Eganville -- Rainy weather did not deter participants from following the Maple Leaf icons marking the route of the popular Madawaska Studio Tour on the first weekend in October. With many studios tucked away on the back roads, the autumn tour winds through the spectacular vistas of brilliant foliage, distant lakes and rolling hills which attracted many of the craftspeople to the area in the sixties.
Established in the mid 90s, over two dozen studios, many hosting guest artisans, open their doors to the public for an intimate glimpse at their workspaces. Eager shoppers and leaf viewers toured the back roads, happy to resume an autumn tradition of visiting their favourite artisans in their unique studio homes. COVID-19 concerns cancelled the 2020 autumn tour which resumed with the 2021 July tour.
“People are so eager to be out again,” said painter Kathy Haycock who exhibits her work in her Woodland Studio at 341 Wittke Road, between Eganville and Cormac. Like her fellow artists who transform paint, fibre, fabric, wood, clay, glass and steel into distinctive pieces of art, she is happy to resume personal interaction with feedback from clients. For many artists, the Studio Tour is also a vital marketing initiative which provides sales in the crucial pre-Christmas giving season. In years past, many summer residents made the autumn trip back to the Valley to participate in the Studio Tour amid the spectacular scenery.
In Old Killaloe, tie-dye fabric artist Rri Povey, drawn here two decades ago by the “welcoming people” at the Killaloe Craft and Community Fair, exhibits her vividly hand-dyed clothing at her home at 8315 Brudenell Road. Her spirit of the sixties-themed clothing strikes a chord with locals and visitors alike and her colourful tee shirts have become ‘uniforms’ for staff at the Bonnechere Caves and the Temperate Gardens. Inspired in part by Japanese Shibori folding techniques, she uses hand stitchery and complex folding to create original designs and uses Fibrereactive MX dyes which hold fast through successive washings and don’t fade or bleed.
She sources as much Ontario- or Canadian-made clothing as possible. Baby and children’s wear are popular and she can also create new life for a customer’s favourite shirt or dress. Hats, Ontario-made cotton knee socks, baby bibs and, since COVID-19, colourful masks, are best-selling items. The clothesline outside her studio home is often adorned with freshly-dyed items, adding a whimsical touch to the little enclave of homes in what was the original settlement of Killaloe clustered around the picturesque (but privately owned) red clapboard grist mill on Brennan’s Creek. Rri is open by chance or appointment year-round and can be reached at email@example.com.
The hamlet of Wilno is home to a number of long-established artists, including knife-maker Grant Fraser whose studio is tucked in beside the big hedge next to St. Mary’s church on Hwy. 60. Many of Grant’s custom-made knives are purchased as one-of-a-kind gifts with individually crafted handles and unique blade shapes. Each knife is contained in a hand-crafted hammered leather “dragon skin” sheath. As well as recreating classic designs such as bowie and daggers, Grant creates exceptional kitchen knives known for balance, lightness and long-lasting edges. He makes his own patterned steel (Damascus) as well as forging knives from repurposed saw blades, bearings and engine shafts. Self-taught, Grant has been making knives for 38 years, experimenting with styles and techniques as “there isn’t a school of knife-making.” A master at his craft, he occasionally teaches his skills but it is his decades of experience which result in the gleaming finely-honed timeless blades displayed in his workshop. His studio at 17319 Hwy. 60 is open year-round by chance or appointment and Grant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Along Church Street in Wilno, the imposing red brick original parish rectory and its carriage house are now home to woodworker Carl Wall and fibre artist Annie Wall. Formerly owners of the very popular Wilno Craft Gallery, the couple purchased the old rectory in 2014 and after several years of renovations, set up their current studios. A long-time woodworker, Carl houses his tools and displays his work in the old carriage shed on the property; here he creates his popular durable wooden toys, featuring log trucks, bulldozers and even a road grader, from local wood. Rocking horses are an ever-popular best seller. Chess boards with personalized pieces are a collaboration between Carl and their studio tour guest artist Catherine Peck, also of Wilno, who uses scroll saws, wood turning and intarsia techniques in her distinctive creations.
Long-time textile artist Annie Wall has recently downsized her Fibrefire Studio to a smaller loom but continues to weave lighter throw rugs suitable for bedroom or less trafficked areas. Her delicate shawls and scarves are displayed in the showroom in the heritage building. She is currently intrigued by experimenting in mixed media collages, using skills learned from several other area artisans. Both studios welcome customers by appointment year-round and can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.
If you missed the tour you can find additional information about these artists and almost two dozen others at madawaskastudiotour.com or by picking up brochures at the area tourist booths. Watch for the spring and autumn tourist supplement magazines in the Eganville Leader for profiles of some of the artisans who live and work in the Bonnechere and Madawaska Valley. The next studio tour will be held in July of 2022.
Joanne Zomers, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader