Elves & Fairies Again Flit Around Draper Lake
For more than 25 years Jamie Brick has invited select artists from around the country to help him transform the old apple orchard on his property into a fantastical land of elves, kings, fairies and jesters.
COVID actually derailed the quarter century celebrations last year and when this July’s show was also cancelled it felt like 2021 would again be a total wash.
But with more than a little magic and pixie dust – to say nothing of the hundreds of hours of volunteer labour involved – the Fantasy in the Forest Art Show made its glorious return to Draper Lake Road just outside Perth Road Village over the Labour Day long weekend.
“We had a massive amount of work to do … it’s funny how the property really grew up in the two years since our last show in 2019. Each year we also add another structure or two so we continue to enhance the village feel of the property,” said The King of the Forest, aka Brick. “Now that the day is here, I’m having a lot of fun.”
He certainly wasn’t the only one.
“This is my absolute favourite event,” said Kristi Bird, a painter displaying her wildlife and landscape works done in acrylic. “Four years ago I came for my first one and I’ve been coming here ever since.”
Bird was sharing a booth with fellow painter Robin Laffier.
“I love it here. This is my first time exhibiting and it’s so much fun,” he said. His works mainly focus on recapturing historic scenes from around the Our Lakes area, such as, the former Newboro Bridge which has since been replaced; or the old jitney, a smaller bus-like vehicle that followed the rails to get kids to school in Athens from all the small towns along the Brockville-Westport Railway, like Crosby. “I focus on older, historic stuff more than new things.”
Every year there are a few new exhibitors permitted to join the fray in Brick’s enchanted forest. “It’s a juried show … we attract artists from all over who want to exhibit here. We have a lot from Quebec, Toronto, Niagara-on-the-Lake. We look specifically for imaginative things, not strictly fantasy.”
This year’s lone show attracted approximately 40 vendors, which is typical for the Labour Day weekend event. The July show is generally a bit larger with 60-80 artists and crafters flocking to the forest to have fun and sell their wares.
Jewelry maker Tanya McCormick has been exhibiting at eight of Brick’s shows now and it is her favourite of the selling season for more reasons than one. “I love the feel, there’s just such an energy. It’s like a whimsical version of Comicon,” she said. “I go to bigger shows but this is my biggest one each year in terms of sales.”
She and her boothmate were both dressed in period costume and looked the part of old-time metalsmiths as they did their best to keep up with brisk demand around their display on the Saturday morning.
“Oh this is beautiful. I just love copper!” said a very happy Katherine Hooton while walking away with a pair of handcrafted earrings.
Pointing to the crowd, McCormick added the people coming out this year are really into it, too. “It’s been a little slower for straight numbers because of COVID, but everyone is being respectful and not touching items unless they are buying them and most people are wearing masks,” she said. “It’s our first year back in two years, it’s great seeing everyone in costume – even a lot of the customers.”
Customers like Kingston’s Jessica Marriott, who was making her first visit to the show and was dressed as an elven princess. “I’ve been to a renaissance fair in northern New York, but I’ve never been to anything like this around here,” she said. “It’s great, you can dress up and just be your elf!”
Sue Peters wasn’t in costume but she was no less enthusiastic about the festivities. “It’s wonderful, there’s just such imagination here! We always need artists, but especially right now with everything that’s going on … they have so much to teach us.”
Brick echoed that sentiment.
“Particularly in tough times like these, fantasy always seems to come back into fashion,” he said. “I think people just need a break.”
The show is a special one for many exhibitors as it includes a large social component you don’t typically get in more traditional circles.
“Normally at big shows like this the artists are all busy and don’t get to visit one another,” said Brick. “On the Saturday night we host the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party so everyone can see everyone else and relax for an evening.”
For Oliver Schindler, aka The Tinkerer, the Fantasy in the Forest Art Show is like a special homecoming. Now 15 and sharing a booth with his sister Sophia DeLuca, 17, and her Jekyll Hyde Designs, Schindler attended his first such event as a newborn with his parents, skilled goldsmiths who now call Fergus, Ont., home.
“We’re set up in the treehouse, it’s perfect,” he said explaining they have their booth at ground level and up in the loft a couple of Ikea mattresses make for a comfy night’s sleep. “We’ve been coming since we were babies. A couple of years ago we started working in the booths helping other artists and now we have our own booth. It’s such a fun show.”
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