Tag Archives: Cobourg

Felicity Sidnell Reid — Arts Multi-tasker

I don’t go out much. But I recently got ‘volun-told’ to help my artists’ group.  You can blame Felicity Sidnell Reid.  I joke that she twisted my arm — most graciously.

Blog Photo - Felicity and granddaughter

Felicity and her grandaughter

An author and radio interviewer, Felicity is always involved in the arts.

She and her husband John moved from big-city Toronto to Northumberland County 20 years ago.

SOTH - Patricia Calder Farm Country

“I love the country,” she says. “And I love the atmosphere of a small village. I feel more relaxed here.”

Felicity lives in “a small house on a large lot with a stream that runs year-round.”

Blog Photo - Felicity garden

Blog photo - Felicity pet

Blog Photo - Felicity Creek

Blog Photo - Felicity Book Cover

Her book, Alone: A Winter in the Woods was published in 2015 by Hidden Brook Press. Skilfully written and illustrated, it’s a survival story about a teenager left alone to look after his family’s cabin and livestock in 1797 while his father fetches the other family members from abroad.

Felicity also chairs the 50-member writers’ group within Spirit of the Hills arts association (SOTH).  That’s how I met her.

Blog Photo - Felicity Sidnell Reid

Welcoming and kind, she took my sometimes-strange speech and always-strange walk in stride, and made me feel at home at my first meeting. 

The monthly breakfast-meeting is supportive, fun and opinionated. As chair, Felicity sets the tone.

“I love chairing the writers’ group,” Felicity says. “Although one might want to shut oneself up in an attic sometimes — to escape from all the email and phone calls – it’s a great bunch of people. And a lot of fun.”

Blog Photo - Felicity and authors-at-book-reading-spirit-of-the-hills

“Doesn’t it sometimes feel like you’re herding cats?” I ask. “How can you be so unflappable and gracious with us all the time?”

Felicity laughs.

“I taught high school for years,” she says. “You have to be unflappable. I’m not sure how gracious I am, but I’ve noticed that if you are, people tend to be gracious back.”

Blog Photo - Felicity and Gwynn

The writers’ group is productive. It initiated a literary radio show – hosted by Felicity and author Gwynn Scheltema – and a Festival of the Arts, being held November 3 and 4.  All of SOTH is involved.

SOTH’s membership includes writers, artisans, musicians, performers and a variety of painters and other visual artists. They come from as far away as Toronto to the west and Kingston to the east.

SOTH - Patricia Calder Red Barn

But most, like Felicity, live in Northumberland County, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

SOTH - Patricia Calder-View of Rice Lake

“Driving through the countryside is always exciting because the hills themselves are so lovely,” Felicity notes. “There’s invariably another incredible view, maybe of a small lake or of Lake Ontario, or the next pretty town, or more hills covered with forest or farms, fields and animals.”

SOTH - Patricia Calder Horse Photo - 2 paints

The Festival will be held in lakeside Cobourg, one of Canada’s most beautiful  towns.

SOTH - Marie-Lynne College St Photo

Credit: M-L Hammond

Blog Photo - SOTH Reva Nelson Marina shot

Credit: R. Nelson

“We wanted to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday but, more importantly, the creativity and diversity of the arts in this region.”

Felicity and SOTH president Susan Statham are co-chairing the Festival.  It includes arts competitions, a musical play, a concert and book launch, a book fair and art show, a panel discussion and exciting workshops.

Blog Photo - Felicity and Authors - photo credit Northumberland News

Credit: Northumberlandnews.com

“What do you hope it’ll do for Northumberland?” I ask her.

“Northumberland, like most places in Canada, is always changing,” Felicity replies. “It becomes more diverse and interesting because of change. We all profit from this. And the influx of artists in the last 30 years has led to increased vibrancy and innovation in the artistic community.

Blog Photo - SOTH Mandy Bing Painting1

Painting by Mandy Bing

“I hope our programme will engage people from our many communities. We want to appeal to young and old, those who have lived all their lives in this area as well as newcomers.”

