With limited traffic, small population, and a notable lack of big box stores, the experience of visiting Denman Island has been described as “stepping back in time.” A cursory glimpse at the studios of the 2017 Denman Island Studio Tour might reinforce this perspective – many feature traditional skills such as weaving, quilting, ceramics, and basketry. In a place where many people grow their own food, and where it is easier to repair an appliance than to replace it, it is unsurprising that there is a value placed on these kinds of arts, but visitors will find contemporary island culture makes its mark on the design and craftsmanship, with unusual and delightful results.
Picture quilting, and you may think of grandmothers painstakingly stitching together colourful fabrics in preparation for a grandchild. Well, yes and no: hancrafted quilts do punctuate Denman’s community, and like quilts of old, they often have a story to tell. One was given to the local doctor upon her retirement; several donated to a family whose house burned down. At the Arts Center, the Denman Quilters will be exhibiting their beautiful heirloom-quality quilts, and although some crafted in a classic style, others bear the asymmetrical abstract patterns and the unusual colour patterns found in modern quilting.
If the Denman Quilters stitch together the stories of the community, a visit to the Denman Weavers exhibit at the Old School House will thread together the past and the present. Using the natural light streaming in from the south east wall of this historical building, the weavers produce textile art on floor looms acquired over many years.
Cynthia Minden works with another kind of fibre. In her charming studio, figurative and abstract sculpture hang from the ceiling, casting a lattice of shadows. Although the figures and earlier vessels come from a long tradition of basket-making, Minden has stretched these boundaries to investigate new forms.
Her interaction with plant materials led her to explore bookbinding, cordage-making and paper-making and these elements, combined with a love for found objects, form the basis of many of her mixed media wall-mounted assemblages.
New for the tour this year, is a collection of tiny wire chairs. Like small expressive figures, they have a whimsical style. Minden says “ the chairs are my daily practice at the moment, they have a feeling of being both woven and drawn, grounding but also in motion.”
Admirers of pottery and ceramics will not be disappointed, as Gordon Hutchens, Ember Studio, and Flowing Art Studio offer vastly different interpretations of the same medium, from functional to purely and exquisitely ornamental.
Alongside these artists, many of Denman’s painters, sculptors, photographers, will be sharing their new work. A day spent exploring their studios against the backdrop of rambling rural roads and open pastoral views might have you feeling transported to another time.
The free, self-guided tour runs August 12-13, 10 am – 4pm, and all ages are welcome. Maps can be picked up on day of the tour at the Denman Island Art Centre, 1016 Northwest Rd, just at the top of the ferry hill. For more information, please visitwww.denmanstudiotour.blogspot.comDenman Island Studio Tour