The Muskoka Autumn Studio Tour and the Sense of Place

Writer Bill Farnsworth heads out to meet Muskoka Autumn Studio Tour artists in their work spaces, and discovers how much they are influenced by the stunning landscape around them.

Artist’s draw their inspiration from many places; for some it’s words in books or notes in music, while others use experiences from their own lives. Artists who reside in Muskoka are undeniably influenced by the beautiful landscapes that surround them, and a visit to their creative spaces on the The Muskoka Autumn Studio Tour will definitely give visitors a sense just how inspired by the region’s scenery they truly are.

Kiln-ThumbMary-Ruth Newell’s studio is housed in a rustic log cabin built by her husband. Nestled among the trees and flanked by other log structures, Newell has created a space for herself that reflects her deep love of nature. Known as The Village Potter, Newell creates functional stoneware pieces that are fired in a homemade, wood fuelled kiln. The wood burned is the excess from the logs her husband uses in the log construction business and her signature pieces are often coloured by the ash the kiln produces. For Mary-Ruth, this mimicry of Nature’s own cycle of life, with wood being recycled and re-used, is in tune with her admiration for Muskoka’s wilderness. A lover of rich, earthy tones, Newell is inspired by her surrounding property and the changes in colour the fall season heralds. “I love to walk with my two dogs. We have a pond on the property and we frequently encounter wildlife there.”

O'Mara-texture-900x480This year will be Catherine O’Mara’s 17th year on the tour. O’Mara paints using egg tempera, a rather unique medium. The paint is made by mixing the yolk of a locally sourced egg and by colouring it with a variety of pigments. She spreads plaster on wooden boards, which adds a complex texture to her work that is different with every piece. The paint itself is nearly transparent, so O’Mara paints in multiple layers to achieve the depth of colour she desires. She gains inspiration from her everyday life in Muskoka, whether walking in the woods, driving to town or just looking out the window. O’Mara admits that autumn is her favourite season. “It is so exciting once the leaves start to change,” she says. “I just want to get outside and experience it.”

Sue Pritchard has just completed a new studio on her
property in the picturesque town of Bracebridge. Pritchard-bowls-thumbThe new home of SFP Woodturning, the dedicated space will give Pritchard more room to create her detailed and colourful wooden creations. Working mostly with ash because of its grain and texture, she uses a lathe to turn the wood into bowls, salt and pepper mills and other creations. Pritchard’s work stands apart because of the intricate dyeing process she follows. “I like to impart my personality and quirkiness into my art,” she explains. Like the tree it comes from, each piece of wood has a unique grain. Not knowing exactly how the finished product will look is part of what inspires Pritchard to create. She admits to using her signature bright blue because it reminds her of the colour of the lakes and waterways she is surrounded by in Muskoka. “I look at the colours around me and want to replicate them in my work.”

The 37th annual Muskoka Autumn Studio Tour takes place over two weekends this year, September 24-25 and October 1-2, during the height of the fall colour season. Plan a weekend trip to tour the artists’ studios (over 18 artists participating) and see firsthand the inspiration and methods used to create one-of-a-kind pieces of art.

To plan your stay in the great Canadian wilderness, click here. 

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