Not far from the Confederation Bridge on the Prince Edward Island side of that engineering marvel a scenic backroad leads to the cozy town of Cape Traverse and two of the best antique shops in all of Canada’s Maritime Provinces: Ice Boat Rarities and Antiques and, its sister shop, Island Uniquities and Antiques, which is just a few hundred yards away down PEI Route 10. Both shops are housed in 19th century buildings — one an old church and another a former masonic lodge — that have been masterfully restored and updated by owners Larry and Jane Dugdale.
The exceptional assortment of antiques, curios, artwork and furniture on offer started as a personal collection of the owners that eventually morphed into the well-organized groupings that seem intentionally curated for visual delight. The Ice Boat building features the former church’s simply designed but stunning original red, blue, green and yellow stained glass windows, which cast a warm, luminous glow throughout the place. These shops deserve to be called galleries as much as anything else.
If you’re into stylish old or reclaimed furniture, these shops have you covered; automotive and industrial neon, check; vintage toys, thermometers, oil cans, model boats, duck decoys, postcards and ephemera, tools or farm implements, check to all that too — and a great deal more! Of particular note is the collection of whimsical painted wood sculptures and other artworks by noted PEI folk artist, Kerras Jeffery, who sadly passed away last year at way too young of an age after battling a long illness. The Ice Boat Rarities shop serves as almost a museum of some of his brightly colored pieces and the shop also features a marvelous cloud-painting by Jeffery on the ceiling of its largest room.
In addition, the staff in both places are super friendly and helpful and the prices are about the fairest I’ve seen for antique shops anywhere. These places are definitely worth a visit if you find yourself nearby.
More information about these terrific shops can be found at their respective Facebook pages here: Iceboat Rarities and Island Uniquities. More about Kerras Jeffery and his art is available on the Backroad Folkart blog here, which was formerly written by him and is now maintained by one of his relatives.
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Before seeing the acclaimed “Maudie,” I knew a little about Maud Lewis and her folk art but I was unaware of her life story and the everyday struggles that she faced from a very early age. Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke each give deft performances in this emotionally touching movie about persevering and finding happiness in the face of difficult circumstances. There are notes of grace here, along with a number of tear-jerker moments.
Lewis received some early art instruction as a child from her mother, with whom Lewis would make homemade Christmas cards to sell. From this basic foundation, Lewis’s many, mostly smallish paintings of bright-colored animals, plants and farm and shore scenes provided her solace in the face of a hardscrabble life in rural Nova Scotia. The occasional sale of her artworks eventually provided a modest income for her and her husband, Everett, in the later years of their lives. The movie does a nice job exploring the initially reticent relationship that the two shared and the deep interdependent love that they came to nurture. A more thorough overview of Lewis’s life can be found in the online Canadian Encyclopedia.
(On a side note, for those familiar with the Maritime Provinces, the rocky shoreline and cozy coastal villages featured in the film will be recognized as distinctively those of Newfoundland, which is where much of the movie was filmed. Quite ironic given the subject matter and that there are, of course, many beautiful vistas in Nova Scotia. The explanation for the filming in a different province appears to be the greater availability of film production tax credits in the more northern province.)
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During a recent visit to the Low Tide Gallery in Bridgetown, N.S., I encountered the colorfully vibrant work of Denny Lunn. He is a self-taught artist who first took up painting in his mid-70s and whose style is best described as being within the folk art tradition.
Lunn lives in the Annapolis Valley area and, like many folk artists, his subject matter reflects his community, which for him are the coastal and agricultural landscapes of Nova Scotia. These are scenes that I suspect many Canadians are familiar with — depictions of the maritime shore, lobster and fishing boats, winter skating and hockey, and cows in pastures that joyfully capture the province’s landscape in bright colors. For Lunn just about any available surface suffices as a canvas for his art, including fishing buoys, shovels, hand saws, paddles, milk buckets, baking tins, rocks, driftwood or any other utilitarian or natural object readily at hand, with every nook and cranny becoming filled with glorious detail.
Some of the imagery takes artistic license and doesn’t fit with the actual landscape but nevertheless conveys a consistent imaginative sensibility. Thus, in some of Lunn’s paintings snow-covered mountain peaks hover in the background while boats sail along in summer waters.
Low Tide Gallery proprietor Steve Skafte, who is a writer, fine art photographer and genuinely nice fellow with terrific insights and is passionate about the authenticity of Lunn’s art, deserves great credit for helping bring more attention to Lunn. Skafte created the above documentary video and this coming Sunday, July 30, his gallery will kick off a showcase of Lunn’s work. It will be well worth visiting if you are nearby. When Canadians think of folk artists, fellow Nova Scotian Maud Lewis frequently comes to mind (the Nova Scotia Gallery of Art has an exhibit of her work) and she was certainly one of the country’s more prominent such artists. I believe Lunn deserves to be in her company.
More about Lunn’s work and the gallery is available on the Low Tide Gallery Facebook page.
~ Sunburst Wood Carving, by David Taylor ~
Driving along the rural back roads of the Nova Scotia shore in Kings County, I stumbled upon a classic cedar-shingled house and yard in Black Rock adorned with brightly colored wood carvings that made for an irresistible stop. As I snapped a few photos, the property’s owner, David Taylor, amiably introduced himself and explained that the menagerie of carved-wood creatures and other whimsical sculptures spread in every direction across the land are his creations. He’s even affixed a pea-green sea monster carving about 100 yards (or 90 meters) offshore that sits atop the water’s surface at high tide.
Taylor is a true folk artist in the best sense of that term. One small carving led to another and eventually Taylor found himself having devoted many years to lovingly making wood objects from locally sourced driftwood and other materials for his own enjoyment and that of others. In addition to his many sculptures, Taylor spends time making distinctive rustic bird houses, each graced with the weathered, long-bearded face of a coastal fisherman and which he regularly sells. His work is sufficiently appreciated that the nearby town of Canning recently festooned utility poles along its main business district with about two dozen of Taylor’s birdhouses in a wonderful public art display with local businesses adopting particular birdhouses.
Taylor regularly undertakes commissioned work and has more than a few birdhouses and other reasonably priced carvings available. Although he doesn’t have a website, Taylor can be reached at email@example.com.