27 May 2010

Big Fish Make a Big Splash

This past weekend we hosted the Grand Opening Party (aka The Big Splash) at Small Pond Arts. We had picture-perfect weather and a tremendous turn out, welcoming about one hundred friends, family and neighbours over the course of the weekend.

Prior to the party we’d been working hard to get the place ready for visitors. The outhouse was stocked with toilet paper, there were extra blankets and pillows on hand to accommodate people sleeping on every couch and floor, and a showering ban was put in place to spare our well and septic tank from the extra demand.

Then there were the finishing touches to be put in place.  I installed our custom light switch cover in the kitchen…

Milé painted our new mailbox…

Guy drew a map of our immediate environs to help visitors find their way around…

Caitlin organized the time capsule station…

We decorated crazy ginger-bat, ginger-sheep, ginger-alien etc. cookies (a Dalby sisters tradition)...

And we even dressed up our silo with a 20-foot banner bearing the emblem of a heart!

We had a number of visitors arrive on Saturday, and by Sunday, car after car was pulling into our field.  People stepped from their cars bearing gifts of food and plants, wide smiles on their faces.  We couldn't help but smile back; finally, we were welcoming our friends and family to our special place, our dream, our refuge: the place we call Small Pond Arts, the place that has always been intended to be shared.  It was wonderful to hear people express their enthusiasm about the place, and a joy to take them on a tour around the house and farm.

For many of us, the burial of the time capsule - to be dug up 25 years hence, in 2035 - was one of the highlights of the weekend.

We decided to bury the time capsule under an arbour in a garden just beside the gallery. The weekend saw the height of lilac season, and my three sisters decorated the arbour with the fragrant purple and white flowers.

We gathered our guests in a semi-circle on one side of the arbour. Milé and I gave a dedication, and it went something like this:

MILÉ: We’d like to thank everyone for coming out today to celebrate the Grand Opening of Small Pond Arts.

KRISTA: We have friends and family who have come from all over to share this day with us and we really appreciate the effort they made to be here, and their continuing support and generosity towards us and our dream.  We also have many new friends and neighbours here today. In just 3 months of living in Prince Edward County we have met so many wonderful people, which really speaks to the warm and welcoming nature of our new community.

MILÉ: Today we are burying a time capsule together. More than 30 people contributed items to the capsule, including messages to the future, artwork, photographs, jewelry, a local newspaper, and information about the Clarke family whose home this was for 87 years, and after whom Clarke Road is named.

KRISTA: We are planning to open this capsule in 25 years, in May of 2035. I know that many of us feel some anxiety when we think 25 years down the road. We wonder what our lives will be like, who will still be around and who we will have said goodbye to, and we worry about the state of our planet and the many serious problems that face us.

MILÉ: But today we bury this capsule without fear and worry. We bury it in a spirit of hope and togetherness. For us, Small Pond Arts is at its very beginning – and to begin is a beautiful thing. May this home be filled with artists who in their own way make the world a better place, may it be filled with love and laughter and creativity, and may our friends and family always feel welcome here.

At this point our guests were invited to step forward, and each threw a spade full of earth into the hole. 

Milé continued: With this capsule buried until 2035, let us each pass over it, as we step together into the future.

He and I kissed, and hand in hand we stepped through the arbour. Our friends and family followed behind us, individually, as pairs, and as families.

We greeted them on the other side, welcoming them to the future with warm embraces.

Together we spent the rest of the day eating, drinking, wandering the fields and woods, meeting new people and talking to old friends. As the evening came on we sat around the campfire, waved sparklers in the air, and we danced and sang and laughed.

A final thank-you goes out to everyone who came out to celebrate with us and to those who sent their well-wishes from afar. Finally getting to share the place we love with so many of our nearest and dearest made it a very special time for us, and a weekend that we will not soon forget. If you haven't had a chance to visit yet, we hope you'll consider coming to see us really soon.

Thanks to my sister Brittany Dalby for most of the great pics in this post.  I’ll be blogging in more detail later about how we put together the banner and the time capsule, just in case you want to make your own.

Until then, may you have a most pleasant future!

17 May 2010

A Throne Fit for an Artist

Milé and I looked at dozens of places to locate Small Pond Arts – both in and out of Prince Edward County - before we finally found our home on Clarke Road. We had a number of criteria that needed to be met. We wanted an old house with character, and we needed to have a number of bedrooms to house our guests. Now that our bedroom renovation is finally done, we have 5 bedrooms (check!). We wanted space for a gallery (check!), outbuildings (check!) and a good piece of land (we went a little overboard with 87 acres, but what can I say, we fell in love with the place). We also wanted to have at least two bathrooms… uh, not so check. Our house only has one. We looked into getting another bathroom put in, but the cost was utterly prohibitive, at least for right now.  So, we decided to build an outhouse. And not just any outhouse – but the coolest outhouse in the County, so that our visitors would actually want to use it!

A few years ago, I spent five weeks as an intern at Bread & Puppet Theater. Located on a farm outside Glover, Vermont, it was an utterly transformational experience for me. Aside from the incredible artistic shenanigans that were constantly underway, Bread & Puppet also has some of the nicest outhouses I’d ever seen. They are a far cry from the dark and scary outhouses I remember from childhood Brownie camps. Those outhouses induced such fear in me that I would actually try to ‘hold it’ all weekend – talk about discomfort! But Bread & Puppet’s outhouses are bright, clean, and beautifully decorated with handmade art, and showed me how great an outhouse could actually be.

