August 27, 2008

Make a connection with Erin artists

As published in The Erin Advocate

Getting art into my home could be such a simple process. See it. Like it. Decide if I can afford it. Buy it. Enjoy it.

Browsing through galleries, studios and craft displays is one of my favourite activities. When it comes to parting with my cash, however, doubts get in the way.

What if I do not like the piece two months from now? What if I am paying too much? Will I know what to say when friends ask why I bought it? What if I get addicted to buying art and spend all my money on it?

When I was young, I did not have the money to buy art. Now that I can afford some modest purchases, perhaps I still see art as a luxury. Maybe I am frugal to a fault.

Monica O’Halloran-Schut, an Erin sculptor, says my condition is actually quite common. And fortunately, there is a cure.

She is one of the founders of the Hills of Erin Studio Tour, now in its 20th year. It has grown from six artists at five locations, to 37 artists at 17 locations. Drop in at some or all of the studios and galleries on the weekend of September 27-28, 10 am to 5 pm. For details, check the website,, call (519) 855-6320, or email:

“The Studio Tour is a good way to meet the artists,” said Monica. “Stop and take a look at the art. It is handmade, one-of-a kind. Art can become part of your everyday objects.”

For those who rarely buy art, she points out that many pieces are not expensive. And once you do buy something from an artist you have met, you have a relationship that would not exist if you bought something that was mass-produced.

“You will see things you have never seen before, and you will meet your neighbours.”
It was a desire to make artistic connections with people that took Monica from the insurance industry to the floral design business back in the 1970s. Eventually, she and her husband Dave moved from Toronto to Erin Township. In 1988 she saw an advertisement in the Erin Advocate from Rosalind Baumgartner, looking for fellow artists to organize a tour for the public. The original group, from the Hillsburgh area, included Rosalind, Monica and Dave, Jim Reid, Stan Hall and Carol Tyler.

The work of the current artists includes weaving, oil painting, furniture, pastels, concrete, drawing, watercolours, acrylics, wreaths, collages, jewellery, reclaimed objects, turned wood, photography, hats, sculpture, pottery, book binding, baskets, glass, forged metal and figurines.

“These artists continue to push themselves,” said Monica, noting that Erin’s rural setting creates a good atmosphere for creative endeavours.

Some of the Erin artists are also involved in the Headwaters Arts Festival, which has events and workshops over a wide area that includes Erin, Caledon, Orangeville, Hockley, Mono and Shelburne. It includes an Art Show and Sale September 27-28 and October 4-5 at the SGI Centre in Alton. Check the website,

Monica last month received the Artisan of the Year award from the Hills of Headwaters Tourism Association, for her work with the Erin tour, the Headwaters festival and the Headwaters Arts organization.

Her studio is called Croi go Lamh, meaning Heart to Hand in Irish Gaelic. She has gone from weaving fibres to explorations of mineral textures and metal techniques, with inspiration drawn from natural objects.

She carves her larger pieces from lightweight building insulation, and then applies architectural surface materials. Other work includes wearable silver sculpture, made by coating small natural objects with art clay silver, a putty made with silver reclaimed from used X-ray film. A firing kiln burns away the original object, leaving a unique, shiny creation. Find out more at

Many of the artists in the Erin Tour are also participating in a Preview Showing at the Burdette Gallery near Orton, which continues until this Sunday, August 31. Get directions at

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