Every year, in the middle of spring, Scugog Township hosts one of the finest studio tours the region has to offer. Aside from well-known artists and artisans who participate, a new group of emerging artists surfaces. This year the tour features the largest selection of artists - 54, the largest number of sites - 23 and the largest number of emerging artists - 7. One of those newcomers is Erin Callum LePage, a Port Perry resident, whose craft is a unique art form known as lino printmaking.
Erin was born in Ottawa to a family of teachers. Surprisingly, she had little interest in entering the academic profession. Instead she was drawn to art, in many different forms. “It’s quite funny,” Erin explains. “Neither of my parents have any interest in art, but it is something I have yearned to be involved in, as long as I can remember.”
Erin’s father was responsible for the cooperative program at the high school, which offered Erin plenty of opportunities for part time employment during her high school years. From house painting to working in a video store, Erin was never without a job. She was however, always drawn back to her love of craft making and art.
After high school graduation, Erin decided to follow her interest in art, by moving to London and enrolling in the School of Fine Arts. Her studies went well, and she thoroughly enjoyed her new pursuits.
At the same time, a year her senior, another student was also studying art. Drawn together through a chance coincidence by Erin’s aunt, Jeremy LePage met Erin and the two began to see more of each other, sharing their common passion for art.
Upon graduation, Erin and Jeremy moved to Peterborough. Jeremy attended Durham College and Erin ventured into the working world. Placing her art on hold, she took a position with Cullen Gardens, in Brooklin, which unfortunately meant a lengthy commute, for both of them.
Together, Erin and Jeremy had made many visits to Port Perry. This was due to Jeremy’s father, Eddie LePage, a well-known artist, who had his work featured in Native Focus, a small shop on Queen Street in Port Perry. The store was owned by Valerie LaRocca, who specialized in a collection of Aboriginal arts and crafts from various North American reserves, including carvings in stone, bone and modern material, such as clothing and moccasins.
In July of 2000 Erin and Jeremy were married and began looking for a residence closer to their schools and work. “I was driving along Water Street and saw the owner of the Pantry Shelf outside,” Erin explains. “I asked her if she knew of any place in Port Perry that was for rent and surprisingly, she mentioned a suite above the Pantry Shelf would soon be available.”
The artistic couple seized the opportunity and by December of the same year, were residents of our town. In 2003 Valerie LaRocca, owner of Native Focus, sadly passed away. Her husband operated the store, but was pleased when Erin and Jeremy expressed an interest in taking it over.
The couple purchased the business and thoroughly enjoyed being part of the Port Perry community. “It was wonderful for us,” Erin said. “It gave us an opportunity to raise our children together.” For Erin, it was an chance to once again, immerse herself in the art world.
It was a time for experimentation, creating mosaics from broken ceramics, and rekindling her love for acrylics. It was also a great prospect to pursue a passion she had discovered years before, known as lino printmaking.
The art form, which Erin has now perfected, starts as a thought process, turned into a sketch. Once finalized, the sketch is transferred to linoleum, or in some cases, basswood. The next step of the journey is to carve the etching into the linoleum or basswood, creating a three dimensional master, from which print copies are made.
The entire process takes about 30 hours for each piece, depending on the complexity of the creation. “I limit each image to 20 or 30 prints,” Erin explains. “I would never want to flood the market.”
This year’s studio tour is held on May 6th and 7th, and Erin LePage will be demonstrating her craft. Their studio is located at 357 Lorne Street in Port Perry. The Studio Tour site number is 21 and definitely worth the visit.