Canadian Artist for Canada Day - Mary Philpott

Verdant Hare by Mary Philpott
On this Canada Day, I will skip the usual maple leaf symbols and introduce you to an artist I recently discovered through a local publication. I instantly fell in love with her work. Her name is Mary Philpott. Her studio, Verdant Studio, is located just twenty minutes away, in Stratford - on a street named Shakespeare, of course. Strongly inspired by William Morris, I presumed that she was a UK artist. I was elated to read that her work is close and accessible. One day, I will own some of her sculptures and my walls will be adorned with some of her tiles.

Mary Philpott at work
The Hare by Mary Philpott

Curious Buzzing Thing Crow by Mary Philpott

Garden Hare Searching by Mary Philpott

The Fox and the Crow by Mary Philpott
(my favourite fable)

One of many Verdant flower tiles by Mary Philpott
Happy Canada Day!

'Fretworking' - Corbels, Spandrels, Brackets and Porch Posts, Part I

Between B&B guests, I've been working on the fretwork of my porch. As you can see in the shot above, the spandrels and brackets are in a grey/beige and cream (previous owner's colours), but will soon be sage green and greenish cream with touches of garnet red. These are the same colours seen below on my front entrance doors.

We invested in a mini-scaffold, specifically for doing the inner face of the fretwork. It rolls easily along the length of the porch. It's especially useful for the portion above the stairs as the ends can be adjusted for different levels. It's wonderful to work on a scaffold as opposed to a ladder, but the ladder is needed for the exterior face of the fretwork. The scaffold will come very handy indoors when I do decorative work such as murals and ceiling medallions.

This old lady needs a good exfoliation treatment. From a distance the porch design is perceived as a delicate and lace like structure, but up close, one can see how thick and solid everything is.

I started scrapping and sanding on the left side of the porch's entrance. As is always the case, whatever is facing outward requires much more work than that facing inward. My objective is to smooth out the surface to the next sound layer. In some areas, going down to the wood is unavoidable. I want to keep the integrity of the 125 year old surface as much as possible. Making my porch look new is not the point, but good prep work is essential before painting. Crazing, cracking and several layers of paint give century-old houses loads of character. There's nothing fake about this 'shabby chic' finish.

When it's sunny, my work day is a little shorter. By 2:00, the sun drenches the entrance and it becomes unbearable, I'm basting in my own juices - time to call it a day. By 3:00 pm, the entire front is blindingly bright and hot. A week of intermittent rain is in the forecast for our area so I'll be working mainly on the inner face of the fretwork.

Heritage Plaque Set in Stone

The final stage for our heritage designation is now complete with the installation of an elegant round plaque, cast in brass, measuring 10" across. Mr Sandy Maclean, master stonemason had the task of permanently installing the plaque at the front entrance.

On May 31st, we had the pleasure of hosting a little get together with friends and neighbours to celebrate this honour. Guests were greeted with coffee, tea, orange juice and home baked muffins.

Trisha McKibbin, St Marys Museum and Archives Manager, a key figure in the realization of our heritage designation.
Twenty-eight people showed up on that beautiful Saturday morning, filling the library, the dining room and spilling into the hallway. It was so nice to see the house filled with people.

Forground: Paul King, board member of Community Heritage Ontario and member of St. Marys Heritage Committee.
St Marys' Mayor Steve Grose spoke wonderfully, as usual, on the importance of history and heritage preservation for St Marys. Larry Pfaff, co-chair of Heritage St Marys, spoke eloquently on the history of our house, its unique architectural details and the importance of caring owners. Brian was also one of the speakers thanking everyone for joining us.
From left, Mayor Steve Grose, Brian and Larry Pfaff.

A thank you to  Stew Slater, journalist and photographer for the Journal Argus. You were invited as a friend, but we appreciate the exposure.

The dogs, naturally social, were very happy to see so many people and to get so much attention. 

Mayor Grose gave us the honour of unveiling the plaque, ending the morning on a joyful note.

Trisha McKibbin, Mayor Steve Grose, Larry Pfaff, moi and Brian.
There are so many misconceptions on the topic of heritage designation, misconceptions not dissimilar to urban legends or old wives tales, based on exaggerated stories and/or ignorance. There will always be people propagating erroneous information on the topic, but the truth is easily found.

A house is not a museum. Wall colours and furnishings will change from owner to owner, personal taste and modernization is inevitable, especially in such rooms as the kitchen and bathroom. One needs the conveniences of modern day life in order to fully enjoy one's home. These conveniences keep a home relevant, comfortable and desirable, but respecting its antique nature is important to us. We consider ourselves custodians of this house, trying our best to preserve, maintain and protect the important work previous owners have done before us. 

On the topic of building preservation, here is a link from one of my favourite blogs, The Craftsman:
"Demolition is a Choice not a Solution"

A special thank you to Trisha McKibbin of the St Marys Museum and all who helped make the designation possible.

St Marys Journal Argus - Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Journalist/Photographer: Stew Slater