It’s Sunday June the 9th – a day after we launched our first show of the 2019 season – and I’m taking a quiet moment to do a little Website (and F’Book) update. The new show is a collaboration between artist Nicole Rittemann and her mother Linda Dzus. These two women bring a variety of talents to the walls of Shavasana Gallery. Their art exhibit includes photos on canvas, acrylic and oil paintings on canvas and canvas panel, art cards and paintings on rocks – an eclectic mix!
Here’s a picture of Linda and Nicole working tirelessly (with me) to hang and arrange the art the day before the show – it was fun working with these two. It’s always at least a 3 or 4 hour job depending on the number of pieces, but I always find it enjoyable to see the new work that will reside on the walls of the Gallery for the next month – Galleries are, by their nature, constantly changing
The Opening Reception ran from noon til 3 on Saturday and was quite well-attended – despite the many things that were occurring on Mayne Island at the same time. The island has a small population of 1,000 people but it’s a busy little place. While our show was humming along with happy guests, the farmers market, the ladies church auxiliary clothing sale, a celebration of life, and a conservancy demonstration were all taking place at the same time. Clever islanders are usually able to strategically plan their days to weave multiple events into their – surprisingly – busy schedules.
Here are Linda and Nicole (and I) shortly before the opening reception, standing in front of the kitchen island laden with snacks and a generous bowl of fruit punch. The fifty to sixty guests ensured that there was very little left to pack up at the end of the 3-hour show.
I always like to do a walkthrough video of the show after the crowds have gone home so I can keep a record of the exhibit and include a wee commentary on individual pieces – here it is below, have a look:
The show runs until July 1st, come on by and have a look at Linda & Nicole’s art if you have a chance – cheers!
It’s Sunday evening in mid-October. The fire ban has been lifted on this small water-challenged island on which I reside, and residents are taking this opportunity to clear months of accumulated debris by having autumnal fires. These are the first fires we have seen in 4 or 5 months, and smoke now drifts down the cool valleys of this picturesque enclave.
Donna Williams – one of two artists who are showing with me right now – and I, hung her and Joella Grymaloski’s art several days ago. We are just gearing up for her Artist’s Opening on Friday October the 20th at 7 o’clock, and had decided to have a “soft opening” on Friday the 13th when her and Joella’s beautiful and beguiling pieces were made accessible to visitors to Shavasana Art Gallery & Café.
The show is called “Nature of Reflections” and centres around Donna’s intriguing collection of abstract photographs which were captured on a recent trip to Toronto. The compelling images are shots of the downtown urban landscape as viewed through reflections in high-rise glass towers. The effect is almost painterly in some instances and reveals the beauty of glass in its ability to capture and change reflected shape and colour.
This collection is beautifully complemented by Joella’s quilting artistry and her sewing and painting talents which she displays so nicely with a series of hanging prayer flags.
If you happen to be reading this before October the 20th please join us at the opening on Friday night. There will be refreshments, Conviviality and Art – and a chance to meet the artists! Below is a little walkthrough video to give you a better idea of what you might see at the show, which runs until November the 5th. Hope to see you there (or, in this case -here! 🙂 )
We have a fabulous show opening tonight – Nov. 11, 2016 – showcasing the talents of Trish Mitchell (Mosaics, Mixed Media, Collage) and Angie Carson (Acrylics, Portraits)…here are some photos of the show and a video which will give you a taste of the beauty that is being exhibited here!
