Jean Lagace – entrepreneur and artist

·4 min read

Jean Lagace is a bundle of energy – balancing a busy and successful business with her many artistic pursuits, including writing, painting and photography.

Jean was born in Cornwall, Ontario, one of four children. She was just a child when she expressed an interest in the arts, saying her father had an artistic flair and her mother had great perspective, showing her how to pay attention to lines and details.

“When I was young, I liked drawing,” said Jean. “When I started school, if you were good that day you were given a page to colour. At Easter, we were given a picture of a chicken or a duck in a bonnet to colour and take home.”

At age seven or eight she recalls watching a television program, Jon Gnagy’s Learn to Draw, where Gnagy demonstrated how to draw with charcoal. She would draw along with the show and said “I knew this would be the direction my career would eventually take.” Like many children at that time, she also loved paint by numbers.

By 13 or 14 she would use leftover paint to create her own drawings and eventually began sketching faces of her friends and family, saying “I never had any lessons whatsoever, I was completely self-taught.”

She sold her first piece to a schoolmate when she was still in high school, for a whopping 50 cents.

At 16, after completing high school, she went to work full time at Courtaulds Canada, a silk mill which has since closed. She remained in Cornwall until 1966, when she married Victor Lagace. Along the way the couple welcomed the birth of their only child, Tricia Anne, in 1969.

The Lagace family moved to different towns, following Victor’s work, until settling in Tiverton in 1977, where Victor worked for several businesses, including Gordon Shewfelt’s garage, Ken Jackson’s and Tiverton-Lewis Equipment.

They moved into the house Jean still lives in on Memorial Drive, in 1988. She also worked, eventually taking a position at Zehrs in 1979 and staying until she retired, in 2014.

Her husband’s health declined and he suffered his first heart attack in 1981. He would eventually pass away in March of 1992 at the young age of 51. Jean was just 48.

While she had put away her paintbrushes for a time while working and raising her daughter, Jean never lost her love of the arts. Victor had encouraged her to paint again after seeing a picture of a loon she had completed for a friend. That led to small commissions and it “caught on from there,” said Jean.

“Before he passed away he said he would love for me to have my own gallery and studio,” said Jean. “He always thought my art was fabulous.”

Just before his passing, Victor suggested they build onto their house and create a gallery/studio of her own.

By 1997, Jean decided to make that dream come true. She and her partner Michael Schmidt built an extension onto the front of her home, creating a store and a space for her to work. She even took a welding course in Port Elgin, and was able to cut the decorative railing on her front porch. In 1998, she studied custom picture framing and opened Jean’s Gallery of Arts and Custom Picture Framing, a business that is still thriving.

Jean estimates that over the years she has framed thousands of paintings, diplomas and photos. She continues to paint and has also published four books, two in conjunction with her fellow scribes at the Writers Bloc.

Her first book, Fibs & Memories, was written with five members of Writers Bloc, followed by Tangled Web in 2013, Mimi the French Twist in 2017 and most recently, N.C.R., which she wrote with six of her Bloc colleagues.

She offers this advice to newbie writers, saying “put your thoughts on paper. It’s the best way. Writing every day is inspiring and encouraging, wondering what next can come out of an idea. Later, you could go back to those sentences and maybe add to them, and before you know it, you might just have the beginning of an interesting story or poem.”

Will she retire soon? She responds to the question by saying “someday I will retire, but not for a while yet, I’m having too much fun!"

“My life has been fulfilled through the years, by opening my own business, something I’ve always wanted to have, especially my own art gallery and studio” said Jean. “This (is) a channel to showcase my art, and photography. Later on, I designed jewelry for re-sale, another extension of my creativity and an outlet to sell my first published book.”

In the meantime you will find her enjoying every aspect of her life, as she continues to wear the hats of business woman, author and artist.

“I have enjoyed meeting customers from all walks of life, in the past and present,” said Jean. “Framing unusual art pieces, memorabilia etc., I can certainly say, my job is not boring. Every job is an assortment of challenges for sure. Dealing with companies, can be a hair-raising experience. Doing what I love compensates for that test.”

Tammy Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting