For many cottage goers, Muskoka
is a perfect retreat, its natural beauty the antidote to busy schedules and the concrete jungle. Artists Cirvan Hamilton and Elise Muller have taken the spirit of Muskoka one step further by creating an oasis at their Stone Tree Studio
near Baysville. Designed and built by this husband and wife pair, the Studio consists of two charming wooden buildings with rustic, salvaged beams. One is their workshop and the second building is the gallery, displaying Cirvan’s exquisite wood furniture and décor and Elise’s stone sculpture. With two great artists under one roof, the Stone Tree Studio is a classic Muskoka destination for art lovers.
I visited Elise at Stone Tree Studio (open by appointment) recently and discussed her technique and inspiration.
Although her grandmother passed away when Elise was young, Elise was always inspired by the stone sculptures her grandmother created. So when Elise chose her specialty when studying art in Dublin, McMaster University (in her and Cirvan’s home town), and Haliburton, sculpture was the natural choice.
Her inspiration is people, with most of her sculptures being figurative (although other subjects make it into her work, such as her daughter’s pet bearded dragon!).
“Stone has an eternal feeling; it will last forever,” Elise says. “So it makes sense to me to use people as a subject matter, since people’s spirits live on forever as well.”
This philosophy of connection and spirituality are a part of all of Elise’s work. She recently participated in an art exhibit in Huntsville with the theme of Wabi Sabi (the Japanese Zen philosophy of the perfection of imperfection).
Stone itself fits into this concept, with its geodes, hairline fractures, fossils, and mud pockets.
“When I start working with a block of stone, I don’t know what I’ll find inside – or sometimes even what image I’ll to carve into the stone,” Elise says.
Using chisels, mallets, and diamond-coated rasps, she chips away at the stone until she determines what qualities and ideas the stone inspires. Although she’s worked with seven types of stone, her favourite is the alabaster variety, with its pink, blue, or white tones and its delicate, slightly translucent feeling.
For larger sculptures, Elise starts with a sketch followed by a clay model. She uses this approach when she works on a commission, such as a lovely garden sculpture of a couple embracing which she created from a photo the couple sent her. In her studio she has photos of some of her commissioned works, such as a profile bust of a woman commissioned by her husband as a commemorative piece.
As you browse Elise’s sculptures, you can also see Cirvan’s modern wood furniture and décor, including chairs, bedside tables, and ornate, inlaid jewellery boxes. Many of the pieces incorporate several types of wood, including flame beech, spalted maple, and bird’s eye maple.
“My interest in woodworking began at an early age after watching my father build furniture for our home,” Cirvan says.
Through trial and error, time spent learning timber framing, and an intensive craftsmanship program at Rosewood School of Fine Woodworking, he developed his own award-winning style. Now he works by commission with clients to create one-of-a-kind functional pieces.
In addition to his artistic work, Cirvan is experienced with historic restoration, such as when he created the window frames and doors for the restoration of Dorset’s famous Bigwin historic steamship.
Whether you’re looking for a distinctive addition to your own home or office or are looking for a memorable gift, the Stone Tree is a must-visit destination in Baysville.