by Douglas Pugh
The Right Eyed Deer Press
Driving through the Haliburton Highlands, the chances are that you’ll happen across The Art Hive. If you don’t then somebody will certainly mention it if you’re looking for a wide variety of art.
Key to the Art Hive – a store run by a collective of artists – is Erin Lynch, one of the founders. This gifted jeweller has her own offshoot, nominally called Bella’s Bazaar, but nearly all her energies these days are spent pulling together the small selection of artists and making sure that The Art Hive keeps buzzing.
Erin is full of bounce and energy, covering an awfully diverse range of talents in herself – from a degree qualified journalist, to mother, to jeweller, to entrepreneur – and like many in the Haliburton arts community, squeaking by by juggling many hats in many projects.
Erin’s love for the decorative arts was truly inspired on her many travels as a teenager, backpacking trips across India and Nepal being followed by a lengthy visit through Mexico, Central America and the
Caribbean. They are journeys not without their dangers – though good companions for the trips go a long way towards safety.
“ I didn’t get the tourist view that way,” says Lynch, “ but rather I like to think that I got under the skin of the culture, a down to earth understanding of the people, not something pre-packaged and dressed up.”
Choosing to try and understand people and cultures with such a huge difference from her home definitely expanded Lynch’s perspectives.
“ The people ARE the art,” she says, “ they underpin all of it. While the folks in places like that don’t really have much in the way of material wealth, they still express themselves, they find ways to make do with what they have. They still retain the ability to make beautiful and exquisite things.”
Not only can you see the stylistic influences of Asia and Central America amongst Lynch’s work, but you can also see the way that she takes everyday things, natural things and sometimes even trash into decorative jewellery.
“One persons junk is another persons inspiration. While in Central America I saw how discarded electrical wire could turn into the perfect chain for a necklace. Things such as pebbles or shells can be polished or drilled, made into decoration that would grace the finest shops in Beverly Hills.”
This using of local natural resources is something that she brought back with her.
“I see a road kill porcupine and I just have to pull over, “ Lynch smiles, “ boy, you should hear my boy complain. ‘Mom, what will people think? What would my friends say?’ While he’s hunkering down in the back hoping no-one can see him, I’m out there with an old towel that I always keep handy in the back of the car.”
Lynch certainly has an eye for the natural in her work, her porcupine quill pieces are spectacular catching the balance of retaining the natural look, using the hues of the quills to contrast and complement, utilising the varying lengths to accentuate and draw the eye.
Though not born in Haliburton, Lynch moved here with her parents just as she got into her high school years, and considers herself a Haliburton girl through and through. Once her travels were over it was to Haliburton she returned.
“Haliburton is special. It’s wealth of culture and artistic variety is unparalleled. For a rural setting you could not ask for anywhere better to raise a child, somewhere you can be close enough to nature to fully appreciate it, while at the same time have opportunity to not stay still, to learn more from friends and fellow artisans.” Lynch says this with sincere pride, “ It’s big enough to be a little urban, small enough to have that sense of the individual, where people count just for who they are. Haliburton is home.”
In the course of just a few short weeks you could find Lynch taking an active part in the Dusk Dances, reporting in her local newspaper, the Haliburton Highlander, and running an award winning vendors stall at the Haliburton Art in the Park. When I met her there sales were brisk, selling jewellery and doing extremely well with some mug racks made with recycled cutlery as the hooks, items picked up at yard sales, flattened and twisted so that the patina of silver plating became an adornment and yet rustic at the same time.
“One mans junk …” Lynch smiled again.
In between sales she was busy putting together a small batch of keychains for a local retailer to send out in a mailing. Like most in the area, Lynch wears umpteen hats to keep the money coming in.
Lynch puts time too into campaigning for ecological awareness and action in local circles, winning awards for her contributions. She is also known for spending several weeks at a time teaching arts and crafts as a volunteer on numerous First Nation reserves.
Lynch is also learning her way in felting, though she will delicately steer you aside towards her main line in jewellery, her craft in that direction still finding its way.
So, is she staying in Haliburton for the rest of her life, perfect place that it is?
“Part of my Ten Year Plan I call it, “ here she blushes a little, “ when my son has grown up in about ten years, I rather fancy buying something like a big camper van and setting forth across the States, learning more and selling jewellery as I go, maybe back to Mexico. For a while at least.”
This is where the author decides to put the artist to the test. I’m a father and there’s a young daughter back home in England that would like a gift from Haliburton. I set out the specifications : jewellery, lightweight (to save on expensive mailing costs), a slight Goth leaning in style, something … different.
Lynch thinks for barely a few seconds before she is opening a drawer and then a bag.
“How about these?” she holds up some earrings.
They are clock hands fitted to earring loops. Made from punched aluminium and then sprayed black. They look, quite simply, awesome!
“Found them at a yard sale, someone tried their hand at clock making and had these left over. One mans junk …”
“… is a delighted fathers perfect gift.”
You can find Erin Lynch’s wonderful creations, jewellery and otherwise, on the fine art website www.MadeInHaliburton.ca, or if you’re in the area drop in to the Art Hive artisans collective.