An Artist’s Garden

(excerpt only, original article 900 words)
© copyright Deborah Carr 2006
~Profile of Potter/Gardener Karin Bach ~
published in Acreage Life Magazine, May 2006.

Those who live along the shores of the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick harbour a deep respect for its powerful tides – called the highest in the world. With a twice-daily tidal range of 15 metres, this unique body of water sets the rhythm for life in and around it.

The beauty of the bay and its restless tide were part of the mystique that drew artist, Karin Bach, from Ontario over 15 years ago. Here, at the edge of a wooded promontory overlooking the bay, Karin crafted a place of serenity – a forest hideaway that not only deeply inspires her pottery and sculptures, but gives them form and function and stage.

An Artist’s Garden B&B, studio and gallery, located an hour south of Moncton, New Brunswick, appeals to the soul as well as the eye. Labelled a nature lover’s accommodation, the weathered buildings seem to sprout from the earth and rock anchoring them, illuminating Karin’s affinity with the landscape and blurring the boundaries between natural and manmade.

The setting complements and enhances Karin’s artistic style and in a gentle, mindful way, she shapes her lifestyle to the environment instead of moulding the surrounds to suit her whims. Her paintings, sculptures and pottery mirror the textures, colours, and forms found within her secluded haven.

Indeed, just inside the door of her rustic home, flowing, irregular floor tiles mimic the sand and sea. Karin juxtaposed wavy lines and gentle aqua blue of lapping water against rippled sand marked with the prints of the sandpipers that frequent the beach below.

In the garden, she integrates natural elements with her own pottery sculptures. She uses water features to calm, colour to catch the eye, graceful shapes and forms for movement. Guests delight in the discovery of a small stoneware wren, chickadee, or nuthatch tucked beneath a branch. Elsewhere, a turtle lounges at the pond’s edge, a turtledove huddles on a stump, and, once upon a time, Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…until an ecstatic customer purchased and carted him home.

Karin never gardens with a master plan, saying it’s too restrictive. Like her pottery, she prefers to start with a central idea and let it grow on its own. “I might start with a meandering pathway. From there, I’ll work a few beds on each side, then wait for this to grow to the next stage. Once I can see into it – how it settles into the landscape – then I know what will complement it.

Even the land was unplanned, an impulse purchase during a vacation. It was completely wild, except for a small clearing in the forest, actually a local lover’s lane of sorts, with an incredible view of the water. While most would start clearing for construction, Karin felt it didn’t make sense to destroy what attracted her to the property in the first place.

“We didn’t want to disturb the land so we made decisions that were the least destructive. The fellow operating the bull dozer was very patient with us, as he had to work around trees and keep watch for lady slipper orchids and things.”

The resulting board and batten artist’s studio is anchored on top of a massive rock outcrop, with a lower level gallery and visitor accommodations moulded against it, like a cluster of mushrooms on a fallen tree trunk.

The decorative fascia on the gallery delights visitors. In collaboration with fellow artist, Tim Isaac, she crafted a stoneware border of fish chasing each other on a cerulean background. Inside, Karin created beautiful door surrounds with her unusual raku-fired pottery tiles. Beneath a portico, a gazing pool etched with fish complements other elements in the garden.

“In many ways, I feel that being an artist and a gardener are closely linked in that they both draw me in. Once I begin gardening, tend the plants and watch them change, they draw me closer. When I do a sculpture or a painting, I am drawn to look more closely than I did before. It takes this study to notice and discover things I overlooked before. There is no end to the beauty and fascination.”

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