Once a part of a discarded beer bottle or milky white jar, the many-hued pieces of glass—some jagged, some worn smooth—come together to form a picture.
A sailboat, some fishermen, even the Bellevue Ferry appear in the art of LouAnn Roberts, pieced together like a mosaic, each shape a small part of a larger puzzle formed deep within LouAnn’s mind.
“I don’t cut any of the pieces,” explains LouAnn. Instead she takes them as she finds them, plays the hand she is dealt, lets the pieces tell her where they want to go. This is a recurring theme in LouAnn’s life—where others see trash, she sees potential; where others see chaos, she sees opportunity.
Born and raised in Indiana and Ohio, LouAnn has always been inspired to create, whether it is music, art, or cakes. At the age of twelve, she served as her church’s organist and would practice for hours within the grand building, the bright stained glass windows leaving a strong impression on her. That image of light shining through the jewel-like colors of the glass stayed with her all the way until 1982, when she moved with her then-husband and two children to the Eastern Shore.
Picking her way through the beaches in Oxford and Bellevue, LouAnn was immediately taken with the vast amounts of beach glass that she found. “Back then, I could collect five or six bags of glass from one beach,” she shared. But like seemingly every endeavor in her life, LouAnn did not take without giving back. “For every bag of sea glass I collected, I also collected a bag of trash to clean up the beach,” she said. “I also made each member of my family collect a bag of garbage for the privilege of fishing; a silly rule that I made up.”
Much like her artwork, LouAnn’s life has often been about picking up broken pieces and reassembling them into a colorful and creative new whole. After many years of marriage came to an end, LouAnn found herself at a shelter. A month later, having exceeded the shelter’s time limit, she found herself staying with friends and ultimately, sleeping in her car.
“The summer was the worst,” she told me, her voice soft as she recalled harder days in the not-too-distant past. To keep herself safe, she kept the doors locked and the windows rolled up, which meant trying to sleep in a stifling hot car. Many times she was awoken by the police, who told her to move along without offering any alternative places to sleep. After nearly a year in this situation, LouAnn was able to get an apartment with the help of a local social service organization and she slowly got back on her feet again.
Around that time, LouAnn met a special man at church named Lee. Married for six years now, an abiding generosity of spirit defines them both. Before a fire claimed their home, Lee and LouAnn brought in homeless people in need of not only shelter, but a fresh start. Confronting addiction, poverty, and a multitude of obstacles, these individuals found a safe haven in the Roberts home where they were not only given a bed and a roof but also assistance with drivers’ lessons, vehicles, and access to a new life. In this way, LouAnn has come full circle: the once homeless offering solace to those in need of shelter, having an all-too-keen understanding of what it feels like to have nowhere to go.
Of course, those who have seen LouAnn at the Farmers’ Market know she gives back in another big way as well—every Saturday, spring through fall. Beside her display of glass artwork for sale sits a long table covered with craft supplies which LouAnn lovingly prepares every week, spending days planning a specific project, cutting out pieces, and gathering supplies. There children of all ages gather to make crafts--free of charge--while their parents sip coffee and nibble on baked goods from nearby vendors. A tip jar receives voluntary contributions to her cause but most of the money and all of the time and effort come from LouAnn.
Like many of our area residents, LouAnn Roberts leaves her unique mark on her community in many ways, but perhaps most of all through the second chances she has offered to those in need or the way she reaches out to the shy child who feels at home making crafts at her table, colorful sea glass glinting in the background. She is an artist, a musician, a mother, a wife, and a woman with a big heart. She is one of the many faces of the Easton Farmers Market.