BY CHRIS TIESSEN
‘It’s an actual street light,’ Monica tells me as I approach the oversized lamp positioned behind two custom leather and chrome chairs near the back of the gallery. I take a good look at the piece – trying to determine, discreetly, whether it’s an art installation or a functional light source. I decide it’s both. And it’s also a great conversation piece. The way it demands attention. Challenges expectation. And seemingly defies the laws of physics, too, by remaining upright even as its ‘post’ – which extends from the smallest of bases – bends ever so elegantly (and precariously?) up and over the chair directly beneath it.
‘I think I really like it,’ I exclaim, before being distracted by the custom wood table that completes this living room tableau. ‘And I love this even more.’ I can easily picture this table in every house that I’ll call home some day. Monica chuckles before remarking: ‘I think you’re going to love a lot of stuff here.’ I nod and follow her around the intriguing space, eager to explore this world of beautiful things. I’m at the Alton Mill Arts Centre. In Monica Kerr-Coster and her husband Robin Coster’s Noodle Gallery.
There’s John Leenders’ wildly eclectic furniture – a reimagining of disused materials and equipment into arresting light fixtures, or eccentric dining room tables. And Jerre Davidson’s kiln-formed glass work. And Floyd Elzinga’s idiosyncratic three-dimensional sculpture and relief work composed of stone and metal. There’s Fraser Forsythe’s beautifully-glazed pottery. And Cheryll Collin’s sterling silver and black rubber jewelry. Bridget McKay’s quilted bags and purses. And so much more. Pieces that intrigue and excite; energize and satisfy.
Indeed, it seems to me that the entire gallery invites joy.
When Monica, Robin and I eventually settle into a couple of couches in the middle of the large gallery space, Monica tells me about their opening the gallery in the spring of 2014. ‘It was upstairs back then, in a cozy 750 square foot room that doubled as Robin’s law office. Within a couple years we’d outgrown the area we occupied, so we took over this larger spot on the main floor. And we couldn’t be happier.’
I can readily understand the pleasure they take in their surroundings. The gallery space really is beautiful. Hints of the old mill are everywhere. In the exposed stone walls and wonderfully-worn wood floors. In the massive square windows overlooking the Credit River. In the liberating high ceilings. Confirming the historical authenticity of the building itself is a heritage exhibit just down the hall, in the preserved mill turbine room that features the original turbine, governor, power take-off shaft and belts, nineteenth-century vintage coal boiler and other vintage industrial equipment. In situ. An uncommon and popular backdrop for weddings and other events.
I sip on the coffee Robin has grabbed from the mill’s honour café while Monica and I resume our tour. ‘We specialize in hand made, small batch, artisanal wares,’ she tells me, ‘and feature furniture makers, potters, fine artists, folks who work in textiles and glassware. We also sell natural body care products, jams, pickles, and even wood-fire roasted coffee.’ An eclectic mix of products, to be sure. And perfect for Noodle’s clientele – mostly out-of-towners seemingly prepared to grab anything from a four thousand dollar piece of custom furniture to a twenty-dollar bottle of hand crafted body lotion. ‘We cater to everyone from collectors of fine things to regular folk just looking for something beautiful. We’re approachable. A welcoming space with no pretension.’
Like that street light lamp. Before I leave for my calming road trip back to Guelph, I size it up one more time. And mentally measure my home’s ceiling height. Next time, I think to myself, I’ll bring a measuring tape.
The perfect destination for folks traveling in and around Alton. Exploring the region. In a quest for a distinctive item for their home. Maybe a conversation piece.
Studio 104 1402 Queen St.,Alton Village,Caledon, Ontario