Monday, 5 November 2012

Monday Feature: Ash Grove Studios

Nature is woven into an immanent part of each and every one of us. Whether you're a city dweller, comfortably surrounded with high rising buildings, brick and pavement, perfectly manicured lawns and shrubberies, and the constant hum of ceaseless traffic. Or whether your a true blue country dweller, comfortably surrounded with towering, massive trees, dirt and gravel, unkempt wild grass and flowers and unruly nature growing all around you, with the constant hum of nature occasionally invading the stillness and quiet that lays the soul bare. A connection with nature happens in each of us, even if in the smallest of measures.

I, myself, am a country girl through and through. I was raised in the country and my love of that beautiful isolation is as strong as ever. My dream is to one day move away with my growing family, once more, from the hustle and bustle of the city and set down some roots in our own private "forest" in nature. That's not for everyone, however, as some people like to be within a 5 minute drive of their favourite store, hobby, entertainment facility, or dear friend. The convenience of the city is a wonderful thing indeed. While one personality may look at the other and think the other odd, we all have our loves, needs, and comforts. I totally understand that some of you out there would go absolutely squirrely after even 5 minutes spent in quiet isolation. I go squirrely after sitting in traffic for 5 minutes.

However, whether you love the city life or the country life, a common denominator is the love of nature. I'm hard pressed to find anyone who does not value or love nature in some facet and you don't have to live amongst nature to appreciate or love it. Some of the most beautiful and vibrant gardens I've ever seen have been in the middle of vast cities. I've also seen some of the most unique wildlife in the middle of the city too, birds most especially. I have actually seen quite a variety of birds, almost as if the concrete landscape draws them in. If there's a home with a welcome mat on it, be it a mature Oak or quaint birdhouse, guaranteed birds of vast array will flock to your yard and stay put, to the delight and wonder of all.

This brings us to today's feature, Ash Grove Studios. Owner and creative genius behind Ash Grove Studios and it's amazing plethora of unique, vintage birdhouses, using reclaimed materials, is Colin Quincey.

I first met Colin and his beautiful wife, Toni (see the feature on her business FROSTED here), when they moved out to Whispering Pines Camp, out by Elkwater, Ab, 3 summers ago. Hayden and I connected with them instantly and felt a unique bond of friendship. Colin and Hayden, who are two peas in a pod and have many of the same interests, began discussing their love of trees and wood and creating beautiful art with them. 

Colin's unique craft are the most rustic and unique birdhouses I have ever seen. They truly are a work of art, yet functional and never cease to bring in some of the most beautiful birds around. Imagine yourself sitting on your deck, sipping a cool beverage on a late, summer's afternoon. As you gaze out, you find yourself watching the flitter and flutter of colorful, happy little birds, enjoying their home in your yard, whilst singing to you the most beautiful song you've ever heard. It's a moment that causes you to sit back and sigh in perfect contentment and reflect on life and all its joy.

Colin is a born and bred Saskatchewan farm boy, who grew up building things with whatever was to be found or lying around. As he recalls "I figured out at an early age that I loved to carve and used it as my first creative outlet. Working with my hands has always been fun and rewarding. While trying to come up with a gift for my sister one year, I grabbed an old license plate and decided to make a birdhouse for her. Though it wasn't until many years later that I started making more birdhouses like this, it always stuck with me as a good idea."

After Colin graduated from High School, he traveled and lived in Sweden for 6 years. While there, he developed his passion for the outdoors and working with nature. "I became close friends with a Swedish man and his family, and for his 50th Birthday I made him a Totem. It was a standing dead Pine, 3 feet across and I topped it off at 4 meters. [The Totem] was a great project and took over 200 hours to carve, during the summer months of 2003. I’ll never forget his expression when he saw the Totem completed. I guess that’s a big accomplishment for me. I’ve also built a log house, that’s gotta be up there too."

Growing up, Colin's dad would always point out birds and tell him what their species was and what sound they made. One of the first construction projects Colin can remember doing with his dad, was building birdhouses specifically for blue martens, in an attempt to lure them to their farm.

"I guess that's when I got hooked. There was something about making things with my hands that something else would find attractive enough to live in. I remember this being a cool idea then, at 5 years old. And I still do."

"Family and friends, who first saw the birdhouses, all told me how unique they were, and if I could make custom ones for them, to give as gifts to their friends. Slowly the number of birdhouses on the shop wall grew and so did the demand. My wife said: Instead of just keeping all the houses to myself, I should let others enjoy them as well." And I know many people who are enjoying these remarkable houses, along with the plethora of birds they attract.

"Using license plates  for the roofs started just because it was the only metal I had when I made my first [birdhouse]. I already had a large collection of plates and throught it would be a great way to use them."

Colin enjoys reusing old items, thus giving them new life by intermingling them with other reclaimed materials. Out of the old comes a new creation, a birdhouse or feeder mounted upon a wall.

"I really like being invited out to old farms with falling down barns and lots of 'out' buildings and being told to take what ever I want. Those kind of people quickly become friends of "The Birdhouse Guy."
Finding little bits of hand forged metal in the dust/manure of an old barn is something that gives me pleasure and gives some lucky bird a one-of-a-kind perch."

All the materials used to build Ash Grove Studio's birdhouses are of solid/sound quality and Colin strives to make each house different and unique. "I'm lucky that a lot of my friends and family now keep their eye out for materials, like rusty hinges, and of course, old license plates. Right now it's a nice hobby and a great way for the creativity to flow."

Currently, you can find Ash Grove Studio's birdhouses at Annie McGuire Interiors and Design Studio Inc, in Medicine Hat, Ab. In the Spring, you will also be able to find these remarkable birdhouses sold at Windmill Gardens and The Hive, in Medicine Hat, and also Premium Sausage in Seven Persons, Ab., as well.

You can find Ash Grove Studio's at the Millarville Christmas Market this weekend, Nov 9-11, 2012, alongside Halifirien Wood

If you would like to place an order for a custom birdhouse that is a bit more specific to your tastes or personality, or to place an order period, please contact Colin directly by email at, or by phone at 403-893-2236 or 306-945-7479. This will make a perfect Christmas gift for that bird lover you know!

As a special for Growing Green's readers, Ash Grove Studios is offering a 15% discount when you order your birdhouse. Simply give the Promo Code: Warbler when you order, to apply the discount.
This Promo Code expires Dec 31st, 2013. 

May your life be filled with those small moments that bring pure delight and that sense of connection with the nature around you.

Next weeks feature hint: Thai for the tongue

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