The HeART of Quadra




It started with four thousand bricks—hauled by two high school sweethearts, newly married, from Calgary to Quadra Island in 1976. Today, a mere 10-minute drive from the Quanthanski Cove ferry terminal, you can drop in at James Pottery where Martha and Gordon (Gorde) James will regale you with tales of their exploits as full-time artists raising a family on a remote island.

“My father bought land with a house on Quadra—sight unseen—from a newspaper ad in Calgary,” says Martha. Coincidentally, Gorde had briefly toured Quadra while visiting family in Campbell River.

“I confirmed that it was a beautiful island,” he says, “so off we went with our newly minted art school diplomas and that load of bricks.” Assembled and operating for over 40 years in the form of a walk-in kiln, those bricks have forged the James’s lifelong vocation and partnership.

Gordon James’s printmaking studio

For a twofer art experience, climb the staircase to Gorde’s printmaking studio. There you will find a sizable printing press imported from England surrounded by etchings, wood and linocuts, and experimental works. Here Gorde will happily share the fine points of the various techniques and processes. “We’ve never had another job,” he shares, acknowledging the steadfast support of their parents as a cornerstone of their art-making.

Quadra Island Studio Tour

Lee Gass’s sculptures

Next, journey north to Bold Point where Lee Gass’s artistic odyssey began with a humble block of ivory soap. Picture a young boy, intently focused on mimicking his mother’s quick and skillful hands as she shaped wondrous forms, soap shavings flying, in the creative undertaking to make soap flakes for the washing machine. “Thanks to my mom I’ve been carving my whole life,” says Gass.

You will find you want to use your hands to explore Gass’s work. Gass himself demonstrates the physicality of the process, laser level and grinding tools in hand, as wood, stone, and bronze are shaped into sculptures. On the studio wall is a portrait of Gass at work, masterfully executed by his friend and neighbour, Perrin Sparks, painter and printmaker. Gass is not merely present in the portrait—Sparks has captured the impish sparkle that he exudes.

Lake Haven Atelier

At Lake Haven Atelier, Sparks’s glowing portraits in pastel and oil share wall space with finely executed and spirited etchings of animals—local wildlife and cherished pets. After a successful career as a surgical artist, Sparks revels in the medium of pastel and is honoured with the “Signature” status by the Federation of Canadian Artists.

SC Vol9 HeArt Gallery2

Maureen Maryka’s studio

Back down at Whiskey Point, the spectacular view from Maureen Maryka’s studio both complements and competes with her breathtaking land and seascapes. Maryka’s art-loving parents inspired their young daughter by surrounding her with art in all media and styles. “My father painted as a hobby, so I couldn’t help but pick up a paintbrush. Now, he raises his eyebrows at my colour choices!” quips Maryka. Like Sparks, Maryka’s work is well-recognized and represented by several galleries.

Daisy Lane Studio

Take a short stroll down the hill from Maryka Studios and you will find another two couples partnered in both art and life.

Gary Colter is a born and bred Quadra Islander who worked in the now-defunct Quathiaski Cove Shipyards. Between welding, machining, rigging, painting, and cleaning boats, Gary collected scraps of copper ground strapping, squirrelling them away until a flash of inspiration provoked him to create something special for his wife, Doris, for Christmas. Out came the bits of copper which he fused with vintage watch parts into a unique and treasured brooch. Many compliments later, Gary established his jewellery-making practice and Daisy Lane Studio—where Doris also produces a variety of cards using natural materials meticulously collected and prepared.

Kamaole II Studio

Colter Road—Gary’s family namesake—is where Sylvia Yung and Ron Hilliard are the new kids on the block at Kamaole II Studio. “We were living in a condo in Vancouver’s infamous Downtown Eastside when we first came to Quadra in 2014,” says Hilliard. “And promptly started hatching a plan to restart our art practice here,” adds Yung. Here you can savour Saskatoon berries from the studio deck amongst firs, ferns, and mossy boulders. Inside is an eclectic mix of multimedia works, paintings, and prints where you will also discover why they named their studio after a region in Maui.

Within walking distance, Quadra’s two new ferries run every half hour to and from Campbell River. Island life revolves around the ferry schedule but, with the addition of the second ferry, there is no longer the “hurry-up-and-wait” atmosphere at the ferry terminal.

Quadra Island Studio Tour

A busy weekend for Quadra Island

“It’s a busy weekend for artists as well as restaurants and B&Bs,” notes Theresa O’Brien, Chair of the 2024 Quadra Island Studio Tour Committee. “There are many art lovers who make their annual visit to Quadra on Studio Tour Weekend. Saturday, June 1, and Sunday, June 2, 2024, are the dates to mark on your calendar. This year, admission is free, so we expect an even greater turnout for both locals and visitors.”

What now exists as the Quadra Island Studio Tour had its inception by an artists’ collective led by sculptor and painter Chris Rose in 2003. Ceramicists Hanna Lewandowski of Earthlight Pottery and Martha and Gordon of James Pottery have opened their studios every year since. Lewandowski and the James’ have taken turns leading the organization of the annual event over the years, and remain stalwart supporters and participants. In recognition of Chris Rose’s recent passing, this year’s Studio Tour is dedicated to his memory.

The Friday Painters is another collective which has participated since 2015. Initiated by Perry Johnson in 2012, Johnson gathered students from her watercolour classes and other island artists to learn and practice together. The popular and upbeat group meets every Friday at the Quadra Community Centre. “The camaraderie of the group motivates us to show up,” says one member. “Fridays are a sacred time that we commit to our group,” offers another.

Quadra Community Centre, the hub of the event

Along with other artists who do not have a dedicated studio, the Friday Painters will exhibit at the Quadra Community Centre during the Studio Tour. As the hub of the weekend event, the Community Centre features a sample gallery of all participants, a food concession, and restrooms.

As the 2024 Studio Tour approaches, Theresa O’Brien shuttles between weaving projects and committee duties. She recalls her aunt’s large loom in Denmark, the backdrop to anticipated visits and joyful memories with family and friends before emigrating to Canada. “My aunt created commissioned pieces in a country with a great appreciation for the tradition of weaving,” says O’Brien. “I have that image in my mind’s eye when I weave—and the love that was extended to us as a family. It’s something that I do with my hands and my heart.”

And so it is. The heARTstrings of Quadra Island continuously weave together. Each colourful strand is individual and becomes so much more when it is interwoven with other unique strands—creating a tapestry of surprise and delight.

A downloadable and printable interactive map is available at