Thursday 12 April 2012

Ontario Craft Road Trip

Originally hailing from Toronto, one of the most gratifying side-effects of my move to Hamilton has been the removal of big-city blinders regarding the rich cultural life of smaller cities and towns in Southern Ontario. So I was super pumped when asked by the Ontario Crafts Council to travel across the province to uncover regional issues for makers practicing outside of large urban centres. In November of last year I visited Picton and Bloomfield to the East, Kitchener and Waterloo to the West, and Thunder Bay to the very North. While super interesting, it would be far too long-winded to go in to my findings on craft-life in these places here. Instead I would love to share some travel highlights; perhaps you might become inpired to explore Ontario further, to expand your understanding of the place where you live.

The high point of my visit to Prince Edward County was tea and chats at Spark Box Studio, an artist residency, education centre, and professional resource project located on farmland and inside a renovated century farmhouse on the outskirts of Picton. Owners Chrissy and Kyle were kind enough to let me poke around in their well-outfitted print studio as well as their home, complete with three art-filled (and pretty darn luxe) residency bedrooms. Such a calm and beautiful spot, I absolutely believed Chrissy when she said that city folk get converted to country living when they stay here and make art.

Should you find yourself Kitchener-Waterloo way, do visit the Joseph Schneider Haus Museum and Gallery, a Pioneer Village-eque spot in downtown Kitchener. The central building is a Georgian farmhouse built by one of the area’s first pioneers, Joseph Schneider, a Pennsylvania-German Mennonite c. 1816. The rooms are filled with gorgeous woven Menonnite blankets and quilts, linen feedbags, super heavy duty functional ceramics, hand woven baskets, wool spinning wheels, and fellows stitching up cotton sausage casings for an upcoming butchering bee. The museum also hosts a Folk Artist-In-Residence program “designed to support the efforts of local artists and artisans working in traditional crafts and trades”. So cool.

While experiencing some serious cultural regeneration in the Bay & Algoma and Waterfront districts, much of Thunder Bay has a definite “land that time forgot” vibe, which I would describe as very, very awesome. One example would be the Kivela Bakery, established in 1910, a great spot to pick up Finnish cardamom bread and have this dapper gentleman show you his oven. The strength of Finnish culture in Thunder Bay (public saunas! a Marimekko store! Finnish pancake houses!) came as a big surprise to me in a city full of surprises.

Can’t wait to go back to all of these places and uncover more.


  1. so cool! i grew up in picton, and now i appreciate it so much more than when i was living there! it really seems to be on the cultural/art up and up.

  2. wow looks amazing! one day we'll all pop over from Northerrn England to visit you all! xx

  3. Oh wow, that first picture of Kivela totally threw me for a loop. I was in TBay for school and lived right near Bay & Algoma.
    I still have the most beautiful pair of handmade moccasins that I got for a steal from the woman who made them. She could even tell me that the rabbit whose fur was used as trim lived near a river!

  4. How awesome to read a blog I absolutely LOVE and see my town, my isolated, struggling, sometimes stumbling, beautiful town on it. So wonderful to know that the Ontario Crafts Council would include ALL the corners of Ontario.