was born on April 2, 1898 in New Zealand. Her mother, Ada Violet Lye was
born and raised in a stone castle, 12 miles outside of London, England.
She moved to New Zealand where she married Olive's father, a champion weightlifter.
After a divorce, she moved the family to Vancouver, B.C. where Olive trained
to be a pianist and singer.
two grown sons from a previous marriage when, in 1937, she met Ralph Colhour,
a machinist and builder. They soon moved to Keyport, Washington, where they
built two houses.
War II, she worked in the machine shop at the torpedo station in Keyport.
While making and checking torpedo parts, she learned precision, a required
skill for studying blueprints and for working the machines to cut master
gears for torpedoes. Careful thought and planning became ingrained: the
ingredients of her later success in artistic achievements required absolute
order and complete organization.
war she resumed being an average housewife. But by chance, while visiting
her daughter-in-law in Burbank, California, she was advised by neighbors,
the McPheeters, well known lapidaries, to attend a display at Expo Park
in Los Angeles. This was a first step in showing forth nature's beauty through
the flash and color of nature's own minerals. Using her uninhibited imagination,
she began a pilgrimage of trial and error, which was to become the cornerstone
in her search for new approaches to the fine art form of lapidary.
In 1955 she
began to sculpt fire agate, an art form largely ignored by Americans. In
1959 she created her first Florentine mosaic (intarsia), African Belle.
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natural feel for color, design, rhythm, harmony, line, and emphasis, plus
determination and drive, has won for her every American Federation of Mineralogical
Societies award in all nine categories entered within four years of her
initiation into the lapidary world.
fortuitous marriage enabled her to become a 'field tripper', hunting, digging,
and maneuvering for every needed element. Ralph, always supportive, helped
build "homemade" machinery and tools for her, as well as packing
cases and display cases for the many shows she entered all over the country.
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a perfectionist, Olive often spent long hours finding the right materials
for the subtle tints and blends of hues which are required for the intricate
shading of Florentine mosaics (commessi). Without counting the search for
materials, some of Olive's pieces took her almost 2,000 hours to complete.
of the success of Olive's work has been her philosophy
approach to art. Olive has always felt that art should express the good
emotions, peace, joy and kindness, love of beauty, faith, and harmony. She
felt that her final product should be decorative and esthetic, and that
it should show something of the spirit and mood with which she created it.
. . . . . . .
produced an enormous volume of work, some of her sculpture is among the
finest ever made in any medium, and her commessi are second to none. She
completed her last picture, Mother Teresa at the age of 92. She feels her
work "en masse" is for the masses to enjoy, even future generations;
and she would like to live long enough to see lapidary art on a par with
painting and sculpture. Hers certainly is. The complexities of art have
been united with the simple elements of nature.
many years Olive wondered what would become of her life's work. She wanted
it kept together above all. Now a new museum at Oregon State University
will accomplish this for her
and for us. Sadly, Olive passed away on
November 25, 2000.