Nestled not so deep in the woods hides a whimsical sculpture forest that will transport you to another world.
Wandering down the offbeat trail, you’ll weave through three acres of overgrown bush, hidden treasures and eccentric sculptures until you end up at the studio that showcases it all.
Studio 124, the studio is situated just off County Road 124, at 124 Lakeview Rd., in Singhampton, west of Barrie.
The creators, Marion Bartlett and Richard Bino, have spent years honing their craft and are now ready to share it with their community.
Bartlett is the sculptor, utilizing terracotta, clay, concrete, and anything necessary to bring her creations to life.
Bino is an engineer by trade but woodworker by passion, and takes a meticulous approach to crafting his applewood pieces.
“This is our way of sharing our creativity,” says Bartlett.
Bartlett and Bino abandoned city life and moved to their home in the woods three years prior. Bartlett, a professional sculptor and art teacher, had always dreamed of introducing an unconventional way of displaying her work.
“I want you to be surprised, enjoy it and be a kid again. It’s playful and whimsical. Come colour your senses with the surprises in the forest,” she says.
The pieces displayed in the woodland showroom are large and playful. Some play into the features of the forest while others counteract it, jolting your emotions. A silver angel perches in a peculiar tree, hanging out with the concrete faces that peer out at you from all corners. A collection of colourful birdhouses offer vibrancy in the earthy atmosphere.
Her latest, Joy, is a larger-than-life woman delightedly dancing among her peers. Made out of styrofoam then covered in surface concrete, Joy has a “serene look about her” as she owns her position in the woods.
Bartlett’s work is scattered all over the GTA. She is a creator, but she doesn’t linger on anything she’s created.
“When I finish a piece I’m happy and proud, but I don’t dwell on it. I’m instantly onto the next project.” And the forest offers her ample space to do so.
Over the course of her career, Bartlett has learned that having a paycheque on her creativity could stunt it, but she’s never let it.
“Of course it’s always a concern, but you have to work within that. I try to work with clients while extending my own creativity,” she says.
For Bartlett, the bottom line is creating.
“I want to share it, definitely. But I did it for myself because I enjoy it. I love creating, that’s what I do. I can’t not create.”
Bartlett welcomes you into her home and allows you to tour the sculpture forest free of charge. She is prepared to explain to you every step of the process, or she’ll let you wander the woods alone, experiencing the works for yourself.
“I understand it’s not for everyone. Some people are a little intimidated, they find it a little spiritual or confusing. But for the most part, people who come here have a very positive experience. There is nothing in the area like it,” she says.
Bartlett says she’s had people come back multiple times; they bring their friends and family or come in a different season, and they have an entirely different experience.
“I want to inspire younger artists. You don’t see a lot of sculptors out there anymore.” Barlett’s attitude is, “come in, let’s talk art.” She hopes to collaborate with art classes and school groups in the future.
While she already has a million ideas floating around in her head of additions to the forest next summer, Bartlett is currently focused on hosting classes and finding other opportunities to utilize the beautiful and brightly lit studio in the coming months.
“To me, success is very subjective. I’m successful with a piece if people have engaged with it. I feel it if it tweaks them or instils a sense of emotion,” says Bartlett.
It’s her happy place. And Bartlet figures if she builds it, people will come.
And they do.
For more information on the sculpture forest or to book for visit for yourself, check out their website.