Shortly after I returned to Vancouver, in late May of 2013, I called the landlord to find out more about the situation on Mayne, ask questions, and gather a bit of info. The building was indeed zoned commercial/residential which covered my need for accommodation on the island and gave me the possibility of opening a little business, making a little cash, and having a cool project to work on. It was a 10 acre waterfront parcel, with four additional cottages that were rented out either long-term, or for summer vacation rental. John Collinson, one of the original settlers from the mid-1800’s is buried on the property with his first nations wife, several ill-fated children, and reputedly has, growing on it, the oldest apple trees in BC – making this particular piece of land significant from a heritage perspective. Ideas for a business, although unformed as yet, were germinating. What could I do there? As I was completely bereft of skills, talents, aptitudes or business acumen my first thought was…artist studio. As I was also – at the time – completely devoid of motivation, drive, or work ethic my other embryonic idea was “self-serve coffee bar”…these two ideas would have to fall into bed together and germinate further so I could convince the landlord that I actually had a business plan, and was not just another flaky guy wanting to open up an …Art Studio Café. 🙂 I arranged to meet Dave the landlord back on Mayne in early June for mutual reassurance.
As I re-read my Journal during the early days of this exploration I am struck by two things: my wide-eyed interpretation of simple encounters as a kind of magical projection of wonderment (a woman carrying a basket of cilantro down a dusty country road would take on almost mystic qualities) and; the ongoing internal struggle between the two halves of my psyche as I weighed the pros and cons of this decision…uncertainty vs. impulsive commitment, indecision vs. strong desire, – I was having a dialogue with myself on the pages of my Journal as I sorted out my internal tendency to overthink. Problems vs possibilities…I quite literally rejected the whole concept three times before I would ultimately commit. Blessedly, magic & visceral pull would eventually win out over fear and indecisiveness…but we’re not there yet.
The June 12 meeting with Dave went well. As it turned out we had worked together as young guys in the 70’s, so there was a decent cordial recollection of being work chums from another era. Even this diminishes some of the misgivings and creates hints of inevitability. I managed to get inside the space, take some measurements and do some imaginings of what it may become under my tutelage. The cottage is petite…around 600 sq.feet with a cool front porch & ground level rancher-style access. The windows are plentiful heritage multi-pane with tons of light and stellar site lines. The best view is of Galiano Island and Active Pass through which all of the regional ferry traffic travels. The kitchen and bathroom are small but adequate, and, as an out-of-town part-time dwelling it works magnificently for my needs. It’s suitability as a business though, will be determined by the appropriateness of my ideas and the efficacy of “my plan”…(which does not yet exist, although Mr. Journal gives an early indicator of “art – cycle – website – sculpture – café – thing”…I’m good at vague.
As these are my early days exploring Mayne Island, I was still in need of further convincing that this place had what I was in need of ….what I was searching for – serenity & the muse. Although Dave’s commercial property had incredible appeal and seemed perfectly suited to my “vision dream” I needed to unearth the tranquility and unleash “the muse” – that almost indecipherable thing that would allow creative passions to flow.
After years of urban cacophony and living a life that had been turned up to “11” I was in serious need of chillout. The difference between Vancouver and Mayne is vast. Although they are only 30 kilometres and a short ferry ride apart, the sense of decompression one gets upon disembarking from the ferry onto this idyllic rock is immediate. Things slow down, noises abate, enclaves of bliss abound and circadian rhythms tap you gently on the shoulder to remind you when it’s time to eat, or whisper in your ear “lights out…time to shut ‘er down for the day”. Beaches on warm summer days offer moments of sublime delight…the sounds of happy children discovering the magic of oceanside play, while dogs run in slo-mo after tossed frisbees, bathed in a golden light while gentle breezes blow and the tides lap. Forest trails and favourite mountain vistas can provide similar moments of calm and beauty. Climbing the local peak and sourcing out a secluded spot with equal parts sun-generated warmth and the serenade of trees and birds is a fabulous way to meditate. OK….tranquility – check.
Despite my earlier indecisiveness and waffling, I knew from the moment that I saw Dave’s little commercial cottage that this quirky setting would provide a perfect tableau to unleash the creative inspirations which had been bottled up inside of me for some time. Whether suppressed or dormant, they were ready to come forth. My muse needed irony and diversity, and a boatload of new and unique experiences which the Gallery – Studio – Café , and life on Mayne Island would provide in spades. What tragedy and hard drinking had squelched, sobriety, stimulus, serendipity and synchronicity let flourish. Writing the script and setting the stage for this new play, unleashed some hidden talents, and gave creative energy to new roles I would be required to perform. As a creative generalist, they would be many….finding one’s Muse – check.
