St. Jacobs studio part of a “vibrant resurgence” in the arts

Nestled in the heart of the St. Jacobs village is a blue building, home to a unique art studio for two local women. The Blue Sky art studio is a home away from home for Della vanDokkumburg and Carolyn Parks, two artists with two different styles. They have become close friends after coming together last year to found the studio.

Currently Elmira can view some of vanDokkumburg’s work at the Junction: her water-colour art is hanging in the windows, part of the art walks residents have been enjoying all over the region. The sketches up in the windows feature Woolwich houses that caught her eye. More examples can be found online at www.dellavandokkumburg.ca.

“I’ve really focused my sketching on Woolwich, on the theme of staying close to home – there is so much in Woolwich to sketch. The theme of the display that’s at the Junction is a whimsical view of Woolwich,  so there’s an assortment of sketches there,” said vanDokkumburg, who’s been busy putting on paper images of the area’s buildings, landmarks or otherwise.

“The earliest ones are probably built in like the 1850s. A lot of them have things like fancy wood trim and they have pillars and interesting brickwork. There was a real pride of workmanship in some of these old houses, and it’s still evident today.”

“When I post images on Instagram, there will be people who live in the area who will somehow stumble across my sketches and will comment on them. It’s always very positive things that they’ll have to say, but it will also perhaps bring back a memory, or it will be a house that somebody they knew or were related to used to live in – it’s been a great connecting point,” she said.

“Watercolours are somewhat unpredictable, and I think it suits my style of sketching, because my lines are somewhat unpredictable as well. Combined, it has a little bit of playfulness and chaos. And I think that really makes for an interesting composition.”

VanDokkumburg’s part of the studio is up a short staircase where she sketches and uses watercolours to create representations of her surroundings, while Parks’ section takes up the bottom half where she creates her unique creations.

“I call this wool painting, so it’s a process of wet-felting and the medium is wool, so basically I create a design in wool and then I use the process of wet-felting to turn it into a wool painting. After you add the water and the soap and you agitate it, there’s a felting process that happens, so what’s puffy before with wool turns into a picture. I’m a fibre artist but specifically I work with wool,” said Parks about the process of her art.

“I spread out so much, my stuff takes up so much room that doing this at home was just not achievable,” she added, noting the studio isn’t a traditional set-up.

“We don’t have to be open – it’s closed all the time, unless we want it to be open for an event that we’re holding or my classes. We display our stuff down here wherever we can, and in the windows.”

Parks noted she couldn’t run art classes during the lockdowns, causing a loss of income for the artist as they had just opened up the studio. Blue Sky is open by appointment only currently but has an upcoming tour and exhibit.

Their annual Kissing Bridge Trail studio tour is coming up this October 23 and 24. It will include 15 artists from all over Woolwich who’ll be opening up their studios for public tours.

The Blue Sky studio’s first exhibit will be showing during the St. Jacobs Sparkles event, which will give the public the opportunity to come and support the local artists in their studio for the first time.

“We love the idea of Canada, pretty as a picture, and kind of framing it as a road trip so when people come in here they’ll kind of be able to travel around Canada. Looking at our combined images that we’re doing, we do very different things – where as my stuff might be more landscapes, Della’s is going to be focusing more on some well-known places and structures and that kind of thing. We both work with very vibrant colours – Della’s style is so different than most people who use watercolour or ink,” noted Parks.

“The artsy vibe is coming back to this town, with us and then with the Three Sisters Cultural Centre going up, it’s been nice because I think there was arts in this town but it got dissipated. Other people have made comments to me that it’s nice to see art coming back to St. Jacobs – and definitely in Elmira; what I’ve seen, coming out of the pandemic, is an overall real support and promotion for the arts. I feel like there is a vibrant resurgence.”

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