Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Personal Museum

A thoughtful way to live. The home of Marguerite Larmand in Simcoe, Ontario

December 15, 2016
A Generous Geometry
Kathy Renwald

  The first home Marguerite Larmand shaped for herself was in a hawthorn grove on the family farm. She was one of ten kids and needed to find a solitary space.  Decorated with the objects she loved, the clearing among the trees became a refuge. “It was a place where I found endless enjoyment.”
  From childhood to adulthood Larmand continued

her magical ways of making the space around her a personal museum. She turned an old hotel in Brantford into a home, made the Burford Armoury her private residence, and now is nesting in Simcoe in a hundred year old house she has named Six Directions Studio (

   “The walls are my paper,” Larmand says, pointing to a spot where she tested 12 shades of white paint, before selecting Benjamin Moore Mascarpone for her backdrop.
  For thirty-five years Larmand taught art in Hamilton schools, from elementary to high school, to McMaster University as an instructor in the sculpture studio. And always she created her own work, paintings, ceramics, installations in the landscape, textiles, sculpting with wood and willow.

   In November she had a show at the Carnegie Gallery Barber Atrium and now the soaring three-dimensional willow works have returned to her home in Simcoe, where she says, they have space to breathe.

  A generous sort of geometry defines each room and allows the display of art to seem effortless. In the 20 by 20 foot living room, which Larmand calls a “room within a room” three sofas square off in front of the fireplace, and beyond that border, works in wire and willow, busts, paintings, pottery and plants are arranged for contemplation.

  This idea of contemplation has become a bit of a magnificent obsession for Larmand, so much so that she wants to write a book about her house, art and the beauty of ordinary objects.
  Chapter one could start in her dining room where the “repository of images” are both striking and subtle. On a ten-foot long table made of hemlock and spruce a glass vase holds spiny, dried branches of Japanese knotweed. An invasive plant cursed by gardeners, it spreads in an arc and almost touches one of Larmand’s massive willow constructions. She calls them drawings, and painted black, lashed together, almost to prevent their escape they do seem like bold strokes of charcoal floated off a page. On the table a platter made by Larmand is marked with chevrons-like butterfly shadows, and holds an aspen branch collected on a walk. On the end wall a painting called Cherry Orchard repeats the linear beauty of the table.
  “You don’t stop being a teacher,” Larmand says as we sit and talk at the table. The lesson here is open your eyes and observe. The weathered branch, the despised weed, “They have their own spirit, they show nature evolving,” she says.
  The sunroom is a lesson in the power of the personal. On one wall shelves are lined with beautiful tea bowls, glasses  boxes, stones and seeds. Over the fireplace is Larmand’s sculpture called Wind Deflector, a piece that takes her back to the family farm and the many hours spent splitting wood for the stove. On the hearth, beautiful dried squash sit displaying their marbleized skin, a pattern Larmand tried to capture in her ceramic glazes. Paper whites are ready to bloom, and a pencil cactus preens in the light of east facing windows. The room is the antithesis of generic, hotel room style d├ęcor one sees everywhere.
  So Larmand is making an outline for a book. It would be about observation, about the bond we form with our homes.
  “The house is never static, its not just a showplace, it’s a place where you live, a place where I work, it’s my own personal museum. What I like is the beauty of the ordinary.”