I’ve heard it said that one of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats. If this is the case, then let me lead you to Prince Edward Island, a.k.a Canada’s smallest greenest place and where you are bound to find a plethora of “continuous small treats.”
I love PEI and my husband Barrie MacGregor and I have journeyed there every summer for the past 33 years. But for all this time I’ve stuck with familiar haunts and it wasn’t until recently that I ventured “up East” and “up West.” Now I’m wondering why it took me so long.
If I wrote about all there is to see and do on these ends of the island then you, dear reader, would need three days to read it. So I am going to focus my little treatise on artisans in general and three artisans in particular.
For one thing, PEI has more artisans per population than anywhere else in Canada. In fact, there are over 30 craft guilds and organizations that support artisans, and close to 100 thriving craft, art, and giftware businesses on the island. They represent artists who are working with fibres & textiles, folk art & island art, metalwork, wood, jewelry, pottery, and glass to name just a few.
We started on the Eastern shore of PEI and found our way to Belfast Mini-Mills where we were blown away. First of all, they do custom batches of yarn for people all over the world. Want your pet dog or cat hair made into yarn? No problem. Just send it along to these folks. There likely isn’t a fibre they have cleaned, carded, dyed and spun, including the hair from pot bellied pigs, yaks, qiviut, angora goats and camel.
It’s an incredible operation and the items crafted here are stunning. Aside from enjoying talking with the staff, I got a chuckle out of the various kinds of animals that roam around the property including geese, pigs, llamas and a rather foolish cow that stood for hours on top of a large pile of manure. She was quite comical.
Further up the coast, we found Teri Hall at her small home studio called Fire and Water in Bay Fortune. Teri makes jewelry from beach glass that she melds with sterling silver. A former probation officer with the Department of Justice, she started making jewelry as a hobby but she soon realized how passionate she was about pursuing this as a career so she took up silversmithing.
The charismatic entrepreneur is careful to point out that she uses the beach glass “as is.” That is, she doesn’t polish them or alter the bits of glass in any way. She also provides a service where you can bring in a piece of glass or pottery that you want turned into a custom piece of jewelry. It could be a shard from an old family heirloom or a sliver from a prized plate or teacup. Matters not, for Teri will find a way to make that piece sing—and last forever.
On the west side of the island we discovered Back Road Folk Art. As the name implies, it’s on a back road (ahem, in the middle of nowhere.) But it’s well worth trying to find this place for every time I think of it I can’t help but grin.
The gallery and studio features the folk art of Kerras Jeffery. He’s quite a character and has filled his studio, barn and house with the zaniest carvings, dressed-up antiques, and some very unusual furniture. It defies description save to say it borders on the silly and the sublime.
Kerras not only has the world’s largest working hand-held eggbeater installed in front of his house, he also built the Olde Times Garden House Museum. It’s a hoot and features a guessing wall. My husband says you know you are old when you can name most of the items on that wall.
There’s also a section in the museum dedicated to how skunks came to the island as tourists (and never left) but I was so busy gawking at other displays that I somehow missed this one. A good reason to go back to PEI, eh? At least I won’t be waiting another 33 years to return.
All photos © Sandra Phinny
“Fire and Water”