Despite the seeming perfection of Mayne Island and Dave’s little cottage business for my needs, my indecisiveness dies hard and I needed to return to Vancouver for further pondering, worry and excessive pensive thinking. In fairness to Dave, as the weeks slipped by and I’d not come to a firm decision, I called him to remove myself as a potential candidate for occupancy…but I couldn’t get the islands or the place out of my thoughts so I planned another trip in early July to do a final round-robin of my favourite island contenders…Saturna, Pender and Mayne. Unlike Goldilocks, I have to test each bowl of porridge several times.
After a year without wheels, I am back on the road and it does feel good. Liberating. I use my van as a camper when I am on these road trips for the convenience of being able to pull over and sleep anywhere on these accomodation-challenged islands…especially in summertime. I love all of these islands, and they each have something unique to offer, “They all have their own personality”, as they say. I start with Saturna, as it is the most remote, and will work my way back. Saturna is gorgeous and was one of my first considerations but is sparsely populated (300 people) and consequently is lacking in some key amenities. Pender is also stunning but the cycling felt so-so and I’m not fond of some of the turns their development have taken. Each island will dish out serenity and stunning vistas by the truckload, but there was only one “Dave’s Cottage”… And that was on Mayne.
Fortunately, when I returned on July 8 it was still vacant and beckoning. And the island was still dishing out its charms, despite, or perhaps because of, the uptick in people enjoying their summer vacation activities. Perfect days happen and for me, here, they occur with regularity.
It was on this trip that the ideas for the business were congealing and here that I first made reference to the “Shavasana* Chillout Project”, and also germinated the name I would give to my mask making activities, “Clay and Bone”www.clayandbone.com . My thoughts, creative energy and focus were now being absorbed by this looming commitment. It seemed there was no turning back, so, a few days later I called Dave to tell him I definitely wanted it and was ready to commit. The next day I awoke with serious apprehension & “buyers remorse” … I felt like bailing on the whole project.
But I didn’t. I continued my decision struggle debate internally and within the pages of my Journal…“march forward…explore…evolve..learn”, I exhorted myself, “this project may provide the necessary “raison d’etre” to boost creative energies & passions”…I said, and that I would “need to get in the correct mind space” I told myself, so I could “experiment with the place as an incubator for: website development, writing, creative space, playground, business, & the experience of living in a small community on an island”. I obviously required a lot of convincing, which only I was capable of doing. The two halves of my Gemini brain were fighting it out. And finally, from the Journal, “if not this, what?”. The desire to end the search and begin the creative work was strong – I called Dave to meet up on Mayne and sign the lease…I would reject the place one last time before the ink was dry.
It was all set. I was to meet Dave back on Mayne, the August 1st long weekend to sign the lease and take possession. As friends were vacationing there I came over a day early to hang out with them. Dave had given me keys to the place so I could show it to my friends and also stay there for a couple of nights. As we were all about to walk into the cottage, my soon-to-be new neighbour Billie came over and awkwardly injected herself into our group…acting, I suppose as an unexpected and uninvited “tour guide”. Unbeknownst to me, Billie was also the de facto caretaker, cleaning lady and security guard for the property – and also had a bunch of her stuff stored there for the interim. She was also exhibiting – as I would eventually find out – some old fashioned “island familiarity” (not to be confused with nosiness 🙂 ) which we city folk were just plain unaccustomed to. In a word – it was weird.
And of course, my friends, over dinner après, had to remind me of this and embellish upon it – they were British after all. “She likes you you know”…“She’ll be over all the time”…“It’ll be like Kathy Bates in the movie Misery”…“She’s going to break in and tie you to your bed” and on, and on…..and on. All in good fun.