Wheelchair-accessible outhouse at Bread & Puppet Theater

Neither Milé nor I are builders, per se, so we called in the experts. Our friend Guy was moving out to the farm for the summer, and his dad Gary was driving him. I knew both of them were handy fellows, so I asked them if they could help us out by building an outhouse. They agreed, and father and son set about building us a snazzy two-seater with an aluminum roof. They built the whole thing over the course of two afternoons, and the only blueprints were the ones in Gary’s head.

Gary on the left; Guy on the roof; Silo supervising in the background

They constructed the outhouse in front of the garage where they’d have access to power, and succeeded in turning a lot of heads from drivers-by wondering why on earth we’d put an outhouse there? When the privy was ready to move to the site, we hoisted it up on to two logs, and started the process of slowly rolling it into place, a good 200+ metres away. Moving the outhouse was a pretty cool experience, and gave us all a renewed respect for ancient civilizations that regularly employed such techniques.

This technique ideally uses 3 logs - but we only had 2.  From this postion you roll the whole thing in the direction you want to go until the back log is no longer under the outhouse. You tip the outhouse forward, pick up the back log, move it to the front, tip the outhouse back, slide the log underneath, and repeat.

With the outhouse now in the vicinity of the final location, it was time to paint it, and start digging the pit. Thankfully my sister Caitlin arrived at the farm about this time, so we had an extra set of hands to help. Digging the pit was not easy. Guy did the bulk of the work, and Caitlin and I leant a hand. After an initial foot of topsoil, there was some clay, which we hauled away in buckets for future use in sculpting giant puppets. After the clay was rock, rock, and more rock… a job that required far more than casual shoveling, but rather smashing through solid rock and pulling out the pieces by hand.

Guy and Caitlin dig a grave - er - outhouse pit

Ontario building code does not require a building permit for outhouses, but there are guidelines about how they should be built and where they should be located. Due to the nature of our rocky terrain, our pit isn’t terribly deep. When it fills up – probably in a year or two - we can either get it pumped out, or just fill in the pit with earth, and roll the outhouse to another nearby location.

The last step was adding the finishing touches: door latches, heart-shaped windows, ventilation pipes, and interesting posters and artwork so you have something to look at while you’re in there.

Who will be the first to christen our new privy? That’s anybody’s guess. But I’m sure it will be put to good use this coming weekend, as we host our grand opening party, a.k.a. The Big Splash, on Sunday May 23. Why don’t you join us, and you too can experience the joys of a well-made outhouse!

04 May 2010


I've always loved the look of red doors and the idea that they symbolize that the home and its owners are welcoming appeals to me a great deal. With 337 Clarke Rd., not only did I get a red door (painted by Krista), but I got my own damn gallery (also painted by Krista).

View of the gallery from the back corner (the studio portion).

I can't wait to get painting again. Having my own (large!) space (at home!) like this is definitely a dream come true.
I wanna make more stuff!

Not that we're short on stock...

I completed the inventory last weekend and there are over 300 of my paintings to behold (and purchase!). A few paintings are in the house proper, decorating our walls downstairs and our guest rooms and hallway upstairs.

View of the gallery from just inside the front door. The white door on the left leads into our home.

This room was a dingy grey mess before we gave it a refreshing makeover. Because of that, of all the rooms we fixed up, this is one room we would have liked to have taken a "before" picture of to compare (or made a brief makeover montage).

Look at that blue sign!
Small Pond Arts is proudly part of the 2010 Arts Trail, along with some other great artists, in beautiful Prince Edward County, Ontario.

Gallery Hours: 11am-6pm, Wednesday to Sunday. May 1 until December 24; 
other times by chance or appointment.

Until this actual, non-retouched photo, we were using a similar, but idealized-through-Photoshop, picture of the house (along with a blue sky with puffy white clouds to replace the overcast grey of that photo, I digitally added the welcoming red gallery door and the hand-painted fish sign).

Speaking of signs...

Krista and I came up with the Small Pond Arts fish logo about a year ago and we'd always planned to make large signs emblazoned with it for our house, etc., and a few weeks ago, we finally made them. Krista prepared the wood with primer and paint, I helped a bit with the tracing of the logo (two for the roadside sign, two for the sandwich board, and one for the gallery). and then Krista did a formidable job painting every single one. I'm still impressed.

About a week after they were finished, my parents came to visit and my dad helped us assemble and install the Small Pond Arts roadside and gallery signs:

Here's Stojan with the roadside sign. It survived a huge storm with lots of wind a day or two after it was in place, so we're pretty sure he employed his usual solid craftsmanship for its assembly.

He did likewise with the gallery sign (pictured just after installation and before we made the "open/closed" sign). That's my mom, Nada, on the left.

The Silo, The Hesperus, and the sandwich board at sunset.

The sandwich board temporarily resides in our front yard near the well head until I can get up the energy to drag it down the road a few kilometres to Steve's Sport & Small Engine at the corner of Clarke Rd. and HWY 8. Steve Dainard is a really great guy who's allowed us to display our a-frame in front of his shop so folks coming in from Main Street Picton will be able to find their way to us.

Once again and finally, Small Pond Arts signs and gallery.