By Dee Dwyer
On a lovely summer’s afternoon I drive down to Seaforth to visit with Tonya MacPhail of the Krooked House Art Shop. Her sister and assistant Shannon--an “awesome helper, says Tonya-- traipses in and out of the house and the three of us talk of their transforming coastal living into whimsical art full of bright colours with motifs of waves, water, shore birds, even snowy owls and mermaids.
Tonya was born in Halifax and grew up in Lower Sackville. She was always making art in school, but didn’t start painting until her 20s. Her father was artistic, and did woodworking, and her mother sketched people and animals.
She always wanted to live near the ocean, and moved to Newfoundland in 1998, where she started selling candle holders, magnets, and earrings. She took her business name --the Krooked House -- from one of the old row houses in Saint John’s with its crooked floors. She and her sister ended up in Seaforth after her sister got the surfing bug and wanted to live near Lawrencetown Beach.
Tonya’s original paintings, inspired by nature, are mostly acrylic. Shannon makes wooden earrings and magnets, which Tonya will paint, which they sell wholesale, or at the Krooked Art House.
At the Old School Community Gathering Place art gallery, I recently saw one of Tonya’s paintings of her house, and a shed with the neighbour’s chickens prancing into Tonya’s yard. In the window, you can find her small white dog, Mack. The humour, the bright colours, and whimsy, the motifs of garden, house, and animals—are all characteristic of Tonya’s work.
Tonya and her sister make earrings with polymer clay, decorated with miniature sea birds, sea stars and starfish. They make Christmas ornaments painted with similar motifs, and create a new design each year.
The Krooked House Art Shop, at 6102 Highway 207, is open by appointment or by chance. Check out her Facebook page at Krooked House Art Shop for examples of her work.