As I retired back to the cottage for the evening, the clouds had rolled in, the wind had picked up and there was a hint of rain – it was a dark and stormy night. As I got ready for bed, there was a sharp rap on the front window “Who is it?”, I quailed, “It’s me, Billie…your next door neighbour” With trepidation I flung open the curtains and there she was, face inches from the window, wearing a bike light on her ever-present safari hat, “It’s blowing pretty hard out tonight” she said, “sometimes we have power outages and you might need…candles!” She raised aloft a couple of candles in each hand. As I absorbed this apparition I said, “Uuuuh…I think I’m good Billie…I have a flashlight – thanks though” The Brits were right…it was going to be a nightmare.
This thought stuck with me overnight. It wasn’t going to be a relaxing & chill experience…I was going to be pestered, hounded, and it would not be good. I’d be trapped in awkward encounters…badgered by Billie…I’d have to bail. Which I did. I saw Dave for breakfast at the bakery the next morning and – rather than sign a leasing agreement – explained my apprehension, and, once again, rejected the property. He completely understood. The deal was off.
We shook hands, I left, and went for a long walk in the woods and down to one my favourite beaches, and sat there, staring at Mt. Baker. And then I had an epiphany – there are going to be problems, difficulties, wherever you go. There is no escaping them. They are opportunities for growth, and need to be confronted – gently – and dealt with. I can handle this, I told myself, try it for a year and if you don’t like it you can move on. I reconnected with Dave and explained my change of heart. Once again, because Dave is a good guy, he completely understood. We met up and I signed the lease for one year…this time, I let the ink dry.
PostScript: Billie and I have since become friends and good neighbours. She’s big hearted, generous and kind. We look out for one another…and she’s right – it’s always good to keep a supply of candles handy for those blustery nights when the power can go off. I had found Shavasana.
*Shavasana is two Sanskrit words: Shava (शव, Śava) meaning “corpse”, and Asana (आसन, Āsana) meaning “posture” or “pose” and is the last position in Yoga – considered by some, to be the most important part of Yoga practice. Lying on one’s back with arms and legs splayed out, eyes closed and breathing deeply, Shavasana is intended to integrate one’s Yoga practice and rejuvenate body, mind and spirit. Although I would eventually use this Yogic term as a playful name for my Art Gallery/Café on Mayne Island, it was also a metaphoric and tacit recognition of my personal need for rejuvenation & healing after many years of pain.
…If you are about to embark on a journey, or think that you are going to have an experience which may prove interesting, I’d recommend keeping a journal. Besides the reputed therapeutic & cathartic benefits of writing, journalling is a great way to capture moods, feelings and observations, that photos just “don’t get”. In a serendipitous moment, a friend of mine in the AA program (thanks Kelly!) gave me a lovely leather-bound journal for my one-year anniversary of sobriety, weeks before I would make my first trip to Mayne Island…in search of Shavasana. I filled that book and others over the past three years of this journey, and am referring to them now as I write this Blog. I find that reading some of the words that I penned three years ago can transport me back to some beautiful moments and also remind me that my ongoing search has been both outward…and inward.
It is May 22, 2013 and the rather long and arduous Goldilocks quest for a rural property will soon bear fruit. I am on a solo cycling trip through the Gulf Islands to check out lifestyles and amenities on each of the five major islands and to get a feel for the various communities residing there. Galiano just felt a little too close to Vancouver, and, as an avid cyclist, I wasn’t fond of the layout of it’s road system. Salt Spring Island was a little too big and too busy, rumours of traffic congestion and narrow roads made cycling sound awkward and unpleasant. Saturna – although beautiful – was too far way, sparsely populated and had few amenities. Pender Island was a contender, but, when I finally arrived on Mayne, the Fates intervened, the stars aligned, and my Goldilocks quest was over. Mayne Island felt right, it felt like home.