SOTH - Rene Schmidt The Beacon drop in centre

Credit: Rene Schmidt

Although some Northumberland arts organizations recently folded, SOTH remains strong.

“An Ontario Arts Council study (June 2017) encouraged us. It reported that 90% of those surveyed agree that an active local arts scene helps make a community a better place to live and 97% agree that engaging children in the arts is important to their overall development.” 

As for my involvement? A year ago, Felicity invited me to join the Festival committee.  Committee members feel privileged to help, as does she.

“I love working with others and building a team, so conceiving and planning the festival have been exciting and very fulfilling.”

~~

Special thanks to Patricia Calder for photos 2, 10, 11 and 12.

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Filed under A Good Home, Artists, Arts, Canadian Art, Spirit of the Hills - Arts Group, Writers

The Canning Factory: Cliff Smith’s Vision

You’re looking for a place in the country.

You come across a derelict old building – infested by wild animals and, sometimes late at night, wild teenagers.

Blog - Country Road and Canning FactoryPhoto by Andrés Hannach

You have a choice: get the heck out of there, or look at the place – a massive former canning factory – and visualize what it could become.  Cliff Smith chose the latter.

8 years later, the building, surrounded by nearly 4 acres of land in the village of Grafton, Ontario, is a wonder to behold.

Blog - Canning Factory main floorPhoto by Peter Sellar

It’s home on the weekends for Cliff and his wife, Yasmin.  During the week, it’s a showroom for the Vincent Sheppard line of modern furniture Cliff distributes across Canada through his company Augustus Jones Inc.

Blog - canning Factory yellow bench and fireplacePhoto by Peter Sellar; Vincent Sheppard chairs with Daybed by B&B italia

My husband and I were  invited to visit with Cliff and Yasmin after a reading from my book A Good Home  in nearby Cobourg. We were grateful to rest and dine with them before heading back home.

“Go try out the various sofas and chairs till you find one you’re comfortable in,” Yasmin, an osteopath, encouraged me soon after we arrived. “Rest up a little.”

The problem was that they were all comfortable. But then I found the perfect seat: a beautiful red chair. Oh, wow! I sank into it, feet up on the matching ottoman, and didn’t want to move.

Blog - The Red comfy chairPhoto by Peter Sellar: TOGO Red chair and ottoman by Ligne Rosset

Cliff Smith and I attended the same school in Mandeville, Jamaica:  Manchester High School. We’d been educated by great teachers and an outstanding headmaster named Gerry German.

A world away from those days, as we sat with our spouses and another schoolmate, Paul, in Cliff’s astonishingly beautiful space,  we reminisced. “Gerry”, our principal, knew the name of not just every student, but our parents as well. Gerry believed that every child had great potential, and a duty to live up to it. If we didn’t,  there was a good chance he’d pay our parents a visit.

Cliff became a top-notch art director and book designer in Canada’s publishing industry. But as the industry faltered, he decided to do something different.

Blog - Cliff answering clients questionsPhoto by Gerry Taylor.  Cliff talks with potential clients about the Vincent Sheppard furniture.

The old canning factory in Grafton excited him. He saw what it could be: a weekend home for his family, a large space for cultural events such as book launches, art shows and other things, and a huge, airy showroom for modern indoor and outdoor furniture.

Cliff is a visionary willing to work hard to realize his big dreams. As his former schoolmate, I am intrigued, guessing at what he’ll do next, and enormously proud of his achievements.

Blog - Upstairs at Canning FactoryThis photo and the next by Peter Sellar

Cliff and Yasmin’s city home was featured in the Globe and Mail newspaper in late summer and the canning factory was featured in Azure Magazine.

What a remarkable space. What  an exciting selection of modern furniture. And what a distinctive home.

Bravo, Cliff Smith. Gerry would have been proud.

Blog - Canning Factory exterior

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Filed under A Good Home, Architecture, European furniture, Furniture, Globe and Mail, Homes, Inspiration, Interior Design, Photographs, Restoration