Pickering’s L’artisan more than just another art gallery

WhatsOn Jun 04, 2017 Pickering News Advertiser

PICKERING – Frenchman’s Bay’s Nautical Village is a hidden gem on the shore of Lake Ontario in Pickering. The batten-board facades, reminiscent of a San Francisco streetscape, envelop creative shops, design studios and galleries.

A recent addition to this creative community is L’artisan. The owners, Paul and Janna Lafrance, say they hope their gallery will elevate the status of all artisans whether they work with a brush, a pen or a shovel.

“There’s a stigma that’s attached to people that work with their hands, there’s been so ever since the Industrial Revolution,” says Paul, a deck and renovation master behind HGTV’s Decked Out, Disaster Decks and Custom Built.

“Back in the day, if you were a stonemason or a carpenter, it was just as prestigious as being a doctor or a lawyer. What a plumber does inside a wall to solve problems is brilliance, it’s genius. What a carpenter does, what a stone mason does, what an electrician does. Anyone who creates something out of nothing is an artist.”

The Lafrances are busy multi-talented artists themselves. Not only are they parents of four adolescent daughters, Paul is also a musician and an accomplished photographer, as well as a designer and contractor. Janna is a novelist and pianist.

The idea for the gallery came to Janna after Paul’s design company outgrew the space and moved across the road. The project began with a handful of artists known to the couple who agreed to contribute their time to set up the space and display their art last fall.

It was not long before other artists heard the word and asked to be a part of L’artisan.

Janna says they want the gallery to remain true to their ideals, and make sure everything that comes in meshes with their own philosophy.

“We wanted to protect the integrity and feel of this store into something that’s life-giving,” says Janna. “So when people walk through they’ll feel a sense of peace, a sense of hope.”

The display can be described as an eclectic mix of original artwork. Every piece tells a story of a place or a piece of the artist’s experience. Paul and Janna know each of their exhibitors personally and can guide you through the stories behind each piece.

Traditional paintings on canvas adorn the walls, but Steve Neuhof re-invents ancient gnarled tree stumps from the West Coast into wine bottle holders, which are sure to be a talking point at your next dinner party. Continuing on the wood theme, lightning-force electricity volts scar polished charcuterie boards with unique branch-like designs by Daniel Kneblewski. Windswept metal-worked trees grasp onto rocks lifted from the shores of Georgian Bay, as though they have been extracted from a Group of Seven masterpiece, by Lindsay Crusie.

“People need to know when they’re coming into L’artisan they’re entering a story,” says Paul. “We want them to have a different experience every time they come to the store. Everything from scented candles to music, wine and wine glass holders that go on the wall to canned goods, to pottery, to essential oils to customized jewellery to wood-turned creations, pens, bath and body products and leather goods.”

The basement gallery houses Paul’s photographic work. Many of the pieces feature black and white images from a recent trip to Venice, highlighted with hints of earth colours for dramatic effect.

Paul and Janna hope the gallery will inspire visitors to appreciate the talent and creativity that goes into original artwork and consider a purchase as an investment into something more. Paul cites an impending trades crisis where he projects that by 2020 the country will be a million tradespeople short.

“Something they buy here, they’re investing into something,” says Paul. “They’re investing into the future of Canada, they’re investing into something that’s really important.”

L’artisan is located at 611 Liverpool Rd. For more information visit www.lartisan.com or their Facebook page.

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