Wood, Glass, Pelican Poo and an Artist Retreat

By BayOfFundy, on Tue, 20 Sep 2011 | 0 Comments


The timing was impeccable! The tidal bore was moving up the Shubenacadie River as if to greet us as we drove across the Gosse Bridge. I'd like to say I planned it that way but it was really just pure luck. I pulled abruptly into the driveway of the South Maitland Tidal Interpretive Centre and my wife Sara and I speed-walked to the observation deck overlooking the river to get a better view.

We joined about a dozen of other on-lookers who, by a survey of license plates in the parking lot, had come from Quebec and at least four different states to view this natural phenomenon. The bore occurs twice a day as a result of the in-coming Fundy tide and appears as a wave of water that moves upriver. The river actually reverses its flow temporarily as it fills up. Not only is it fascinating to see the bore, but it is incredible to see how quickly the river changes following the bore. We even spotted a few rafting boats on the river as they played in the temporary rapids.


We continued down the road toward Maitland where our next stop was Inklings in Wood to see artistic wood-turner, Ben McLellan. We inched down the driveway as Ben's little dog "Max" darted in and out of view in front of our car. I was scared to death that I was going to run over the little thing! Max is a fluffy little Japanese Chen who quickly won us over with his tricks and adorable charm.


Ben then took us straight to his workshop where we gained immense appreciation for his craft. His artistic wood-turnings can take up to 3-years of drying before they are completed and sold. I was particularly amazed to learn how he could make three bowls from one chunk of wood - leaving mere shavings to waste. Actually...now that I think of it...not even the shavings were wasted. They were burned throughout the winter to keep the workshop warm and to assist with drying.

Of all of his beautiful works of art, Ben informed us of one of his most popular products - cremation urns (for both people and pets). I was a little surprised at first but then thought - what better way to honor the deceased than with a one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted work of art (not to mention an affordable alternative to a casket or an urn from the funeral home).


Our next stop was the Lawrence House Museum. I don't consider myself much of a history buff, but I have to say this place was awesome, and our experience had a lot to do with our tour guide "Art." His passion, knowledge and story-telling brought us right back to the 1800's. What a cool time this must have been with such a thriving ship building industry in Maitland - and to think the largest full-rigged wooden ship ever built in Canada was built right here (second largest in the world in that era). It was also neat to hear about W.D. Lawrence's political involvement and his strong opposition to Nova Scotia becoming part of Canada. I guess Nova Scotia was thriving at that time and it was believed by most members of legislature that confederation was going to drag us down. Regardless of the opposition, some how it obviously managed to happen and WD decided to build his massive boat as a protest and show of Nova Scotia's independent wealth and power.

One of his quotes that I found really inspiring was "A kite rises against the wind". The more people said he couldn't build the largest boat, the harder he worked to prove them wrong. I was curious why the shipbuilding was such a booming industry back in the day. Art said firstly that Nova Scotia seamen and boat builders were extremely well-regarded around the globe.

Secondly, the shipping of guano, also known as "pelican poo" was where most made their money. Apparently dried pelican droppings were extremely valuable for fertilizer and later gun powder.  The ships would pick-up guano from the pelican poo producing countries and deliver it to other countries around the world.

I could probably write pages on the topic of the Lawrence House Museum and the stories of the family that once lived there, but it's really something that everyone should experience for themselves. A few things to look for on your visit:

  • A very rare eleven-piece commode set in mint condition - Art was proud of this one!
  • The crazy moose head in the entryway (shot on a hunting trip in nearby Georgefield)
  • Old-school sporting equipment (even a wooden dumbbell that the ladies took on long voyages to help stay in shape)
  • A beautiful antique oven made down the road in Stewiacke
  • A portrait of WD's son and daughter that was painted when the two happened to bump into each other by coincidence in Hong Kong after arriving there on separate ships.
  • The two-room, 4-seater outhouse complete with a covered ped-way and horse-drawn pull-away tray (insert Tim Allen's primal man-grunt here -"Ahr,Ahr, Ahr!")


The Maitland area is Nova Scotia's first heritage conservation district.Several heritage homes in the area have been transformed into beautiful inns and bed and breakfasts. Sara and I had the privilege of visiting with artist Anthony Kawalski who has recently transformed his heritage home in Selma into a gorgeous artist retreat and B&B - The Old Parsonage. 

Forget Home & Garden TV, The Old Parsonage is a treasure trove of home décor ideas, and the time spent creating the beautiful spaces here is clearly evident. Along with accommodations, Anthony offers art workshops (painting and photography), and is looking to branch into corporate retreats and meetings as well. He has recently purchased the church building up the road to eventually accommodate larger groups and different types of events.


We really enjoyed checking out the unique guest rooms (each named after a different tall ship built locally), and the numerous common spaces (sitting room, reading nook, dining areas, deck and gardens) are definitely all conducive to inspiring one's inner-artist.

Time was beginning to escape us but we had time for one more stop before heading home. >As we pushed through the beaded curtain to enter the shop we were met with a showcase of dazzling color and light. Studio Glass is way more than just a fabulous gift store. It is part of the Economuseum network where visitors can view artisans at work and can learn about the process of their craft. Sharon Laska is a fused-glass expert who offers workshops where visitors can actually come and create their own works of art.<>



Sharon explained the fascinating history of glass while referring to the illustrated back-lit interpretive panels on her showroom wall. She also explained the various processes involved and the equipment used to create her works of art. It definitely makes you appreciate the products in the store that much more.

On our way home we reflected on how each stop that we made exceeded our expectations. We didn't even make it to Burncoat Head Park (I love walking on the beach there at low tide), we missed stopping at Gallery 215 (featuring the works of several local artists), and I would have loved to pop in to Bing's Eatery and Socialhouse for a bite. I guess we have plenty of excuses to return another day soon.