Location: Crawford Bay

Janet and Ted Wallace; a Colourful Combination

Janet and Ted Wallace; a Colourful Combination

The day after we visited Kootenay Forge we went to see Janet and Ted Wallace. It was a dramatically contrasted experience. The forge was a place where our focus was on the red, hot, glowing steel. Entering the Barefoot Handweaving straw-bale building was like getting on a roller coaster heading for light speed through a bazillion different colours. Everywhere we looked demanded our attention and if we felt under stimulated that day, I can tell you, that feeling vapourized the moment we walked through the door.

Janet is the barefoot handweaver and Ted is the inner landscape painter. They are a vibrantly intriguing couple who spend much of their time living their dream and driving their artistic passions. I am a highly tactile person and the first thing I do when I walk into a space full of textiles and fabrics is get it between my thumb and my fingers. Wow! I couldn’t believe my eyes or my hands when I walked into their building. The loom is a fascinating piece of equipment and like many artists and artisans who have more than one tool, Janet has four looms. There are big ones and small ones and even an elder, from the 1940’s, still going strong. She kindly gave us a hand and foot demonstration with a musical interlude and I don’t mean a song and dance, although that would have been fun too! No, I am referring to the rhythm she creates when working with her loom; the wood knocks together like a beautiful, simple, wooden instrument. It has a healthy, organic sound. Janet says the loom’s alluring sound is one of the reasons she keeps on weaving. What a wonderful way to create something visually beautiful, something curious to the touch, something earthy sounding and get a great work out all at the same time. Talk about being fully engaged!

One of the four resident looms at Barefoot Handweaving

Ted Wallace is an animated gentleman with a kind spirit who I found to be like an adult with an inner child who loves to jump on his bed at night in anticipation of his next inner landscape painting. His exuberance comes from his own awe inspired intrigue that surfaces with each stroke of the brush. His paintings speak to their onlookers in ways that are personal to each one. There are no categories or labels to describe his work, it is both honest and an expression of vulnerability. Ted also likes to help other people find their creative process through his guidance and experience. Baring one’s inner landscape down on a blank canvas is certain to be a terrifying experience for most people, however, Ted knows it is full of enrichment and inner nourishment and he hopes to help others find that within themselves as well. I liken it to getting into physical shape before you buy a gym membership; you don’t have to be a master painter, just paint.

Be sure to watch Janet and Ted’s interview just below Ted’s painting and listen for the rhythm of the loom.

Ted Wallace Original

Fireworks Copper & Glass

Fireworks Copper & Glass

Our next interview from the Artisans of Crawford Bay was with enamelist Helene Carter of Fireworks Copper & Glass in Crawford Bay, British Columbia. Helene showed us the ropes of fusing glass powders to pure copper and the creative art forms resulting from it. Helene is also part of a working studio, where art is not only sold on site but also the process is demonstrated to patrons wishing to view her in action. We found it informative and it gave us added appreciation for the labour of artistic creations and their resultant value. This is definitely not factory, assembly line merchandise that one disposes of when bored with it, but rather a purchase with a connection to the artist and their creative outlet; the beauty of the piece and the knowledge of its creation adding strength to the appreciation and longevity factor. Corinne found a pretty hummingbird pin that was perfect for her Grandma. She loved it!

Join us with Helene to learn more:

Kootenay Forge

Kootenay Forge

Most of the time when I think of art it is often surrounded by imagery of vibrant color. As human beings, most of us are fortunate to absorb through our eyes streams of color as we take in the world around us. Having said that, Gary and I were invited to spend some time with Gina and Cory Medhurst, owners of Kootenay Forge. The forge, as you would expect, is not the place to find vibrant color. What I did find was an immense dark building with shades of blackish blue all around us and one reddish orange glow coming from the propane fired forge.

Gina was kind enough to spend over an hour of her time with us, giving us a tour, and explaining all about the processes of running a forge while her husband Cory generously offered up a demonstration. Blacksmith work has been around since primitive man discovered a metal that could be manipulated when heated at very high temperatures; 2500 + degrees Fahrenheit. This discovery lead to making simple tools that were extremely useful for everyday life. Today, blacksmith work is still a practice and a skill that lives on. Gina’s father who started the forge business in Crawford Bay in 1982 has since sold the business to his daughter and her husband and passed down his skills and knowledge to them. I was thrilled to hear about their history as a matter of general appreciation for the practice of passing and carrying on skills from one generation to the next.

I got the impression that over the years Gina’s father was tirelessly innovative which only served to enhance their business and their health. He built a propane fired forge to replace the traditional coal fired which eliminated the health related risks of burning coal. As well, he built a giant drum like tumbler that uses steel punches that are recycled from a company in Nelson and that is fully ventilated minimizing fine steel dust particles from filling the room. Fascinating!

Upon the completion of Cory’s demonstration, I discovered that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. It was mesmerizing to watch the pulsing glow of the forge as it engulfed the cold blue steel. The simplicity of the contrast between the two colors was exciting and reminded me that art is the discovery of beauty in many forms and vibrant colors are a tiny portion of that discovery.

Please be sure to watch the “Leaf Hook” demo by Cory with Gina narrating in our video below.

Artisans of Crawford Bay, B.C.

The Artisans of Crawford Bay, B.C. are no strangers to media attention. As a collective of ten artisans their shared marketing and advertising exposure has attracted more than one journalist or videographer to interview them, though often not yielding any written or visual media story as a result of it! Not yet anyway.

So I could understand the trepidation of some when we came driving into town armed with our excitement and video camera and one could almost hear the question, “What is ArtsQuest and how are you any different than the others?” After explaining our mission we did manage to interview three of the listed artisans and one artist, those being Kootenay Forge, Fireworks Copper & Glass, Barefoot Handweaving and Ted Wallace respectively who all graciously gave us some of their time to tell us about themselves and show us what they create.

Check back soon for the first of these interviews which will forge (hint! hint!) some new gift ideas into your consciousness.