In the September issue of Downhome, we share with readers the philosophy of the International Economuseum Network Society, which was created in 1992 to showcase the traditional trades and increase the value of cultural tourism in Canada. In this part of the country, the partner businesses are under the umbrella of the Atlantic Economusée Network. To learn more about the Atlantic and the international network, log onto economusees.com. Here are the AEN members in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
Artifacts in Clay
Christie Chaplin-Saunders is the artist and owner of Artifacts in Clay, a business located in Chester, Nova Scotia. A recent award winner at the Atlantic Craft Trade Show for Excellence in Product Design, Chaplin-Saunders is a graduate from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and Sheridan College. She draws her inspiration from the forest and ocean that surround her home and studio. She works with a traditional press mold to create clay sculptures that echo nature such as sea shells, pine cones and sea urchins which are then painted in deep aquatic and earthy tones.
Her newest product line is a series of bowls in the shape and texture of starfish. Chaplin-Saunders admits she has had to acknowledge some things since her early college days about how she perceived her art. "I have actually really evolved and tried to embrace the fact that I was in business. I was very idealistic and romantic, but I got to a point where I made a very conscious decision to focus on building a reasonable business," she says. This shift in perspective is also illustrated in her art. "I wanted to make beautiful things, but the fact that they are functional things is also very important to me."
She, as an artist, is more interested in form, but finds customers respond more to texture and colour, so her products try and encapsulate all those things now. "My feeling about the work I am doing is that it has gotten stronger, and my interests have expanded as a result of having focused my attention," she says.
Belonging to the Economusée Network has its benefits for Chaplin-Saunders who has been in business since 1998. "One of the attractions for me is it's an opportunity to associate myself with more mature businesses than mine," she says. See www.artifactsns.com for a selection of ceramics in colours and textures sure to inspire your house quests.
Suzanne and Greg Amos have many things in common, but the most intriguing and enduring of those is in relation to their business, Amos Pewter. The duo likes to work with their hands and always have. Their products have been in continuous development since they opened their business in 1974.
Suzanne Amos jokes that they were young enough to be unaware of the risks they were taking when they embarked on a pewter apprenticeship. "Greg and I just realized that we would figure out what we wanted to do when we figured out who we were going to do it with."
That was 30 years ago and now they create everything from dinnerware to jewellery and pretty much everything in between. It isn't unusual in this workshop to witness molten pewter being cast into jewellery right before your eyes, or pewter discs spinning into recognizable shapes. They recently sold their business, but continue to be involved as much as they can. "We realized very early on that if we were going to financially manage our apprenticeship we had to sell right away, and right away we practiced at being the very best we could in terms of what we made," she says. This pragmatic business approach has served them well. They now employ 25-30 people and are kept busy with the management of the company.
The Amoses have structured the company to reflect the creativity they feel is inherent in the design process. Therefore they often teach and work with staff members and the public to create designs on site. "It really has to do with engaging everyone in learning and developing, in decision making and implementing and all those things," says Suzanne Amos.
Those principles are also compatible with the Economusée Network and Amos views her relationship with the AEN as one of give and take. It is as much about boosting local tourism as it is about boosting a business profile. To view a glittering array of Amos Pewter, check out www.amospewter.com.
Raspberry Bay Stone
Heather Lawson is the first female trained stone mason in Canada and has been in business selling her sculptures for close to 13 years. Her studio, The Little House, is located in Bass River and is a hub of activity right now. And that doesn't even include the goats and sheep that wander through the gardens surrounding her property, which is also a display area for many of Lawson's intriguing sculptures. Lawson has enough projects lined up to keep her busy into next year. And she wouldn't have it any other way.
"What I enjoy most is that you can take something that is hard and cold and make it look almost malleable," Lawson says of the Wallace sandstone she uses. Right now she is working on a piece that at first glance resembles a stone post, but Lawson is carving a cloak over it to make it to capture light and movement.
The transformation from hard square stone to sculpture is what keeps Lawson engaged. Her style is unique. "With stone masons today your stone has to be pristine, so I kind of break the rules," Lawson says. Instead, she draws on traditions that are ancient and therefore seemingly timeless. "I am highly interested in primitive craft so that shows up in my work a lot, like Celtic art or pre-Christian art."
Lawson is never hard to find. She "cuts" seven days a week. You might witness her sculpting human features into a slab of stoic stone by visiting her on what she calls the forgotten shore of Nova Scotia, or take a virtual tour online at www.raspberrybaystone.com.
Sugar Moon Farm
Scott Whitelaw and Quita Gray took over Sugar Moon Farm in 1996 after apprenticing for two years with the previous owner. Gray, a Vancouver native, hadn't even tasted maple syrup until she was attending university in Ottawa. Now she is what you could call a maple aficionado.
Everything with maple depends on the weather, so Gray says they pay close attention to when the cold snap ends each year. "You don't want to tap in too early because the tap holes only have an eight-week life before they start to close over and dry up...you want to maximize the season." With 2,500 taps, time is of the essence and Gray and Whitelaw go seven days a week for two solid months of harvest time.
