Maybe you think of ceramics as crafts. Jonathon Bancroft-Snell would like to change your mind about that.
Jonathan owns the gallery that bears his name on Dundas Street in London. It’s Canada’s largest ceramics gallery, representing artists from all over the country and it’s hugely successful. I had the good fortune to have Jonathon himself give me a tour of Kingsmills, London’s legendary department store on Dundas, followed by a walk through his huge gallery. As he puts it, item prices range from $22 to $15,000 so there truly is something for everyone.
Jonathon opened his gallery more than a decade ago with an aim of educating people about ceramic art. And when you look at his wares there is no question about their artistic value. Sure, there are unusual cups and bowls and other items we might normally associate with ceramics but there are also whimsical, 8-foot statues and birds the size of bowling balls and a thousand other items I could never list here. In his continuing effort to explain ceramics as art, Jonathon’s latest exhibit pairs an unknown ceramic artist with a better-known abstract painter whose work has a similar theme or pattern. Kingsmills has provided high-end cabinets for the showing and in a testament to its success, some of Kingsmills’ pricier pieces are getting snapped up in the gallery. The only part of Dundas street that tends to get attention is further west at Richmond where a bus stop and some awnings seem to attract the scruffier element. There’s a lot of good stuff going on downtown and this is part of it. I fell for a small, blue bird that I knew would look perfect on our white mantle.
Maybe you could pick up something with a less quirky face, made off-shore for a few bucks but it wouldn’t have the weight, the character or the history of my little bird. The artist, Judy Blake, happened to be visiting for the exhibit’s opening and Jonathon introduced us. It was a nice moment where I, the art lover, could give the artist a genuine compliment by buying her work right in front of her.
I could write a hundred pages on the beauty, history and uniqueness of Kingsmills, which I’m embarrassed to say I always assumed would just be snooty and over-priced – which is how I would definitely describe Holt Renfrew. But it’s not. It has the best of old world charm mixed with friendliness and reality-based pricing and stock. The high-end pieces for Jonathon’s gallery represent just a fraction of what they offer. I can’t wait to go back to both places and poke around a little more.