It almost didn’t happen. The prior eight years had been a rather arduous & gruelling journey of tragedy, misfortune, alcoholism & recovery: https://clayandbone.com/2016/12/13/death-mask-troubled-dreams-on-the-road-to-clay-bone/. One attempt at relocating outside of Vancouver on the Sunshine Coast in 2011, had crashed and burned ( https://clayandbone.com/2016/12/27/death-mask-part-2/ ) and my realization then, that I would need to gain my sobriety before embarking on this solo rural life, would prioritize a year of dedicated recovery in Vancouver before I could recommence my search for a rural property. Even the process of gaining sobriety would ultimately feed me an obstacle on this quest for a simpler country life. Within a month of quitting drinking I began having seizures which would eventually be diagnosed as Transient Epileptic Amnesia ( https://clayandbone.com/2017/01/01/transient-epileptic-amnesia/ ). This condition prevented me from driving for a year and modified my out-of-town search greatly. Without knowing what the eventual outcome might be (I had no way of knowing if I would ever be fit to drive again) my property search was limited to places within walking or cycling distance of the ferry terminus on each island – which explains why I was on this current bike excursion…although I loved cycling, It was suggested that I not drive until I was six months seizure free.
Bikes it is. The first thing I had to do was learn how to navigate the Vancouver Transit System with my bike. From my point of departure in Kitsilano, it’s a four part journey to get to Mayne Island – first the B-Line Bus down Broadway at 8am, transfer onto the Canada Line at Cambie, exit at Bridgeport Station to catch the 9am # 620 Bus to Tsawassen, in order to catch the 10:10 (10:20) Queen of Nanaimo ferry on it’s milk run through the Gulf Islands – Destination Mayne Island…a gorgeous one hour and forty minute journey through bliss…unless there are crippling windstorms – more about this later. Little did I know, at the time, that this would become my weekly commute for the next 3 1/2 years (and counting!).
Mayne Island is, like most of the Gulf Islands, a hilly proposition for cyclists. As a friend has observed, islands are the tops of mountains…if they were flat, they’d be reefs 🙂 As you leave the ferry your first task is to climb a rather steep hill to exit the Terminus. My first destination was to check in at the Springwater Lodge, a short undulating 10 minute jaunt to “The Village”. As I sped down the hill which approaches the Village, on my trusty old Peugot, I spied a cute commercial cottage on the left hand side of the road which, to my eye, looked like an appealing little coffee shop. I decided to pull in and grab a coffee and get my first sense of the community, as coffee shops in small villages can be wonderful locales to pick up on the gossip and learn of the goings-on of island life. As it turned out, the business was vacant…a hair salon called “Mayne Cuts” which had occupied the space for the past decade had just closed it’s doors within the last several months. The “For Lease” sign indicated a monthly rent of $550 – cheap by Vancouver standards, and said to call Dave for further info.
Friends, who are unquestionably smarter than I, had suggested that I would be wise to rent before purchasing – to try living in the rural setting prior to buying to see if I was cut out for island life. As it turned out, this little commercial cottage which held great visual & locational appeal (stunning views, waterfront property, proximity to the village and the ferry) was also dual zoned residential – I could live in it as well. Although my original intention was just to rent a cottage as a residence – not run a business – I found the concept unexpectedly appealing…”artist in residence” was the first thought that came to mind. Yeah. Perhaps I could use this space as a studio for my ceramic mask making and other creative projects I had pending …I’d have to call Dave the landlord to discuss.
At this point, I was in no hurry. I had an island to explore and the call to Dave could wait – although Mayne felt good I still needed to explore its nooks and crannies to determine its suitability for my needs. I checked in at the Springwater Lodge – which is the oldest continually operating Hotel in BC. – where I’d be staying on this two-day adventure. At the time, the rooms above the pub were available for $40 per night…rustic and worn, it very much felt like staying at a Youth Hostel. There was a shared bathroom/shower, and the rooms were only lockable from the inside…”Don’t worry, nothing ever gets stolen here, Mayne Islanders are very honest” Tessa the affable barmaid assured me. As quaint as this reassurance was, years of urban conditioning had taken its toll – it involved a leap of faith to leave my “stuff” in an unlocked room. But it was charming & I loved it, the strength of the Springwater Lodge lies in its restaurant/pub and the outdoor deck, which may be the sweetest place in BC to grab a meal and watch the sun go down.
