As the long and illustrious mining boom in Ontario’s Highlands fades from memory, it can be easy to forget some of our most extraordinary treasures that lie just out of sight – hidden amongst and buried beneath the trees. But colourful gemstones set in fine jewellery, sculptural creations forged of local stone, and echos of our industrial legacy painted in abstraction, serve as beautiful reminders of the geological wealth we draw our life-blood from.
Why is it so many artists and craftspeople seek refuge and inspiration in Ontario’s Highlands? Some attribute it to our iconic landscape, while others credit the subtle influence of the underlying “crystal belt” from which it springs. No matter the reason, Ontario’s Highlands has long been a Mecca for artists and creators. Consider the unusual nature of the underlying geology of the land they inhabit and its no wonder that some have chosen to draw their inspiration – and their raw materials – directly from this most fundamental aspect of our region.
They say “diamonds are forever,” but for a truly enduring reminder of how we are all connected to our Earth, adorn yourself or appoint your home with impressionistic views of Recreational Geology in Ontario’s Highlands.
Down to Earth Artists in Ontario’s Highlands:
Gary Blundell studied as a hydrogeologist, and worked as an environmental consultant before pursuing a full-time career in the arts. Victora Ward was a successful performer for many years in Toronto before they decided to live the artists’ life in the rustic log cabin they share in the Haliburton Highlands.
Gary represents geological formations and the remnants of industry as monumental abstractions with sculptural depth and colourful oils, while Victoria takes a more whimsical approach to the culture of industry through her mixed-media paintings. Share with this geologically-inspired duo their unique vision of the land on your next trip to the Highlands. http://www.hotspurstudio.com/
Princess Sodalite Mine
Although an operating mine might not seem a likely setting for a gallery, proprietor Andy Christie has curated a fine selection of handicrafts and oddities of stone for his on-site store. But let’s not forget the mine itself. Sodalite is a rare, deep-blue gem that comes from only a handful of localities worldwide, with arguably the finest being from right here in Bancroft.
Whether as a beautiful souvenir of Canada’s Mineral Capital’s signature stone, a healing charm to warm your heart and clear your mind, or an eye-catching conversation starter, the array of direct-from-the-source sodalite gift items will be sure to impress. http://www.princesssodalitemine.ca/
Owners Dave and Renee Patterson take the name for their studio from the gemstones aquamarine and rose quartz - the two most desirable finds to be made at the sister quarries they operate as mineral collecting destinations in Quadeville. At their quarries you can also find moonstone, amazonite, smoky quartz, and other beautiful gems.
Dave and Renee’s affinity for local stone doesn’t end at the mine though, they also collect beautiful samples for themselves from which they fashion unique jewellery creations and loose gemstones. If you’re in the market for local colour and style, and maybe even a tour of the mines, you’ll delight in the personal touch AquaRose brings to their offerings. www.madawaskastudiotour.com/studios/aquarose/
Living Stones by John Schweighardt
Just in case you needed another reason to visit the beautiful Lanark Highlands, that is where sculpture artist, John Schweighardt, makes his home – and his enduring works of art. More than just being a sculptor, however, John is a locavore, seeking to find his raw materials as close to home as possible. From uniquely coloured Madoc marbles, to contrasty Rideau Red Granite, he finds his muse exclusively in Ontario stone.
John’s unique talent for observing raw beauty, coupled with his extraordinary skill in crafting seamless works of art out of the most challenging mixed-stone rough is perhaps best expressed in his unusual specialty: one-of-a-kind sinks, wash basins, and decorative bowls. But his landscape accents – from birdbath to Easter Island – will equally command your attention. http://livingstonessculptures.ca/
Small Wonder Jewellery by Stephen Clark
Don’t let Perth-based artist, Stephen Clark’s humble demeanor and low profile fool you. His captivating silver and gold jewelry creations speak volumes. When it came time to commission an artist to highlight the inner beauty of the geological discoveries made by local country doctor, James Wilson (Ontario’s Highlands first Recreational Geologist!), the choice was simple. The perthite necklace above, fashioned out of material from the discovery location, and the wilsonite brooch, crafted from a piece from Wilson’s original collection (ca.1850), are now a featured part of the new Geoheritage display at the Perth Museum.
Both a talented lapidary, and a master silver and goldsmith, Stephen’s work ranges from whimsical accents carved in semi-precious stone, to faceted gems set in sublime, heirloom jewellery. http://www.smallwonderjewellery.com/