Original Painting by Ms. Cuthbertson
“She sat at the back, and they said she was shy; she led from the front, and they hated her pride; they asked her advice and then questioned her guidance; they branded her loud, then were shocked by her silence; when she shared no ambition, they said it was sad, So she told them her dreams, and they said she was mad, They told her they’d listen, then covered their ears, And gave her a hug while they laughed at her fears, And she listened to all of it thinking she should, Be the girl they told her to be best as she could, But one day she asked what was best for herself. Instead of trying to please everyone else, she walked to the forest and stood with the trees; she heard the wind whisper and dance with the leaves; she spoke to the willow, the elm, and the pine, And she told them what she’d been told time after time, She told them she felt she was never enough, She was too little or far too much, Too loud or too muted, too fierce, or too weak, Too wise or too foolish, too bold or too meek. Then she found a small clearing surrounded by firs, and she stopped… and she heard what the trees said to her, and she sat there for hours not wanting to leave, For the forest said nothing, it just let her breathe.”
- “Breathe,” by Becky Hemsley.
Just as the poem describes, if there was ever a reference to a tall willow tree, “the one” who enters a room and casts a shadow amongst her peers. “The one” who takes up space, disrupting and surviving, and thriving. It’s Sarah, aka Saz Cuthbertson.
If you participate in any granite industry group or online forums, then most likely you have heard of the “granite girl_saz” from Calgary, Alberta, CA. However, Saz is different from many of us who like to call ourselves granite girls. Myself included. She's rough and tough and as you may listen, (our interview, has been left whole & intact) she is great for a laugh, and sharing in love. If you’ve got a long drive ahead you might just want us to keep you company for the ride. Check out the full interview at the end of this blog and available on my YouTube channel.
Sarah Cuthbertson began a working career stuffing bodies with embalming fluid and dressing corpses up for their caskets. In early 2003, she moved over to the granite business. Crying over sinks and shuffling through search engines for self-education, she grew some skills slowly. Still, after a few runs with non-dependable employers, she found out about "the professor" making things happen in Virginia. Engineered quartz had just peaked above the surface, emerging as a new candidate for everyday countertop surfaces. Saz studied and mentored under the likes of Jim Lang. Jim, “aka the professor,” owned a small countertop repair business in Virginia called Surface Links. Saz joined him for a couple of years to learn the trade. After returning to Canada, she specializes in many countertop repairs: chipping, staining, ghosting & hazing within engineered quartz. These things result from mishaps in-shop & from manufactured defects & customer damages. She can fix dull spots, chips, cracks, and seams. She restores tops to a factory finish and keeps fabricators from having to do replacements.
Saz has started a total of three independent shops under the name Silverado Stone. At one point she was bamboozled out of shop & equipment ownership simply because this trusting & humbly self-educated, self-starter didn’t read some paperwork she was signing carefully. We’ve all had poor decision moments in our personal lives and in our careers. Sometimes, those mistakes cost us dearly. Serving as a lesson in contract interpretation, listening to Saz’s story makes me feel lucky and guilty. I grew up in a house with an attorney as a parent. Not everyone is as fortunate to learn contract verbiage and negotiation while at the dinner table. Regardless of your skill level, her story is a gentle reminder for all of us to read that fancy paperwork a little closer. Saz went back to business school not long after this incident. She went before a court of law in Canada and faced the complex reality of putting her signature on papers she didn’t understand and trusting an individual too closely with her hard work and investments. Aren’t we all guilty of trusting someone a little too much? I did the same thing years ago with a customer and his “financial planning” business. Perhaps it’s a weakness in our XX chromosomes in having faith that humanity is inherently good. Unfortunately, society has all but gone to shit. Keep our enemies closer is the old saying; I say fuck our enemies, and I only aspire to be surrounded by actual good people. The man who prepared the paperwork for Saz stole the business & equipment and re-opened it as “The Granite Girl.” Undeniably, he contains a Y chromosome, yet his business remains named something for those of us with XX genetic makeup.
Sweet baby Diana suffered a terrible case of RSV where the little infant came within moments of dying. As a woman starting a family, not only did many “moms” have to endure keeping a business running, the family fed, and the lights on during Covid-19, but anyone who ended up pregnant (see Covid Baby boom), just shortly after came to an outbreak of a respire infection that killed many small children across the US and Canada. The Stone Fabricators Alliance community chipped in, and many others began collecting donations to help this little family through the turmoil. The people who know and love Silverado Stone and all that Saz does for her community are proof enough. Repeatedly, Saz will say yes. Yes, to you, yes to the job at stake, and yes to her trade.
Saz doesn’t hold back about some difficulties she’s experienced in the industry. Anyone can fix granite and marble, but not all people can repair quartz. A self-proclaimed female “MacGyver,” she won’t leave this business. Saz has competed in the SFA cage against all levels of men in this industry. Her skills can’t be matched, and she believes the detail of women are meant for this business. While it’s a “dirty business,” she ends up with quartz and
silica dust in every crevice possible. We discussed how, regardless of the disgusting wet and dusty mess she becomes on the shop floor, she still must endure loads of sexual harassment by men in the trade because of her shapely figure. Perhaps out of self-preservation, I could see firsthand this “persona” she has developed. “It’s the hair, it’s the boobs and all the jingles.” Everywhere she goes, anywhere in the world, she feels people will support her mantra. I asked if she would ever move, and while she said yes, I don’t see her leaving this Calgary home base soon.
I confronted Saz about leaving the industry because her recent social media has shown she is maybe looking for a new adventure. She confessed to trying something different, but she would always end up back with her true love, the stone. Her 3rd granite shop literally rose out of the ashes after a fire.
Ironically, I discovered she wants to start a granite school! What are the odds, as do I? Well, perhaps not start one, but we both dream of working with others to get one going. Saz dreams of teaching in one and becoming the next “professor”! She wants to find more women in this business, and she wants to teach what has been earned and given so freely by her mentors of the past! Imagine my surprise and delight. The community around Calgary is tiny. Saz has visited many high schools in the area, teaching about our trade and doing what she can to promote the industry. Saz says they have more welders than granite fabricators, and she’s doing her best to bring attraction to the industry. Self-described, Calgary is like the Texas of Canada. Oil & Gas and Beyond! The people are very similar in mindset. She aspires to be “the” professor at the granite school of the future. She wants to take 17 years of knowledge and pass it on. Since we share this vision, who knows when we’ll get this magical school of rock (literally)…live and rocking?
I recognize this quartz repair master also needs some help in marketing her business and maybe there is room for us to work together in the future. She wants to promote her repair business model after holding back for many years. I hope this blog is a catalyst. I hope we can get this woman teaching skills at ISFA events in the future. I hope this blog will spark and motivate opportunities for her within this massive quartz industry.
Be a disrupter, Saz, continue pissing off the wives. Keep mentoring—there is always time. "Stop giving away your money," she says! Women can’t have conversations with certain men out there, but you are already teaching them! I love your enthusiasm for breaking down the barriers in this industry between men and women in this business. Women don’t belong simply in the office, pushing paperwork on social media. We can have a role in the field working tooling, machinery, and fabrication. Confusion sets in as humans lay eyes on you, the strong-as-an-ox female disrupter. You take Rosie the Riveter to a whole new level.
We need more “Sazs” in the world! Rock-On!