There’s one in the home of the emperor of Japan and another in the home of National Hockey League star Mike Fisher. There are others in the homes of Stephen Spielberg, William Shatner, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
All of these famous people possess extraordinary wooden artwork made by Stinson Studios, a thriving and unusual family-run woodworking business near the village of Tamworth, in the heart of Eastern Ontario.
“It’s a bit surreal,” admits Jesse Stinson who crafts highly sought after wooden bowls and other wood art with his father Don Stinson.
To Don Stinson, it may seem as if it was only yesterday that he was studying cabinet making in college and using bowl crafting as a way to meditate and think.
In 1982, he opened Stinson Studios (stinsonstudios.ca) in his mother’s Tamworth garage in Lennox and Addington County. Soon afterwards, Don moved the business into an old horse barn nearby. He focused on wooden bowls and carved sculptural burls made from the knotty growths of local trees after realizing that people were more interested in his unusual bowls than his cabinets.
The bowls were—and are—crafted from ash, oak, birch, and maple, and most notably Ambrosia maple, which features a remarkable sunburst pattern as a result of infestation by the Ambrosia beetle. Such maples are extremely hard to find, but they are plentiful in Eastern Ontario.
The art is also made using sustainable practices and each vessel is crafted by hand from start to finish. Don and Jesse chain-saw a rough form from a tree part that would otherwise become firewood or pulp, and then they shape it on a specially made lathe before it is sanded. Pieces can feature traces of bark, vivid colouring, and drilled scar holes from maple syrup tapping.
What started as a one-person business producing 50 to 100 bowls per year sold mostly locally has turned into an operation selling in stores and galleries across the U.S. and Eastern Canada. Those widespread sales come as a result of vigorously showcasing and selling their work at national and international art and craft fairs.
“Stinson Studios is a great example of how talented entrepreneurs with unique ideas can operate successful businesses in rural Eastern Ontario, and at the same time have the ability to flourish in a global marketplace,” says Stephen Paul, Manager of Economic Development for Lennox and Addington County.