Upon entering the St. John’s Hall in Bath last weekend, a splash of colourful paintings on easels dividing the room into three catches the eye almost immediately.
The discerning visitor then has a range of options for what to see and experience first. It’s clear there’s plenty of talent gathered for the annual Bath Artisans’ Christmas show. The group’s founder Trudy Carkner is pleased with the contributions members have made.
“I think we have a very eclectic group and a group that grows every year in talent and numbers,” she said. “It’s been very busy and each year it gets busier.”
With that said, Carkner is quick to point out that after 26 years, the Bath Artisans remain committed to the same principles they started with — namely, to encourage all artists regardless of their experience or their skill level. Veterans and newcomers exhibit side-by-side for a reason.
“It’s a real confidence booster. We have many people who start with us and they’ve never been in an exhibition before. They may think their work isn’t good enough,” she said. “They put the work into an exhibition and somebody busy a painting. You see their confidence level raised. To be over 65 and have that boost is something special.”
The group allows artists to come, to be accepted, and to learn from one another. It hosts workshops and Monday paint sessions for members and non-members alike. Through it all, a strong bond is forged and the Christmas show is one of two times the public can see the fruits of that environment.
Carkner said the community is just as important as the art itself.
“It’s important, especially at the ages we are, to have that group. Everybody gets to be friends. Spouses pass away or people fight cancer. We’ve had so much of that happen. They tell us we’re like their support group. We all care and are there as a shoulder to cry on. It extends and extends and extends.”
Carkner was showing off a display of greeting cards, which she said she started doing after she didn’t want to paint as much at night any more. She said they sell well at shows like the weekend’s.
Nearby, Carol Jackson showed off her paintings. She learned about the Bath Artisans from one of her husband’s work colleagues and quickly joined. Initially, she was frustrated with her art but through the support of other artisans, she stayed committed and displayed some beautiful acrylics and watercolours.
“It’s great networking and great moral support as well. We’re willing to share ideas amongst each other. If a person has a problem, a more experienced artist is willing to help them out,” she said. “If I didn’t have the support, I wouldn’t keep my interest in it… It was through their encouragement that I continued.”
Jackson said she really enjoyed the show as customers offered concepts and suggestions. On Saturday, that meant a lot of conversations.
“It’s been a steady flow through. They browse and do a lot of wandering up and down. It isn’t just a one-time pass. You see them go up and down the aisles several times. I think they see one or two things they like and they’re trying to decide.”
Nelson Freedman had a large display of his turned wood products at the show.
He’s one of the formally trained artists in the group, having studied at Campbell Folk School, and says he has enjoyed coming from his Amherstview home to work with the group for nearly 10 years. He says he’s seen growth from his peers, including projects where they’ve challenged one another to try different styles.
Overall, the sum of the parts is an impressive show in his eyes.
“I’m just really fascinated by the quality of artisans they have here. For a small community they do really well. That’s from amateurs on up to the professionals. I think all the artists encourage the other people to do some really nice work.”
Fellow artist Joan Salomaa agreed with his assessment.
“I’ve had a lot of good conversations and a lot of people are very pleased with the whole show. Everybody has got different styles and different types of art all their own that make it interesting.”