Artisans Abound

Local writer Nancy Early describes our priceless artists who are waiting to welcome you to the region...

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There's Gold in These Hills

“Take any road, in any direction through the Hills of Headwaters… and you’ll find gold.”  Of course, this isn’t the gold that first lured hundreds of fevered prospectors to Caledon’s hills during the gold rush of 1818.  Those men never actually found gold, though many settled along the valley slopes.

It’s the gold you get from an area where two landmasses – the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak  Ridges Moraine – virtually collided eons ago.  Where freshwater springs bubble up from the escarpment, and from the region’s highlands – four major rivers originated.  Where centuries ago, settlers drawn to the rushing rivers tried to tame the waterways for their mills, and lusty pioneer villages sprang to life along the river valleys.

Flash forward to the new millennium, and you’ll find a region that continues to attract people for an afternoon, a weekend and even a lifetime.  Along with world-class restaurants, professional theatre, museums and unlimited recreational possibilities, this area embodies a unique beauty.  From rollicking hills with thick folds of ancient hardwoods to historic hamlets and heritage rivers – it seems our exciting landscape has also stirred the artist soul.

In the Hills of Headwaters, there’s a goldmine of artisans – over 200 artists working in every media imaginable.  Painters, potters, glassblowers, woodcarvers, weavers, sculptors and jewelers create here, in styles that range from classical to contemporary to avant-garde.  Every season, studio tours and art exhibitions are launched.  Every autumn peaking with the fall colours, the Headwaters Arts Festival kicks off its 17-day celebration of the region’s finest artists, artisans and performers with 65 events in over 30 venues.

But don’t wait for a tour or festival to discover this artist gold.  Pack a map and take to the hills.  Every rural backroad from Creemore to Terra Cotta is a potential scenic drive, and a chance to sample the magnificent landscapes so often transformed on the artist’s canvas.  Century homes, schoolhouses and historic buildings rejuvenated into studio space offer a glimpse of our proud heritage.  And amidst the beauty and history, you’ll experience first-hand where our inspired artists live, work… and play.  Here’s just a teaser of what you might find.

If you head north of Orangeville, you’ll not only discover why this region is called the ‘roof of Ontario’, you’ll also find Jim Lorriman’s Bits & Pieces studio.  Open year round, Jim’s studio showcases his decorative and functional wood pieces – and the most stunning views that stretch clear to Georgian Bay.  Working with over 25 different species of wood from maple and sumac to lilac and grapevine, he literally ‘turns’ out beautifully polished bowls, vases, candleholders and platters.

Timber Homes Illustrated magazine wrote that sculptor Hugh Russel’s home, studio and gallery north of Shelburne, “looks like a series of Japanese pavilions nestled among the gentle hills.”  His sculpture, as unique as his gallery, is part of international collections including exhibits through North and South America, Europe (and recently the Vatican).

Though Mulmur artists enjoy the quiet seclusion of the hills, they attract visitors from every walk of life.  If you sit for a portrait at Laurie McGaw’s studio, you join a guest list of celebrity subjects like Peter Gzowski, Oscar Peterson, Terry Fox, Andrea Bocelli and Farley Mowat.  But art can also be a ‘hands-on’ experience in the hills.  Artist and teacher Linda Jenetti creates local landscapes and abstract paintings in oil, acrylic, and watercolour.  The combination of Linda’s art work mixed with the panorama of the Boyne Valley from her Tote Hole Studio may well inspire you to take a class or two.

Dufferin County Museum & Archives – an extraordinary 26,000-square-foot ‘barn and silo’ complex, offers more than innovative historical exhibits.  You can browse the archives and gallery displays, stop by the tearoom and gift shop, explore the historical buildings and gardens, but don’t miss the silo.  Here you’ll find on-going exhibits of local art and photography, and after a short climb – a breathtaking 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside.

For picturesque countryside, Hockley Valley can rival any area.  One of the earliest vacation spots in the region, it sported the first winter ski runs and the first tiny summer cottages that hug the banks of the Nottawasaga River.  In 1990 the ‘valley’ became the perfect backdrop for Allan Pace’s Farmhouse Pottery Studio.  Al’s hand thrown, stoneware pottery from decorative birdbaths to functional dinnerware are what you might say ‘fit for a queen.’  His stoneware was presented as gifts to Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul on their visits to Canada.

It’s well-known that Orangeville’s beautifully restored 1875 Opera House is home to professional theatre, boasting such guest stars as Michael Burgess, Tommy Hunter, Dinah Christie and Rod Beattie.  One of the region’s largest art groups exhibit part of their collection in the upper lobby.  Celebrating 50 years and with over 80 artists, the Orangeville Art Group also hosts one of the biggest art ‘show and sales’ in the tranquil setting of Monora Park.

In the village of Alton, minutes south of Orangeville, travel-weary salesmen (drummers) once waited at the railway depot for the next train.  In 1880, town father William Algie began inviting these men for refreshments at his woolen mill, and soon Drummer’s Day became a huge trade fair with hoards of people, picnics and parades.  Today, in the ambiance of this historic setting, the Alton Mill artists and crafts people continue to invite visitors to their studios and workshops on the banks of Shaw’s Creek.

Though Drummer’s Day is no longer a tradition, driving along Caledon’s maple-lined backroads is a favorite outing for daytrippers.  If you plan ahead, it can coincide with Caledon’s strawberry supper, the annual fall fair or the autumn launch of the Caledon East Studio Tour.  Among the group’s 18 artists and guest artist featuring whimsical pottery and contemporary quiltwork to abstract paintings and finely crafted leather jewellery – you’ve probably heard about or seen Cory Trépanier “Life on Oils”.  His evocative paintings that so passionately capture the Canadian wilderness have been featured on posters, magazine covers, national television and on the cover of this Guide.

After early surveyors named Caledon for Scotland, they thought it only fitting to also use ‘Erin’ – a poetic name for Ireland.  With its verdant hills, rolling farm fields and scenic beauty – it was indeed aptly named.  To fully appreciate Erin’s poetic landscape, consider the Hills of Erin Studio Tour.  Twenty-five accomplished artists and fifteen studios throughout Erin, Hillsburgh and Grand Valley showcase their pottery, metal, textiles and photography as well as paintings by new and visiting artists at selected times throughout the year.

At the southern reaches of the region, Glen Williams is a quaint river hamlet wit ha rather industrious past.  Its mills along the Credit River once produced great amounts of lumber and such high quality flour that it was exported to foreign markets.  From a power plant in 1898 that supplied electricity as far as Georgetown to an apple-processing factory – Williams Mills were finally restored in 1988.  Today, Williams Mill houses a gallery and working studios for an eclectic mix of 30 professional artists, many who have earned national and international recognition.  Artists who create jewellery in sterling silver, make haute couturière clothing, glass blowers to stained glass designers, painters, carvers and potters are just a few who share this historic space.

History, beauty and art are everywhere here, buried in the hills like nuggets waiting to be found.  In every village, town and through-out the countryside you’ll sample as much diversity in the art as you will the landscape.  If you only go on one day-trip this season, head to our hills, and experience what it means to discover gold.

     -Nancy Early is a freelance writer who resides in the Hills of Caledon with her family and best friend Savanna (Golden Retriever)

Events Calendar

Featured Events

Caledon Farmers' Market - Bring Your Pet Day
Jul 14, 2011
Town of Caledon

Orangeville Annual Founders’ Fair
Jul 8 - 9, 2011
Historic Downtown Orangeville

Caledon Farmers' Market
Jul 7, 2011
Town of Caledon

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