Some Saturday mornings arrive quietly. I get up, drink some coffee, stare out at my garden lamenting the amount of work I should be doing out there, then ponder what I will do that weekend. But last Saturday was a different creature altogether. Last weekend wasn't the studio tour weekend for just one locality but two! Double the studios, double the driving, and double the talent worth discovering. A feast for the senses!
Now don't get me wrong, I've known for weeks that I intended to enjoy both the Newmarket Studio Tour and the Whitchurch Stouffville Studio Tour, and yet, there I was last Saturday morning franticly reviewing weather reports, maps, and artist bios. For me this post-procrastination planning panic heightens my happy anticipation and excitement. Who do I need to visit first? Who will be sold out of their best works if I delay until Sunday? Who can I afford on my particularly modest budget? And of course where is their studio? Fortunately, the beauty of these 2 particular tours is that they're geographical neighbours, and Whitchurch Stouffville even has a location app!
Some would say that having 2 studio tours on the same weekend in neighbouring townships is a bad idea, but I actually felt is worked well from a visitor standpoint. Whitchurch Stouffville lies north or Markham (which lies north of Toronto), and Newmarket lies north of Whitchurch Stouffville. For those visiting from Toronto it really was an easy combination of locations.
The other added benefit for out-of-towners was the sheer beautify of these townships at this time of year. Thanks to the marvellous weather we've experienced this fall the leaves were in full autumn splendour, and the Sunday rain amplified the beauty. What could be lovelier than a warm rainy day in fall, visiting beautiful studios, filled with talented artists and their incredible work?
I'd love to spend the time to go into detail about each artist's work, they certainly deserve it, but that's just too much information for one blog. So here's my abbreviated roundup.
Our first stop was King George Public School in Newmarket where several artists were displaying their work and chatting with visitors. While there I discovered the work of ceramic artist Teresa Dunlop. Teresa took some time to tell me about her wonderful collection of plates "inspired by the United Nations' Universal Declaration of the rights of the Child". These beautiful pieces incorporate words and phrases from the declaration printed in braille. Absolutely wonderful.
Still in Newmarket we headed to the stunning Victorian home that housed the work of the talented jeweller Jennifer Wolfe and renowned Canadian artist Donald Chretien. This was an absolutely charming combination. Both artists were personable and shared their enthusiasm for their craft. Jennifer spent time with me pointing out the different techniques and styles of her beautiful work, and Donald spent time pointing out the more subtle elements incorporated into his brilliantly coloured and intricate aboriginal woodland styled paintings. I walked out with a greater appreciation for the work of both artists as well as a framed original ink drawing by Donald.
Next we headed to Whitchurch Stouffville to the studio of Carin Bacher who creates totems, masks, and glasswork. Carin was hosting 2 guest artists; oil & acrylic painter Bill Brennan, as well as Joan Humphrey who paints in watercolour and acrylic. We had spent so long in Newmarket that we arrived in the last 15 minutes of the day but all 3 artists were welcoming and happy to show us their work. Carin's totems and masks were wonderful, brimming with personality and colour. She also provided us with a tour of her glass studio which was extremely educational. Bill kindly ran out to his car to bring in more of his winter themed works for me to browse and I left this location with a small painting that I'm delighted with.
After getting some rest Saturday night it was back out on the studio tour trail Sunday morning. This time we started at the home, studio, gallery of the talented and friendly watercolour & mixed media artist Cathy Ball, then a short walk into the old downtown core to see the intriguing iceberg inspired work of Ian Richards, the charming contemporary landscape paintings by Robin Burnett (I loved how Robin's paintings wrap around the sides of the canvas), and finally to the multi-artist venue HBH.
HBH (Hungry Brew Hops) was a great discovery. Not only because their upper level had a terrific collection of talented artists but because I love craft beer and the HBH tagline is "Advocating Craft Beer and Craft Food"! A winning combination; local artists, craft beer and craft food! YAY!
Back to the art...HBH hosted no less than five great local artists; art photographer David Tulbert, paper sculptor & painter Lee Lessem (my husband's favourite artist at this location), painter Irina Grobman, and (my favourite artist at this location) glass blower Ian Macinnis. I loved the colour and forms created by Ian. His work was flowing and beautiful, it looked light as air, but was actually heavy and I'd guess relatively sturdy for blown glass. It wasn't until we descended back down to the HBH main floor that I noticed the painted celebrity portraits that were part of the decor. The studio tour flyer didn't mention it but I believe these fun contemporary works were by Liz Massarella. Sadly, I would have liked to have taken a better look at these pieces but the room was full of diners and I thought it would be considered rude to elbow them out of the way to get closer. I will say, the paintings are absolutely perfect for that space. Good choice HBH.
That was our final studio of the Newmarket tour but I would like to add an honourable mention. 25 years ago when my children were small we used to head to old Newmarket to visit a tiny British import store just off of Main Street. It was heartwarming to find it still there and filled with goodies. Now run by the son of the lady who used to run it, this tiny store is absolutely worth a visit. A warm Happy 95th Birthday to the lovely lady who created this space!
And so we returned to rainy Whitchurch Stouffville for a few final visits. We began at the Latcham Gallery where we saw the powerful oil stick drawings of aboriginal artist Robert Houle. A moving display of works reflecting on his disturbing years at residential school. I'll cover the Latcham Gallery in a future blog but do go visit if you're in the area, the gallery is "dedicated to providing opportunities for members of the community to view art and the ideas that artists express through contemporary practices". A great space.
When we left the gallery we shook off our somber mood and continued to the home studio gallery of Sanda Cole Burke (who creates in a variety of mediums) and her guest artist Lis Simpson (kiln fired glass artist). The work of these artists was lovely and they themselves were absolutely charming. Both gave us insight into how they create and the challenges that each method presents.
Finally, at Lis & Sandra's insistence we dashed off to our final studio of the weekend; the studio of painter & mixed media artist Colin Whitebread. It was the final 20 minutes of the tour weekend when we arrived at Colin's place. Sadly, his guest artist the stone sculptor Gordon Reid had been unwell and left already but Colin was a charming host. Colin's work is a beautiful riot of colour and brush strokes with touches of mixed media, all set against the backdrop of his lovely colourful home. Gordon's stone sculptures were a beautiful flowing compliment to Colin's colours. Gordon's sculptures cry out to be stroked, smooth stone formed into soft beautiful shapes. A stunning combination and a great way to wind up our double studio tour weekend.
So would I recommend tackling 2 studio tours in a single weekend? Well, maybe. I certainly didn't get to see all of the studios on each of the tours, which is disappointing for the hardworking artists whose studios were missed, but I did manage to select a variety of venues that I throughly enjoyed. It was tiring but both townships have plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, and pubs where you can recharge your batteries. In general, for visitors I think the pairing worked out pretty well.
A huge thank you to all of the dedicated artists and volunteers who made those studio tours happen! Well done and congratulations! We wish you great success with both of these events in the future. I'm already looking forward to next year!