Sunday, July 20, 2008

Art In The Park

Summer, Harper Pottery, Parry Sound. This is the potter himself, Jonathan Harper. Every summer, about 50 artists and artisans descend on Market Square, by the old firehall and the new library, to show us their stuff. Fairs like Art in the Park, in some of the bigger towns throughout cottage country, are about the best place for something special to hang on the living room wall or put on your table. There are some remarkable finds like Harper Pottery, really stiking, moving and beautiful. A lot though is crafts and knick-knacks granny and the kids might like, a garage sale of new junk, or better hand-made, sometimes quite special, geegaws. Sunday painters also show up with a mixed collection of the good, bad and the ugly. But there's plenty of solid work you'd be happy to find. Since the higher end arts and crafts are mostly sold by art galleries and pricey shops, the show and sale prices at these events tend to be a bargain. And with the economy stagnant for years now, prices haven't gone up much either. Jonathan says that what's hurting is cheap and recently better quality pottery from China, aimed at his clientele and even copying the designs of artisanal pottery, knockoffs like of Gucci, now swamping the artisans too. Next time you're thinking of crockery, look for the real thing from your local potters. The quality, esthetic and collectable value only costs a few dollars more. Contact Jonathan at Harper Pottery in Waterdown, Ontario at (905) 690-0049.

Ivan Trotter works in Toronto, but tours the fairs in summer. Painting professionally for the last 15 years, he now concentrates on French and Italian motifs, which sell better than Spanish or Greek scenes, with Canadian and American too familiar over here to be sought after much. That light and color he sees in the lush landscapes of Europe, also suits water-based acrylics he uses now instead of oils and turps, a health hazard endured by many old painters. It always surprises me in modern art how much an artist's work can vary from picture to picture, never mind from year to year. Many don't seem to find a groove or a style which could make them popular and collectable. Contact Ivan Trotter at

Stoney Creek Woodturning. For John Van Kessel, a hobby became a second carreer after he retired from education in London, Ontario. He has the knack of a true professional, whose work speaks fondly of the woods he uses. You might think he wanderers the forests, but through connections in his town, he manages to find most of his wood from trees that have been cleared from city streets. Since he was a high school principal, I couldn't resist asking him what he's seen happening over the years with kids themselves. "Worst than they've ever been and better than they've ever been. More mature and socially conscious or completely out of control." No surprises, more or less what I thought. Contact John at Stoney Creek Woodturning, in London, Ontario at

Brigitte Nowak works in Toronto. But she's had solid connections with Parry Sound for 50 years, coming up every summer to her family's cottage. She's seen the big transitions in country life, lately she comments, "Like the BMW's and their high-profile people who like to spend their money." Meaning further south especially around Port Carling, where her work sells well at an art gallery. Here it's still mostly pickups and SUVs, but she does agree, "Parry Sound is special, a Frontier Town mentality," she says, (Gateway to the North-- you get that in tourist brochures) "with much the same feeling as Yellowknife." That's about as far north as you ever want to go. Brigitte wasn't kidding. She knows Yellowknife. I do sort of, after several hours of Margaritas in Mexico with this hard-drinking gal from Yellowknife. ¡Viva México! By the way, I'd like to say hi to all my friends in Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara and San Miguel. ¡No perderéis Guanajuato! And to thousands more new friends over there who read this blog, I was pleasantly surprised to find out recently. ¡Hola muchachos y gracias, todos! Anyway Brigitte's work has a wide range beyond country landscapes which she didn't bring along. Contact Brigitte or see more on her website