This is in addition to the other services they offer, including sugar camps and educational tours. They also have a pancake house, which offers mouth watering dishes like Sugar Moon maple baked beans and smoked maple sausages. They also hold "chef nights," which feature visiting chefs who create a multi-course maple syrup-inspired meal for customers onsite.
With all that activity, no wonder Gray feels maple sugar is magical. "It's so versatile you can eat it every day. We do," says Gray with a chuckle.
But maple is more than a food for Whitelaw and Gray; they see it as a bigger cultural institution. "It's just got this real great nostalgia and culture and history around it that I love, and that is so unique to this part of the world," says Gray. For a closer look at this maple wonderland, check out www.sugarmoon.ca.
Domaine de Grand Pré
This family-run winery has the benefit of being located in a very historically rich area in Nova Scotia. Tourists are welcomed to tour the vineyard and also get a comprehensive Acadian history at the same time. This vineyard was the first of its kind in Nova Scotia when it originally opened in the 1970s.
"This is where the wine industry began in Nova Scotia," says Amy Savoury, sommelier with Domaine de Grand Pré . The winery was purchased by its current owner, Swiss businessman Hanspeter W. Stutz, in 1993 and had its grand opening in 2000. His daughter Beatrice runs the restaurant, her husband is the chef, and Stutz's son Juerg is a trained oenologist (wine specialist). It took Stutz seven years to complete the detailed renovations, using as many local artisans and products from the area as he could to reclaim the winery that had fallen into neglect. It now offers 45 acres where visitors can stroll down a cobblestone pathway to a wine bar, a restaurant and an art gallery. Or they can enjoy a meal on a pergola overlooking the Minus Basin.
Domaine de Grand Pré aims to produce 100,000 bottles of different wines. This winery is one of the newest members of the AEN and provides comprehensive history and information about Nova Scotian wines. For a virtual tour of the winery log onto www.grandprewines.ns.ca.
Heidi Wulfraat offers her visitors a complete experience with a working studio, a gallery, a hand spinning museum, a natural dye plant garden and a fibre art supply shop, all located in Greater Lakeburn. If you are wondering what else could possibly fit on her property, don't forget the farm and its animals particular to producing wool: sheep, goats and Angora rabbits.
This type of business suits Wulfraat, who has a degree in animal science. "I wanted to raise animals and produce a product that didn't require the destruction of any of those animals," says Wulfraat. They have a slogan on the farm, "no kill, no sell." For Wulfraat, this philosophy and lifestyle choice grew into a business which espouses those views. Everything on the farm sustains the business and the products they sell.
"The whole property becomes part of the story," she says. Wulfraat believes that many of the techniques and traditional know-how which can be witnessed on her farm is getting harder to find in modern businesses. "People are surprised at what they find when they arrive since there are a lot of things that happen here on any given day, because we are taking a product from start to finish," says Wulfraat. For example, take the sheep they raise. They spin the wool from that sheep, grow the plants for dyeing the wool, then make a product with that wool and sell it. You never know what hand-woven creation you will find in the gallery. And because customers feels like a part of the process, many leave with purchases from her store. For more information on this unique farm: www.thewoolworks.com.
Trudy Gallagher and Chris Rogers are the proud owners of Bejewel, a unique store in downtown Fredericton that sells handcrafted, custom-designed jewellery. The store has come a long way since 1989 when Gallagher opened it as the sole artisan. She now offers a mentorship program, teaches at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, and has an onsite studio where metalsmiths can be seen working on their latest creations. Bejewel's beaded creations and jewellery designs have travelled the world and are featured in high-profile fashion magazines. For a catalogue of products and a panoramic view of the Bejewel's gallery, check out www.bejewel.ca.
Bourgeois Farms is a family-run orchard nestled in Pre-d'en-Haut, Memramcook, which has been in the Bourgeois family since 1935. They offer customers an assortment of products such as ciders, fine wines, ice wines and juices. By joining the Economusée Network, Robert Bourgeois is hoping to elevate his business profile and show the world what he calls his hidden valley.
Bourgeois' orchard is the only orchard to become an Economusée site in Atlantic Canada thus far, and he admits it is a bit of an experiment. "I am not sure how the people are going to react, but we sell a lot of products to people who are interested in that kind of experience, who are over 50 and retired," he says. Bourgeois Farms has always been an orchard where curious tourists can visit and wander, but now Bourgeois is confident his staff will be better prepared for questions and will offer tourists a more complete experience. "People want information, they want answers and I was always trying to find that information. This way it will be already explained and it should help us in the end to be more consistent," he says.
Bourgeois believes that the Economusée will inject new life into his family business in the most basic sense of bringing people to the area. "It is an old Acadian place. There are only a couple of places in North America that the Acadians never left when they were deported in 1755, so there is a lot of history here," says Bourgeois. "I want to sell the history of this place."
Bourgeois is celebrating his community and encouraging those around him to see its potential by example.
To learn more about this intriguing tourist destination, log onto: www.fermebourgeoisfarms.ca/