Founder, Scot Slessor, a few questions about SAS Glass, read on to his responses and get to know more about what they’re up to.
About SAS Glass and how it got started…
I started playing with glass in 1998. SAS Glass started as a pastime when I was overseas serving in Canada’s Diplomatic Corps. While overseas living in official residences, I was forbidden by the Vienna Convention from running a business. So, I did my own stuff, donated a ton of art to NGOs and in Cambodia (2004-7), Afghanistan (2015-16) and Jordan (2019-2022), I trained local artists. We moved permanently to NS in the summer of 2022 after my spouse joined me in retirement. I rented the Big Yellow Door beside the Astor in November and opened in 2023. I sell through a Gallery in London, ON as well as through Global Affairs Canada. I sell pieces I make but I get even greater joy from teaching others to make pieces.
How does your business contribute to the local economy?
I have always provided art to local NGOs who were trying to raise funds. Donations were used in silent actions or prizes to lure people to pay for event tickets. I supported a number of organizations overseas like the Canada-Thailand Chamber of Commerce or the Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital. I also have provided training to trainee jewelers with Turquoise Mountain in Jordan. My three training projects all were funded by my spouse and I with some corporate support. The Afghan project was supported by Cascade Metals in Vancouver, the American and Canadian Embassies in Kabul as well as Schilling Paints in Colorado. Overseas, I helped start three glass art businesses with the same community support I have always maintained, two remain functional – the one in Afghanistan fell victim to the Taliban takeover.
Finally, and a little closer to home, we recently worked with the Liverpool Regional High School and Queens County to design and implement 6 glass panels that are now hanging in the Visitor Information Centre in Liverpool. That was done with 14 students, two teachers and a volunteer. We donated as well to the LRHS scholarship auction and we are presently making some pieces to donate to the International Ukulele Ceilidh.
What challenges have you faced as a small business owner in this community, how has it affected your company, and how have you overcome them?
Drawing people into Liverpool has been a challenge. We are working with other artisans right now on an arts and crafts map with two annual arts and crafts rally’s in the hopes of bringing people to the county. My business is mostly about training people to make glass art so there have been challenges for people to find time to commit to 10-15 hours needed to make a stained glass panel. Supplies are also a bit of an issue – silica flour which I use for castings, has to be bought from Quebec or Ontario – seemed odd to go to Montreal to bring sand back to NS!
What are some ways your business has had to adapt over the years?
Having practiced this overseas where you have almost no access to fusing and stained glass like here in North America, I have had to explore float glass (the stuff you find in regular windows, on table tops, etc.) and bottle or other recycled glass. Right now I am working with a bunch of glass recycled from the old offices of the Liverpool Advance. We have moved to training kids as a way to introduce glass art to them and their parents – it’s a ton of fun. We have also designed training methods that allow for shorter sessions so that the time commitment is reduced.
At what point did you look back at your business and consider it a success?
Well, I run the place like an NGO so when I see happy clients, I have met my measure of success. When a parent tells me they were amazed at the piece their kid did and the fun, professional packaging, well, that makes me feel great. My former colleagues in Global Affairs Canada order my Clearly Canadian stuff and it feels like success to know they are using my pieces as gifts to foreign dignitaries. The first big sensation of success was at the exhibit / sale of the items produced by the first group I trained in Cambodia – it was sold out and three commissioned pieces were ordered, then, a new casino in Phnom Penh ordered a small pieces for each room from the workshop setup as a result of our efforts.
Can you share any memorable customer experiences or success stories?
I trained 9 people in Cambodia in 2007. Around 2015, a colleague wrote to me to say that when he walked into a restaurant for business dinner in Phnom Penh, his Cambodian host noted that the stained glass window had been done by one of the people I trained. Finally, I donated a large panel 2 x 1.2 meters to a women’s hospital in Cambodia – a place that served the poorest of the poor. I have heard stories of women coming in and staring at the lit-up panel and giggling as they discover various elements like women in dragon boats races, Madame Penh who donated the land for modern day Phnom Penh or a three monks walking back to a monastery. These women would never have seen anything like this so if it brings them a bit of joy and distraction at a difficult time, well, that success. A woman brought a broken lamp into my workshop and a month later she had three panels from the recycled glass – she now volunteers with me on community projects!
Are there any upcoming events or promotions that you’d like the community to know about?
Today, I am working on a few pieces to donate to the Ukulele Ceilidh and we are still in the design process for a 3×3 foot panel for Queens Place or another public venue to be determined by the County. As the number two in our Embassy in Afghanistan, I was given protection by a special group of our military. As a means of repaying that debt (they did a good job because I am still alive!) vets can come to my workshop and only pay the cost for materials – I will teach them for free.
How do you support other local businesses in the community?
One of the things I have been doing is designing an Arts and Craft Map for Queens County. It’s been a great way to meet other artists, artisans and crafters. As part of that initiative, we have designated two weekends, (third weekend of October and second weekend of June) as Queen’s County Creative rally Weekends when workshops will be opened to people who can see how these things are made – and even buy a few!
What are your plans for the future of your business? Any new products, services, or expansions in the works?
Working on some abstract pieces from clear glass that combines some wee people – you’ll have to pop by to see what I mean. White Point Resort is advertising some classes to their clients in the coming days. In August I will post some scheduled classes for xmas decorations and other items September – November.
How can the community best support your business and help it grow?
Drop by and check out the workshop, then let your imaginations run wild.
Is there anything else you would like the community to know about your business?
I worked in community development overseas so I see my wee enterprise and interactions with the community as my ‘business’. I bring affordable glass art to people and love teaching them to unearth their own creative pieces. I would encourage anyone interested in learning to make some glass art to come by and chat about how we can realize their project. If they have an NGO that is looking for donation of items to auction off to raise money, give me a call.