In 1968, a group of free-spirited visionaries moved onto what had once been the Brennan farm, west of Perth, and created the vibrant, alternative community of Brooke Valley. Their dream of a sustainable and cooperative lifestyle, together with the natural beauty of the area, soon drew others, many of whom, not surprisingly, were craftspeople.
In 1992, twenty-four years after the farm was first settled, a collection of local artisans established the first Perth Autumn Studio Tour and laid the foundation for one of the area’s finest and best-attended art tours. Many still have a strong presence in the Valley and are sought after for their exceptional skills. Others have since passed away, but they are fondly remembered by those whose lives they touched, and are deeply respected for their much-admired work. So, a big thank you to the founding members of the Studio Tour and their guests: Doug & Anna France, Richard Banister, Jackie Seaton (1945-2013), Amanda Lewis, Stephen Clark, Bruce Baker, Dunn Sohn, Rosy Ashford-Pile, Glenn Gangnier (1954-2014), Ali Ross, Raphael Kerem, Michael Nault, Coral Nault, Bridget O’Flaherty, Dawn King, Charlee Ostrom, Rita Redner, Franc van Oort, and Ellen Fraser.
In the years since its founding, the tour has seen many studios and homes change hands, as different artists have passed through the community, and in some cases, planted roots. Among them are painter Catherine Orfald, who took over Bruce Baker’s woodshop in 2004, potter Anne Chambers, who purchased Glenn Gangnier’s pottery studio in 2009, and felt maker Zoë Lianga, who set up shop in Dawn King’s former studio in 2017.
Visitors come from great distances to see where these artisans work, live, and tend their spectacular gardens, and to experience the high-caliber original art that is on display. It is the artist’s opportunity to shine, share their love for their craft, and invite visitors to view, discuss, and purchase directly, something from their unique collections. The meandering roads through the countryside between the studios is lovely in the autumn, as the changing leaves are at their peak. A drive through the rolling hills, awash in red, orange, and gold is breathtaking. We suggest devoting at least one entire day, if not two. Every year, visitors say that they wished they had planned for more time at each studio.
This year’s roster—the biggest ever—will feature 32 artists in eight studios, and include a new “emerging artist” category, and nine new artists. After a year’s sabbatical, Catherine Orfald’s studio is back with a display of her paintings and portraits, paintings by Brent McGillivray, and the artistry of woodturner Jim Sprague, stained glass artist Steve Boyd, and Islamic geometry artist Bastou Bacharach. Continuing west, Susie Osler’s studio will feature her ceramics and drawings, along with creations of shoemaker and leatherwork artist, Willa Murray, original drawings by Jasper Nault, works by textile artist, Bridget O’Flaherty, and garden elements by Scott Dobson. Further west, you’ll find Dunn Sohn’s studio featuring woodturnings and furniture, jewellery by Wouter van der Molen, metal embossing by Jill Spear, weavings by Heather Sherratt, and batik art by Sarah Hale. Close to Brooke Valley School and centrally located on the tour circuit, the home and new studio of Zoë Lianga will offer a collection of her felted works, paintings and fused glass by Maureen Bennett, and woodworking by Wild Wood Design. Potter Rita Redner is situated right across the road. Her studio will host jeweller Christine Woolacott, and painter Michelle Shook. Not far from Rita’s, Anne Chambers’ ceramics studio will also feature stone carvings by John Schweighardt, photography by Shelley Ball, and textile designs by Dagmar Sagat. As you head east, towards Perth, be sure not to miss Franc van Oort’s printmaking studio. Franc will share his space with jeweller, Ellen Fraser, and painter, Gary Barr. Finally, on Christie Lake Road, take the time to browse cedar strip boat maker Brent Kirkham’s studio where you can also see the works of blown-glass artist, Paulus Tjiang, jewellery designer, Evan Taylor; and chocolate-maker, Ludwig Ratzinger.
You’ll also want to be sure to have a lunch break at Brooke Valley School where a Harvest Lunch will be offered between 11:30 am and 3:30 pm. Scrumptious, seasonal food, both sweet and savory, are lovingly prepared and served by the parents, students, and friends of BVS. A delicious assortment of items with attention to special dietary needs will also be available. The Harvest Lunch is one of the main annual fundraisers for this privately run, parent cooperative, two-room schoolhouse.
Stop to take in each of the artists’ work and a lunch at the school, and chances are you’ll leave inspired, excited, and invigorated by a connection you’ve made with an artist, and by the charm of this beautiful and beguiling place.
The Perth Autumn Studio Tour is always on Thanksgiving weekend. This year, it falls early and will take place on October 6, 7, & 8, from 10 am to 5 pm each day. You can find us @perthstudiotour on Instagram and Facebook to follow along and see what the artists are working on behind the scenes to prepare for the big weekend. We’ll be featuring each artist and their work, and will be giving away two $50 gift certificates (redeemable on the tour) leading up to the tour. Keep an eye out, and pick up our brochure from a shop near you.