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Home > People > Norma Colasante
Norma Colasante: Creator of Beautiful Mosaics

By Ariella Hostetter and Tessa Derksen

Photos by Marcus Filoso

It 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.

Norma Colasante’s Canada Day.

Now, 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 modest.

“It’s just something I enjoy doing,” she says in her soft voice.

Norma 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.

Norma 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.

Making 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.

“It’s 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.

“I like to work when everything’s quiet,” she explains. “It helps me create.”


And 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 rainbow.

“I just work with whatever tiles I can get,” Norma says. “So whatever colour I have the most of, I use that!”

Now 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.

“People are very generous,” she says. “I usually don’t have to ask, they just bring it to me.”

Although the colours and the scene depicted may change from mosaic to mosaic, one thing that remains constant is the presence of angels.

Norma Colasante’s Tulip Festival. Notice the angels doing a tarantella.

“I 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.”

Norma 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.

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