by Michele Murphy
A visit to the New York Times’ bestselling non-fiction list in 2017 will net you two things: a myriad of musings on Trump and, ironically, or maybe predictably, the search for joy in life. Since it’s December, a feature on finding joy seems much more fitting than the former. In that spirit, we give you the joy of creativity and connection, specifically, Cinnamon Hill Studio.
Cinnamon Hill Studio is the inspiration of the multi-talented artist duo Joanna Drummond and Roger Belley. If you’re not familiar with their work, you’re in for a treat. You’ll find it at both The Gallery at Mattick’s Farm and Butchart Gardens Gift Shop.
The two bring different and yet complimentary passions and skills to their home studio. Drummond, an award-winning ceramic artist and painter, has had her hands in the clay since 1980 and has enjoyed market success from the beginning. Belley, also a celebrated painter, favours watercolour, and landscapes, and most recently sculpture. His keen eye for form and composition is evident in the sculpture pieces that he creates and co-creates with Drummond. Both artists share a voracious curiosity and a love of invention. They both see form, colour and opportunity where others might see only metal scraps on a welder’s workshop floor.
Drummond and Belley moved to the Island in 2009 from Alberta. Belley is Alberta born and raised, while Drummond is originally from Ontario. Their home in North Saanich overlooks the ocean and the hills of Salt Spring Island. Their studio name, Cinnamon Hill, is a reference to both the aroma that fills their studio and the colours that adorn Salt Spring’s Mount Tuam in the fall. This is where they work full-time.
The two share a life, a home, a studio and a passion for the arts.
When one enters their studio it’s abundantly clear that they are very intentional about creating joy in their lives. There is soft music playing in the background (chosen to suit the day at each morning’s ‘strategic planning’ meeting), candles offering a soft scent, and the space is filled with natural light, colour and inspiration. And fun. One cannot help being charmed by the banter as the two tease and play-off each other as only long-time partners can.
The studio hosts both their works in process – some that is drying and they will attend to later in the week, other pieces they’ll get to when the mood strikes them again, as well as favourite works from their past. The story of their long careers is told in the striking pieces of raku, sculpture and paintings that fill the space with inspiration. A glimpse of their future may be found in the experimental pieces of charred wood, glass and metal art that also lend interest and inspiration to the room.
Cinnamon Hill Studio also serves as a warehouse of treasures and that that Drummond and Belley have collected over the years that they plan to incorporate into a sculpture or a mixed media piece – rusty parts of a halter, a weather wooden table leg. Drummond points to a very old chicken brooding cabinet that is chock-full of metal scraps, horseshoe nails and handmade stencils made from old inner tubes, ceramic texture stamps and more. And, unlike some other books on the NYT best-seller lists, these two agree that more is better when it comes to strange little pieces of interesting things. Apparently, hoarding is a necessary part of creating interesting mixed media. Drummond pulled out an old yellow door lock assembly and key, held it up against a large clay house that was at the black India ink stage, and presto – even an amateur eye could see the synergy.
They very intentionally surround themselves in what inspires and brings joy.
The popularity and detail of their one-of-a-kind clay sculptures demands that both Drummond and Belley spend a lot of their studio time creating this colourful line of original sculptures. The multi-day process involves Belley creating much of the form and Drummond bringing the pieces to life with colour and depth. When asked if the work ever becomes monotonous and loses its joy, Drummond and Belley openly admit that that yes, that happens, and at that point they turn to any one of the other projects that they have underway in their studio in various mediums and they refresh. Or they take a trip to Demmexx.
In touring their eclectic home several things were made clear; that they are passionate and generous people, generous with their inspiration, their time, their learnings, and their passion; they are people who can and do connect with other people Belley and Drummond live very intentional lives. Their art, home, studio and each other’s company (and they have a lot of it) are very thoughtfully curated. They are immersed in creativity, inspiration, connection … and joy.
If lessons on creating a joyful life are to be found here, and this writer thinks that they are, they may include doing what you love, with the people that you love; surround yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of what inspires you; don’t get stuck on the tedious stuff, move on to something fun and come back later; and be generous, curious and creative – however that looks for you.