Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Muskoka: Fantasy Land of Arts, Mystical Creatures and Gardens

Photo taken from artists website >> HERE
this painting, along with some illustrated children's books are what
made us have to visit her enchanted castle

One of the most well-known Ontario summer rituals is the drive to cottage country. The long drive (usually in traffic) is the last struggle before you can pull up a Muskoka chair, a refreshing drink and a good book to relax away the weekend before you do the return drive.

This summer, we decided to make the journey the destination. On the way to an enjoyable stay at the Port Cunnington Lodge & Resort near Huntsville, we got off the highway and took the scenic route all the way around Muskoka.

We realized our decision to stop in Gravenhurst first was the right one as soon as we walked into Arts at the Albion. ( This artists’ collective includes twenty of Muskoka’s best artists from the Gravenhurst area who have come together to create an amazing new creative hive in the historic Albion Hotel, which is well known as Gravenhurst’s most recognizable building. While perusing the stunning paintings, sculptures and jewellery on display, we were drawn to the work of Bonnie Bews. (bonniebews), whose Hinterglas paintings were stunning. Hinterglas or reverse glass painting is a traditional European technique in which the artist paints on the reverse side of the glass.

Along with the paintings, we were also drawn to the stunning illustrations Bonnie created for the Zelda and Esmeralda series of children’s books. We wanted to see more and luckily there were directions to the Hinterglas Castle, Bonnie’s stunning home and studio on the way to Bala from Gravenhurst.

Hinterglas Castle is a must-see for any visitor to Muskoka. We came upon what seemed to be a private home, but turned into a unique and enchanting studio and gallery, the centrepiece being a large castle surrounded by beautiful landscaping and a fairy garden. After exploring the grounds, we were so happy to actually meet Bonnie who was working in the studio and got to talk to her about her work and home. We also got our copy of Zelda and Esmeralda signed – topping off the perfect Christmas gifts for nieces and nephews!

After a stop in Bala and some amazing local ice cream at the Ice Dreams Soda Shop (thank you Katie for the recommendation!), our drive took us to another stunning discovery – the Artful Garden ( just outside Bracebridge. Located in the spectactular gardens of potter Jon and Suzzane Partridge’s studio and home, this once a year event showcases the work of over 40 artists created for or inspired by gardens. It was the perfect combination of beautiful landscaping and art and made us feel like we were walking through the perfect wonderland for green thumbs and artists. It was the perfect escape on a hot summer day. Jon & Suzann are very open to visitors just taking a stroll and enjoying the beauty, but of course we could not leave without purchasing our own little piece of the Artful Garden to take home.

mini passage way for fairies or other little minions
we wish we took pictures of the real chickens walking through the grounds!
It looked like they were wearing pants - muahaha too cute
such a happy place how can you not help but smile! :D

lushness, feels like an alpine retreat
After enjoying a relaxing evening on the shores of the Lake of Bays, our drive back through Dwight brought us to what at first appeared to be a traditional log cabin, but turned out to be the one of the most charming stores we have ever visited. Surrounded by a stunning garden (beautiful landscaping was the common thread throughout the trip), the Oxtongue Craft Cabin and Gallery (oxtonguecraftcabin) opened in 1979 by artists Geraldine Slater and John McConnell who nailed their artwork on the fence in front of their summer log cabin. Today, the store showcases the work of more than 85 Canadian artists and has one of the most eclectic selections of fine Canadian craft north of Toronto. We spent a lot of time browsing (and of course bought some amazing pieces) and noted how friendly not only the staff, but the customers were. We were lucky enough to be there while a charming couple was visiting and found out that they were regular visitors and knew the staff (and their dog) very well.

doesn't this look like a rustic cabin version of our very own Freedom Clothing Collective?

It is a definite must stop and a great opportunity to see pottery, jewellery, wood, original paintings and prints, glass, metal, leather and toys (to name just a few items) all in one stop!

Overall, it was a perfect trip to the ‘cottage.’ Next time, we might spend a little more time relaxing. But why do that when there is so much to see and so many great people to meet?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Made In Canada Series: Courtney Wood

I am Courtney Wood, Pilates teacher, Holistic Nutritionist, and jewelry designer. I love designing and assembling jewelry! I have been making earrings and necklaces out of odd beads, pendants, shells and other found objects since I was a teenager. Making jewelry has been my creative outlet. It has offered me a way to let go, and immerse myself in the world of colour & design.

Currently, I work mostly with antique brass and colourful beads. I am excited about exploring ceramic as a new material in the near future!
For me, wearing earrings allows me to show my own uniqueness and beauty. I make and sell jewelry because I love others to feel the same way – unique and beautiful! Karen and Jelena at Freedom Clothing Collective have been amazing at helping me launch my jewelry line and get myself “out there” Cheers to both you ladies!! Not to mention how awesome their store is…. as it is filled with such fine products.

coyote or wolf? aaaawoooooo!
bronze dangly pyramids 

During the day, I teach Pilates and practice Holistic Nutrition as a way to bring more power and well-being into others’ lives. I have always loved exercise and nutrition as tools to bring balance and strength into my own body and mind and I am passionate about bringing this power to others’ mind and body each day. Please check out my website at

sweet collection of jewelry on a locally made lace jewelry display 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Farm in North Bay

On a recent business trip to North Bay, Karen insisted that I drop into the FARM. While walking down Main St. West, I came upon the store and, once entering, felt like I had met Freedom’s long lost cousin in Northern Ontario.
among other things, love your ceilings guys!!
gasp! The glorious space and they keep it clean :)
The FARM ( is a collective of emerging and established designers whose aim is to share and support local and Canadian talent. Much like Freedom, they are dedicated to offer fashion and lifestyle products that are handmade, locally-made, Canadian-made or eco-conscious. They aim to contribute to North Bay’s strong arts and culture community and attract shoppers to the downtown core.

Judging by the friendly smile and greeting that I received and the number of customers browsing and buying, they are succeeding in their aim to make North Bay a must visit destination.

super cute community chalkboard project! yay!
Armed with an email list and trying to decipher a bunch of back and forth text messages from Karen, I made my way through the store looking for some specific products. The staff was extremely helpful and I came away with a beautiful orange Stone Collection Quartz Finish Swell Water Bottle ( and some reusable food storage wraps made from beeswax, tree resin and jojoba oil infused into fabric made of hemp and cotton by Abeego (, an innovative company from Victoria, British Colombia. The smell of this lovely product is so warm and friendly you can't wait to start using it.

Visually, the FARM is a very open and beautiful space. I was also impressed with the large workspace in the back. Along with boutique-style retail space, they also offer a work-space for its members to share their skills and experiences.

It was great to connect with others who are pursuing the rewarding, and sometimes challenging, mission of promoting Canadian talent and advocate for an eco-friendly lifestyle.

Make sure to check them out on Facebook and in person if you are ever in North Bay!