Frantic Farms Gallery – Where’s That?….Warkworth?? Wark-what? Where?

Posted by on May 29, 2017

Frantic Farms Gallery located in Warkworth, Ontario.

If you’ve been following along with what I’ve been up to for a while, you’ve probably heard me talk about Warkworth. It is a little place that’s about half-way between Peterborough and Campbellford. Cutest little Artist Town I know.

I found out about it through my friends Paulus Tjiang and his wife Monica Johnston. They moved there about 27 years ago to start a gallery business and raise a family. Their creation, Frantic Farms Gallery, is located at 2 Mill Street, right in the heart of Warkworth.

Here is one of Paulus’s snails nestled in among his drinking glasses with matching pitchers.

Paulus is a glass blower. He graduated from OCADU in 1989 (the glass blowing program is no longer offered at OCADU) and his love of colour, animals and drinking vessels (in particular Scotch) all come through in his work. Paulus also teaches glass blowing at Fleming College, Haliburton Campus. He is one of the main instructors for their 15-week Ontario College Certificate Program. Paulus has built his own glassblowing “hot shop” on his property about 30 minutes from Warkworth. He creates all his glass pieces there and then transports them to Warkworth to display and sell at Frantic Farms Gallery.

Scotch Glasses with Matching Pitcher and sample Scotch Packaging
Paulus is a member of the “Warkworth Scotch Drinking Society” and decided to create his own version of unique scotch glasses to elevate the joy of drinking a dram or two.

Monica is a potter who graduated from George Brown College in 1984 (the Ceramics Diploma Program was closed in the 90’s). She also teaches pottery classes to both children and adults in the pottery studio located in their gallery. She makes two distinctly different types of functional ceramics. The first is her brightly decorated porcelain line that she creates right in the back of the gallery. She makes sets of serving dishes that include all the complimentary extras for setting your dinner table: chargers, oil & vinegar bottles, sugar containers, etc. Below is a sample of her work. It is wheel-thrown, then carved and decorated with different coloured glazes to create the colourful patterns.

Brightly decorated porcelain serving dishes (and a lamp!) display at Frantic Farms Gallery

Monica’s second kind of pottery is her wood-fired work. She wheel throws these pieces at the gallery, and then takes them to her house to do the wood firing. Then she transports them back to the gallery to display and sell.

Next to Paulus’s glassblowing shop on their property, in one of the existing old barns, they built a huge wood-fired kiln. It is basically a hand-built, enormous brick oven. Wood-fired work is a labour of love, and requires teamwork to execute a single firing. Rather than placing the ceramic pieces in a programmed gas or electric kiln to be fired overnight, Monica must plan a large wood fire “event” that takes several days to complete. In the past, she has invited other potters to bring some of their creations, and together they spend the first day loading the room-sized kiln. Then they have to make sure they have enough firewood to burn for a 24-hour period, monitoring and stoking the fire to complete the long-firing process.

Sample of Monica’s wood fired ceramic pieces

The magic of wood-fired work is that every glaze on the pieces is rather random. This process is not about direct colour glaze painted-on “decoration” using brushes and different coloured glazes. It’s the opposite. You cannot predict exactly what “colouring” you will get. Since it is impossible to keep the entire kiln the same temperature, placement in the kiln affects the outcome. The finished surface glaze/sheen can go from browns and greens, to orange, reds and gold/bronze/silver colours. Once the wood firing is done, the kiln has to cool right down to room temperature before you can open it to see how the firing went. Monica describes every wood firing as being like Christmas morning.

In addition to their glass and pottery, at Frantic Farms Gallery, Monica and Paulus have been selling a selection of other Canadian artists’ work, including a display case of my jewellery. They understand that the key to keeping gallery shelves looking full, fresh and interesting is taking on other artists’ work.

I love having my work in another artist’s gallery. There is a bond between craftspeople that’s hard to describe. We all understand how hard we work, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Not only do we want to do it, we need to do it. It’s how we function and get through our daily lives. Designing, building and creating beautiful things gives us purpose – every single day. Seeing other artists express themselves through their particular medium is a very unique and engaging experience.

My jewellery display at Frantic Farms Gallery.

Warkworth is a great place to visit and to see some great Canadian craft. The town hosts many wonderful weekend events, including: Warkworth Art in the Park, The Lilac Festival and Warkworth Long Lunch.

It’s very easy to drive there too.  The most direct route is to take the 401 East from Toronto exit 509 (just past the Big Red Apple at Colbourne) and drive due north on Hwy 30 for exactly 30 minutes. Then turn left/west on County Rd 29, and Warkworth is just 5 minutes away, as County Rd 29 turns into Mill Street.

You just never know who will pull up into the Warkworth LCBO parking lot!

Next time you’re looking for an interesting day trip, I would highly recommend checking out Warkworth. The Main Street (around the corner from Mill Street) boasts the cutest little liquor store, the smallest post office just down the way, and a lot of cute shops and boutiques in between. Make sure to visit Frantic Farms Gallery and say hello to Monica and Paulus. They’ll be happy to show you around and tell you more about their work and all the amazing artists they represent.

Another shelf in my display cabinet at Frantic Farms Gallery.