Almost everything that I saw on these initial trips to Mayne Island charmed me. Perhaps I was looking at the world through the rose-coloured glasses of those new to sobriety, but in fact, so much of what I saw and whom I encountered fed my enchantment. The Village itself is small – perhaps a collection of a dozen plus businesses – which reflects its rather intimate yearly population of roughly 1,000 good citizens. It seemed to have everything one needs to cover the basics: 3 grocery stores, a liquor store (for those so inclined), a gas station, 3 restaurants, a gaggle of unique shops, ubiquitous realtors, and a fabulous little bakery that opened sprightly at 6am every day. (This thrilled me because I do some day trading and like to hit a coffee shop when the markets open at 6:30am.) Some remaining heritage buildings from the late 1800’s (The Agricultural Hall, Museum, & Springwater Lodge) give it a comforting sense of community & continuity. Other island amenities include a lending library, a Hardware Store, a Community Centre and a second retail gathering in the middle of the island known as the Fernhill Centre. If I was going to rent the little vacant cottage/business from Dave I would become part of “The Village”…how cool is that?
Perhaps the greatest appeal of Mayne though is its natural beauty & outdoor amenities (I would later discover that its citizens are yet another wonderful attribute, but that would come later) The Gulf Islands are a uniquely beautiful micro-climate which has been compared to the Mediterranean for it’s low precipitation & above average warmth (compared to the rest of Canada). As I cycled around this tranquil rock I encountered dense rain-forest woodlands, pastoral heritage farmland, rare stands of Garry Oak & Arbutus, and a beautiful selection of bays and beaches to toss down a blanket and make an afternoon of it. There are some fabulous parks with great hiking opportunities, a heritage photo-op lighthouse, Mt. Parke with its mezmerizing vistas, and an unexpected treasure – the well-tended Japanese Gardens. The fauna is equally varied & enchanting. Deer abound – both the indigenous Blacktail, and the pernicious Fallow…and in fact, the wildlife is just too plentiful to write up in this article – so I won’t try. Whether in the ocean, in the air or on land, if you choose to live on a Gulf island you will be living “in” nature not just alongside it, it envelopes you in a charming & therapeutic way.
My brief Mayne Island excursion was drawing to a close as I had obligations back in Vancouver. Of the many properties, hamlets, and rural communities that I had visited over the last five years of this quest…just like Goldilocks and her porridge, this one tasted just right. I had Dave’s number and would call him to find out the scoop on the vacant business.
(this story is continued in: Searching for Shavasana (Part2) https://shavasana.ca/2017/01/08/finding-shavasana-part-2/
I’m sitting in my Gallery on a drizzly & cold November afternoon, almost 3 years to the day since I opened this business to the public here on Mayne Island B.C. It’s Sunday and I am just about to wrap up for the weekend & get ready to head back to Vancouver tomorrow as I have done every week for these past three years. It’s been a great weekend. I hosted the fourth of my Gallery Art Openings on Friday the 11th (Remembrance Day), showcasing the art of two artists – Trish Mitchell and Angie Carson (Liudzius). We had a great turnout and I think it was a successful show for my artists and a fun event for the crowd (great food, beautiful art and happy engaging people).
I’ve been working on this new website for the Gallery (not to be confused with the website I’ve recently created for my masks: http://www.clayandbone.com ) for the past several months, feeling that a move away from my early GoDaddy inspired site towards this current WordPress format would more easily allow me to chronicle some of the cool things that go on here.
I’ve also recently created a YouTube Channel which is making it easier to post some of the videos I’ve taken since I arrived on Mayne Island. This first video was taken in June 2013 before I’d signed my lease on the space. It’s a walk through of – what had been – Nan’s hair salon, know locally as Mayne Cuts….post Nan but pre-reno. At this stage I wasn’t even sure what kind of business I was going to be running, but I’d already fallen in love with the island, the location and this little cottage which would eventually evolve into Shavasana Art Gallery & Café …have a look: